Jan. 9, 2009
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -
Head coach men's basketball Tom Crean met with members of the media on Friday to talk about the Hoosiers' upcoming game at Illinois. Champaign native Verdell Jones III and Matt Roth also spoke to the media on Friday.
Here is a transcript from Friday's media availability with the coach and players...
Indiana Head Coach Tom Crean
On what he's expecting going to Illinois on Saturday:
"As a coach and as a staff, we have been a part of rivalry games for many years and players had them in high school and things like. But I think it's more about us going in to play a very good basketball team in a very tough environment. I know I've been out of the league for a number of years but I remember how tough of an environment that was when we went in there with Michigan State.
"They are a very good basketball team. They are one of the more experienced teams in this league and probably one of the more experienced teams in the country but I don't know that for sure. They have some guys that were in kindergarten when our guys were born and running around in diapers.
"They are good, there's no question about that. Trent Meacham, I've been a fan of his for a long time, all the way back into high school. Chester Frazier is high-energy lighting ram. He out there making things happen and delivering the basketball and defending. (Demetri) McCamey certainly has the ability to play inside or outside and (Mike) Tisdale is one of the more improved players anywhere in the country right now. (Mike) Davis is a matchup problem and Calvin Brock is a good of a screen-and-slip guy as anybody that we've faced in the Big Ten or probably all year. He does a great job of getting people open and getting in behind it.
"They run their offense pretty well. Curls and slips are a big part of what they do. They share the ball. We are really going to have to be on top of our game to move the basketball and match their ability to move the basketball. And I know they are excited to play."
On whether he is encouraged by how competitive the team has been in the two Big Ten games so far:
"It's the old "work in progress" thing. We are still learning how to team-build right now. There are moments in practice when we look like we are reeling and there are times when they come together. We haven't grasped how important it is that each guy is pushing the other guy. When you have young guys, and we obviously have an abundance of that, it's easy to take the stance of "I've got to make this play. I've got to make this play. I've got to make that stop." That's not how it works. When our problems come defensively, it's come when we've gotten out of our stance or we haven't pressured the ball enough.
"Since 2002, we have charted how many times we get three (defensive) stops in a row during games. The other night (against Michigan) was the first time in my personal history that we lost a game when we were over seven and we have only lost twice when we had six and we were at eight the other night. Unfortunately they weren't at the right times.
"So we had eight times in the game where we had three stops in a row, six in the first half, and that's kind of a microcosm of the game. We've got to be better at getting the big stops and it's just something that we've got to keep growing into. We've focused heavily on it today (in practice) and just all stuff that we've got to go through."
"We've got to be a more cohesive unit, defensively, and be more active. Those are both things that we work on all the time and we've got to be better at them. And that's where the focus has to be. At the same time, we have to come down and share the ball. It's not a situation where somebody is breaking off a play and go and do it on their own, they just get that mentality. And a lot of that is just what they were used to in high school, and their coach might have needed them to make that big play. Frankly, we don't have anybody that's in that position right now. We have to move the basketball. We need to get the ball driven and get the ball kicked out and get the ball in the post. Those are all things that we have to happen. We are making progress in those areas, it's just not enough progress to be able to show a great result.
On how the team has responded mentally after the tough loss to Michigan:
"What we did yesterday, other than watching some film, we didn't do anything. It was the first time we did and it was an instinct decision and I don't regret it. They met with the coaches and I went recruiting. They watched some film; some positives and some negatives and watched the last couple minutes and then we came out (and practiced) today. But they are young and they hurt, they really do. They just have to learn that everybody is going through the same thing. And they just have to realize that the more we bring energy and commraderie out of one another, the better off we will be. But it is a tough lesson. It doesn't just happen because we talk about it or show the film, we just have to stick with it and have them continue to build confidence in one another."
On how he handles players going home to play in their hometowns:
"I think what I've learned, and I used to spend too much time with that when I was a younger coach, is that the more you talk about it the worse it is. The thing you have to do as a coach and a coaching staff is to stay locked in on what it is that you have to do to get a win in that game. And you can't treat that player any differently.
"With that being said, there is a young man (Verdell Jones III) that is a Champaign resident. And to my knowledge, didn't turn down Illinois and I don't think Illinois recruited him, at least not under our watch here. But I hope he is given that respect back there because that's his home. So he's going to want to do well, but at the same time, we can't get out of character with what this team needs at the offensive and defensive ends. We won't spend a whole lot of time breaking down the finer points and we aren't going to any of his favorite restaurants and we're not having an open practice and to my knowledge it's not Verdell Jones III day there either. So we just have to go play the game, but I hope he does well."
On having Calbert Cheaney around for practice this week:
"He just talked to the team at the end of practice. As a fan, as a coach but most importantly as a man, it's unbelievable to have him here. He is wonderful guy. He has been good to me since the first time I talked to him. He loves this university. He loves this state, that's obvious. He's got a great future in whatever he wants to do, whether it's in basketball or outside of it. And for him to come in here and have that presence, he has truly been an E.F. Hutton in this program this week.
"And he has really observed. He wanted to get a firsthand account, so he hasn't done a lot (of practicing) but he has definitely been here and he had a point to make. And he's been good for us as coaches for us to talk to him."
"Any former player, they (current players) know that those championship banners mean something. They may not understand everything about them but they know that they mean something."
On whether it helps that the players have seen Calbert play to understand what he brings to the program:
"I think it helps. But I think these guys are learning all the time how great this tradition really is. And like I said the other night, you get out on the court and the tradition doesn't really help you a whole lot. But at the same time, they know that they are trying earn that. Behind the bench we had Calber, Chris (Reynolds), Kyle Hornsby is doing his round (for medical school) with Dr. Rink, Steve Green and Tom Abernathy. I'm sure I'm missing someone and I don't mean to. That's big. That's really big and I think that stuff is just great."
On what they have been focusing on in practice:
"We've got to get stops, so we've made it very competitive. As a staff, we'll try to have these couple guys focused on this team and these couple guys focused on that team. But stringing stops together, that's a big thing. Not only do we try to get three stops in a row in a game but we try to focus on that in practice. We've got to learn to really trust one anther on both ends. That is experience more than it is anything else. And it's being together more than anything else. But like we've said more than anything else, we've got to be older than our experience this year. We have to be sharper, mentally, than our age would indicate it has to be or should be. We just have to keep pushing that envelope as much as we can. But as we've learned, you can't push it too fast. You have to go through it. And we want them to continue to focus on the little things because the little things are the big things. Not playing a screen the right way or not getting a hand up on a shooter or not making contact on a block out or not stepping in and drawing a charge when a guy breaks you down. Those are all things...we've got to eliminate the physical breakdowns, which in turn, help us eliminate the mental breakdowns you have in games. Right now, it's more of being in the right spot or having your hand up than it is anything else."
What kind of challenges does Illinois present?
"They've played really well this year. They are an athletic team and they've played some good basketball. We are going to have a tough time going in and playing in their place, but we are going to be prepared."
Thoughts on the expected hostile environment?
"That's something we are all looking forward to, we like that challenge. We like the challenge of going on the road. We had a great non-conference schedule; going on the road and playing at Wake Forest and places like Kentucky where we played in front of 22,000. So I think we are going to prepared for that."
As an Illinois native, what do you think about going back to your home state?
"I haven't really thought about it. It's a little shorter drive for my parents, which is good especially with not knowing what the weather is going to be like. It's just another game for me. I'm looking forward to it, just as all my teammates are."
Verdell Jones III
Will your family (Champaign natives) be wearing orange or red?
"Oh red, red. Lot of my family members are Illinois fans, but most importantly they are Verdell Jones fans. They will definitely wear red, might even see a couple jerseys with `Verdell' on the back."
As a Champaign, Ill., native, what are Illinois fans' thoughts on the rivalry?
"The whole week, that's the talk about this big game, Indiana versus Illinois. I've grown to see Indiana fans really don't like Illinois fans and I know for sure Illinois fans hate Indiana fans. So it's a great rivalry and I hope we keep it going."
Talking about the Indiana-Illinois rivalry:
"It's always been a big rivalry. It will be a rivalry while we play here and when we leave it still will be."