Jan. 9, 2007
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Indiana Head Coach Kelvin Sampson sat down with the media on Tuesday, Jan. 9 about his preparations for the upcoming Purdue game on Wednesday, Jan. 10 and other issues surrounding the Hoosier program. The first-year coach was joined by seniors Earl Calloway and Roderick Wilmont and junior D.J. White.
On coaching in the Indiana-Purdue rivalry for the first time:
"Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, Washington State and Washington - every in-state rivalry game is huge. I think that's what makes college basketball great, though, is these rivalry games. First and foremost is the rivalry game itself and then second, it's a conference game. Those are the things that are important about tomorrow night. For me, every time we played one, whether it was Oklahoma State or Texas, or Washington-Washington State, you've got to play good. If you give someone a story and try to get them to play to the story, you're missing the point. The point is that you've got to play good. You've got to defend, you've got to rebound, we have to execute and our kids have to compete. You can talk about the rivalry all you want, but that's all that's important."
On the strengths of Purdue's team:
"I think they're a tough team. I think Matt [Painter]'s done a great job getting his kids to compete. I think they play hard, I think they're a good defensive team. And anytime you have a really good inside player and a really good outside player, it means you've got pretty good balance. The only thing I don't like about the schedule we have now - there's nothing you can do about it, so I'm not complaining - but we play Sunday then turn around and play Wednesday, then we play Saturday, then we have to turn around and play Tuesday. There are certain things that we have to fix on our own, but you have to balance that. How much do you work on yourself and how much do you prepare? I liked the fact that we had four days to prepare for Michigan State, whereas with Purdue you've got Monday and Tuesday. We've got Thursday and Friday to prepare for Penn State and then we've got Sunday and Monday to prepare for Iowa. This is a tough preparation stretch, but this time of year I think most coaches usually cut their practice schedule back. We start off with the 20-hour rule early in the season, and we probably use every hour of it. This time of the year, you don't need 20 hours of practice, but you have to spend so much of that time in preparation - film study, trying to figure out the other team's strengths and how you maybe can exploit some of their weaknesses, areas you can take away certain things. The challenge for us is just consistency. I never worry about a poor shooting game, that's just going to happen. As good as the Dallas Mavericks are, they have a lot of bad shooting nights. If you play a lot of games, there are going to be nights where you don't shoot well, so I don't worry about that. I worry about the things we can control. Every time Lance Stemler shoots it, I think it's going in. But the law of averages says that if he misses six out of 10, he's probably a really good shooter, so it'll balance itself out. We were 12-for-22 from the 3 against Ohio State, the other night we were 3-for-17. The key is are you taking good shots. Of those 17 shots, I'd say 14 or 15 of them were great looks. Michigan State kept going into that ball screen up top, we switched Earl [Calloway] from up top and put Armon [Bassett] there, knowing they would go under so Armon could shoot it - he missed it. I'd take my chances with Armon every time doing that. Good teams can win in different ways - some nights we're going to shoot it well, but the nights we don't shoot well, that's when we have to figure out how to win in different areas on offense."
On how well he knows Painter:
"[Former Purdue coach] Gene [Keady] and I were good friends. We served on different committees with the NABC and spent a lot of time together in the offseason. Gene's been down to Norman doing my clinics and I've been to West Lafayette - I went to Purdue two years ago to speak at Gene's last clinic. He had me and Tom Izzo to speak at his last clinic at Purdue. So I know Gene a lot better because I've spent more time with him."
On his familiarity with Purdue:
"The last time we went to Purdue, we played pretty well, and we won a game in Norman that we probably shouldn't have won. Last year was Matt's first year, so I've never coached against his teams, but I've watched them a lot. I watched them in the Maui [Invitational] early and then I watched them against Penn State, against Minnesota. They've been a lot like us, they just have improved a lot as they've gone along this year. He's done a lot with his team."
On similarities between Painter's teams and Keady's teams:
"Tough teams. Matt, having played with Gene - we're all a product of our environment, especially if you played at this level. I'm sure Gene had a tremendous influence on Matt, but I don't know of any good coach that tries to coach like somebody else. If you're going to win, you have to do it your way. Guys that try to emulate or coach like somebody else don't make it long in this business. You have to be yourself."
On Purdue's defense:
"I think we try to do the same thing. They have tremendous ball pressure. [Chris] Kramer is a really mature player, he would rate really high on the intangible scale. I love kids like that - much like Lance does for us - scrappers, tough kids. Keaton Grant does a nice job up front, really solid. The problem with picking a Player of the Year from an Ohio State is tough - they have so many great players, so who do you take? But I think the two players in this league that have been the best so far - and we haven't played Wisconsin - but from what I can see, are Carl [Landry] and Tucker. I think Carl Landry, what makes the year he's having so impressive is that every team he plays against, the first subject on the scouting report for everybody is going to be Carl Landry. I've known him for a long time, he visited Oklahoma."
"Michigan State is similar, Southern Illinois, Duke - we've played against a lot of good defensive teams, but all defensive teams are different in the way they defend. Who do they remind you of? Probably a little bit like Duke - they tend to pressure and deny a lot, so even though there's a lot of good defensive teams out there, and we've faced a lot of them. You can tell they really try to pressure the ball, get up and not allow a lot of entry passes to the wing, and you can tell they work at it because they're good at it."
On why all freshmen are inconsistent:
"I don't know why. Experience has more to do with it than anything. Kids that have been around for a while, they tend to be a little tougher upstairs. I've had a lot of good freshmen over the years, and you have to really watch them as we hit February. High school basketball starts in November - think about the length of their season - most of them are done in February, right? So really it's a four-month season for them. Let's look at our four months. September's a difficult month for freshmen. October, that's two months in now. Even though we're only going two hours a week of basketball, we're going conditioning and weights and time demands there. So you get to December, that's their four months. And those four months of college is probably more physically demanding when you consider the classload. Freshmen are required to have eight study hall hours in addition to classes. January's the fifth month. February's a tough month for freshmen, because they're into the sixth month. You just learn over the years that you better keep your eyes on those guys. A guy like Oden - it might be a blessing in disguise for guys like him that didn't get to practice much or go full scale. He's a guy that the way he plays, he's going to fit in anywhere he plays. But for our guys, I need to keep an eye on Xavier, Armon and Joey. Once you get to this point of the season, it's so much between their ears. I'm not going to get them in any better shape. We're not going to all of a sudden between games have a three-hour conditioning practice. I'm not very smart, but that doesn't make a whole lot of sense. So everything they do from this point forward really comes down to if they're mentally tough enough to handle the grind."
On A.J. Ratliff's mood while being out due to injury:
"He practices with us. I got on him yesterday about not defending, I haven't done anything to pep up his spirits. It pepped my spirits up when he stepped up and played harder, though. He's been doing that, he just has a six-pound cast on his hand."
On the way D.J. responded to his performance at Ohio State:
"When I first started coaching basketball - I think most guys that have been around a long time - basketball didn't always get so scrutinized and evaluated on every little thing. So I don't think half that stuff is meaningful. The big thing about D.J. is when he got the ball I saw purposeful moves. He grabbed the ball and said, `I'm going to go score.' I think he's just getting more comfortable. D.J. was a 3-man when he came here. He saw himself as Tracy McGrady, not as Eddie Curry. He was more of a face-up kind of guy. D.J.'s never been a back-to-the-basket scorer. If you saw him in high school and he scored, it was usually with a jump shot. He's not a kid that went and posted up with his back to the basket. We're not trying to recreate him, we're just trying to fit him in to where we need him to play. I could tell back in September when we were working on this, he was way too finesse. It's a credit to D.J. - it's not easy to do what he's doing. How many kids today grow up wanting to be a back-to-the-basket player? A post move doesn't make ESPN highlights very often. We've had to adjust to some of the things he can do and we've asked him to do certain things, but to his credit, D.J. tries. He's a wonderful, wonderful kid to coach. I love him to death just because of his attitude. If I told him to run through that wall, know what he'd say? He'd say, `Coach, can I get a running start?' He may not put it in fifth gear. He may ask for a helmet, he may ask for shoulder pads, though."
On Mike White getting more playing time:
"I just never worry much about who plays and who doesn't. If you worry about that, then you wind up playing kids just to make them happy. We have two post positions on our team. We're really a three-guard, two-post lineup. We only really have two defined positions - point guard is a defined position and the position D.J. plays is a defined position. The other three spots can be interchangeable. Ten years ago or 15 years ago, the TV timeouts were all 75 seconds. You know how long timeouts are for ESPN games? Two minutes and 20 seconds. You know how long timeouts are for CBS? A day and a half. You go into the huddle and it's 2:40. I'm not near smart enough to talk for 2:40. That's why a lot of kids can play 38 or 39 minutes now. What we did on Sunday, around the [media] timeouts, was put Mike in for D.J. I think the biggest difference between Mike and Ben [Allen] is Mike's just far more physical."
On A.J. Ratliff's injury status:
"Before the Michigan State game, I knew he couldn't play. Being a father and having a son that plays or played, you make every decision based on, `Would I play my son?' If you wouldn't play your son, then don't play somebody else's son. I wouldn't have wanted my son to play with the injury he has on Sunday, and I know A.J. doesn't feel comfortable. After yesterday and we'll see how he is today - that infamous term `game-time decision' probably does apply here. I can't say for sure.
"He practiced yesterday. He wants to play and I respect him for that. But we're going to make the best decision for him, not relative to whether we need him or not. If he's not ready to play, we're not going to play him."
Junior forward D.J. White
On the Indiana-Purdue rivalry:
"It's a big rivalry. A lot of people expect a lot out of this rivalry. This (game) and Kentucky are what a lot of fans wait for. It's a big to us also. We know what this game means to the fans and in the Big Ten. Both teams are good this year. It's going to be a competitive match."
On how Purdue's Carl Landry has changed his game:
"Probably moving his game to the perimeter more. They have a couple of plays where they isolate him on the perimeter. He takes a lot of jump shots out there. He has improved much from when I played against him my freshman year."
On the expectations surrounding this game:
"That's every game. This game, a little more since it's that rivalry game. Like I said, people have been waiting for this game all year. The students are very anxious."
On understanding the importance of this game when he was a freshman:
"I could tell it was big. I'm not from here. At that time, I didn't really know the history of Purdue vs. Indiana. Being here for three years, I know what this game means."
On the intensity of Indiana-Purdue games:
"It's going to be more intense. It's a rivalry game. No matter who you play, it's going to be intense. They want to come in here and beat us on our home court, but we have to protect our home court."
Senior guard Roderick Wilmont
On helping his teammates understand the rivalry:
"When I came here, people started telling me about it because I really didn't know about it. Armon (Bassett) obviously knows because he is from Indiana. But Lance (Stemler), Mike White, those guys have no idea how hard this game is going to be tomorrow night. It's going to be a tough game because there is going to be a lot of pride on the line. It's going to be a good game."
On the physicality of the game:
"This game is going to be a little bit physical. Watching film, they kind of play like us pressure hard up top. They rebound well. It's going to be a physical game."
On the matchup with Purdue:
"It's going to be an exciting game tomorrow. I think there has only been one year where the game hasn't been that great. Besides that, every game has come down to the final shot. It might be like that tomorrow."
On the 2004 game (63-58):
"That was my redshirt freshman year. That's the type of game it's going to be and you have to step up to the plate in games like this. It's going to be a good game."
Senior guard Earl Calloway
On defending the perimeter:
"We go hard. We practice every day trying to cut off the 3-point line. Basically what we do is try to pressure them enough to not get the shot off, but not to drive by us. That's a point of emphasis in practice, and we take pride in that."
On the Indiana-Purdue rivalry:
"It's very serious, very emotional. It's been going on for years. We won last year at the game at home last year. We are going to go in and compete. We know they are going to come with a fight, and we have to fight back."