Jan. 18, 2007
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Indiana head coach Kelvin Sampson met with the media on Thursday, Jan. 18 to discuss the upcoming game against Connecticut on Jan. 20. Sampson was joined by seniors Earl Calloway and Roderick Wilmont and junior D.J. White.
On the challenge of coaching in a new conference:
"You kind of lump conference season together...Look at Wisconsin. They have already played 13 home games. That's why I like the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. We talked for years in the Big 12 about doing a challenge with the SEC, and I know they just signed a deal with the Pac-10. I think that's good for college basketball to play those games. I think the Kentucky rivalry is good. Every year you get ready for conference season. This is new for me cause I haven't played in this conference, but it's still conference. I don't see a lot of difference in it. Instead of playing Kansas and Texas, you are playing Michigan State. They are all good. They are both classy leagues with great coaches who do things the right way. I don't see a lot of difference in the leagues."
"If you look around college basketball, it seems like everybody is young. You think about Xavier (Keeling), Joey (Shaw) and Armon (Bassett) for us, Mike (White) and Lance (Stemler). We have a lot of freshmen and first year guys that have to carry a load for us. Connecticut got put in a tough situation because look at the guys they should have back, like Rudy Gay. He should be a junior. That's a tough situation. If you go recruit at that level, that's the flip side...Connecticut is good enough to be really good as they go on this year. They are coming off a loss. This is a national TV game, but Indiana and Connecticut are on national TV enough that that's not a factor. They are coming off a loss and are going to be at home, you know they are going to be ready to play. I've coached against Jim (Calhoun) enough to know he will have them ready to play."
On Hasheem Thabeet:
"I think that's his strength (blocking)...Guys like him usually grow into being all-around players as they go on. Kind of like (Dikembe) Mutombo when he was at Georgetown. His defense was far ahead of his offense. At least the statistics show that with Hasheem."
On the team's offense:
"When we execute and get good shots...I didn't like our offense the other night. I didn't like our shot selection. We executed at a really, really high rate against Michigan State. We had a staff meeting this morning., I was talking about how every team in America during the course of the year has slippage. You are going to have slippage. You aren't going to be great every night. I think when you play four games in 10 days, your slippage will usually be offensive execution. Watching the film, I know why. I don't sit around and condemn it or criticize it. We need to work on that some...The only stretch we got to really work on us was against Michigan State. We were well prepared in that game. You could tell it with our execution. Look at our shot selection in that game. It was excellent. Whether we made the shot or not, it was irrelevant, we got the shot we wanted because we executed...As you go through the season, you have to expect slippage in some areas. You say `this team is not as good as they were a week ago' Look at their schedule. Look at how many games they play. Because you are good at something tonight don't think you are going to be good at it in two weeks ago. You have to work at it. We haven't had a lot of time to work on us. We had to prepare for Purdue, Penn State and Iowa, and that became the most important thing. I could have taken two hours to really work hard on the offensive execution, but defense comes first. You have to defend these teams. Sometimes you can have a bad shooting night and still win if you defend. If you don't defend and have a bad shooting night, you can't win. We are always going to try to work hard on the defensive end. Offensively, we have to get back to work."
On what a typical off day is like:
"Yesterday, the only thing our kids did was get treatment. Our walk-ons were in the gym. I noticed that. You need an off day. Don't underestimate the grind. When you get to this time in the year, everybody is nicked up. They need an off day. Coaches always want to practice more, but in reality, players need to have some time off too. You don't always think that way, but you realize during the course of the year...You have to use some common sense in your approach. This time of the year, practices can't be three hours. You can't beat them up at this time of the year. Knock on wood, you just pray that you stay healthy. We are just a sprained ankle away from mediocrity."
On the student section being moved closer to the court:
"I think the students here are fortunate to have 8,000 tickets. It would be a lot better if we could get the students in a concentrated area, but they are fortunate to get the 8,000 tickets because most schools don't alot that many tickets (to students)...That's something I would like to talk to Rick (Greenspan) and the administrators about when the season is over."
On UConn's strengths:
"I think their guards are really talented. A.J. Price, (Jerome) Dyson, (Stanley) Robinson. The kid I like on their team is (Jeff) Adrien. He's a tough, hard-nosed kid. That's who they get their identity from. Connecticut teams always thrive in transition. When you prepare for them, you have to be good at transition defense. You have to make them play half court against you. If you get into a track meet, we have no chance. We aren't built that way. Every kid on their team is capable of scoring 20 points. They have that kind of talent, but it's young. But with young talent, you never know when it's going to click. Saturday may be the day it all comes together. They are certainly capable."
On who the team gets their identity from:
"Rod Wilmont. Rod's not afraid. He's not a highly-skilled kid. He's not a prototypical guard. He's a tough kid...Rod's shot selection isn't always great, but what Rod has really taken pride in is his rebounding. I think the best coaches coach with one eye open and one ear closed. You don't sit there and try to see everything wrong or hear everything that's being said. I don't do that. I don't do that in any phase of my life, because if I did, all I would do is correct people, and I can't function like that. Rod's going to take some bad shots. He has to be aggressive. He's not going to be like John Stockton. He's not going to play the game like guys that are so fundamentally sound they make the game look easy. That's not who he is, and he's a fifth-year senior. When I started coaching him, I decided I'm not going to transform him. I am going to try to get him to add to what he does. Rebounding for instance, cutting down on his turnovers. You have to live with a bad shot occasionally. It's like Earl Calloway. Earl has eight assists the other night and four turnovers. The first play of the game, he got a five-second violation trying to run the set. Earl was so focused on the first option, and they had taken that away. The second option was wide open. Sometimes kids play in a vacuum. Sometimes they look, but they don't see. We have had to play around those things. You have to put up with a turnover like that from Earl occasionally. Early in the year, he really struggled with that. When Earl started making better decisions, our team's turnover rate went down. Rod's shot selection isn't as bad as you think. He will throw up some ill-advised shots. If you tell a kid they can't throw an interception, just dump it off to a back every time or throw a screen pass every time, he will never throw a touchdown pass. Rod's an aggressive kid, and you have to let him make a mistake, but I love him. I love coaching him. I wish he was a junior because I would like to have him on this team next year. Rod never takes a day off. You can coach him too. He loves you to get on him. He never reacts. His body language is always great. He loves to be coached. He's a special kid. He's one of those kids who if you don't know him or look at the things he does, all you do is wind up seeing what's wrong with him. I think Rod's special. A great kid to coach and a great young man."
On the seniors:
"Seniors should take ownership in their team. This is their team. Think about two weeks from now or a month from now, where are we going to be? There aren't two more months left. March is never guaranteed for seniors. Seniors have to embrace today. You get them to hold their teammates accountable. I want Rod to embrace practice today. It's hard to get Armon to embrace practice today. Armon is on his journey, and Rod's is ending. I talked to out seniors a lot about that. They have been great. The greatest blessing our staff has received since we have been here is the three seniors. They are great young men."
Senior guard Roderick Wilmont
On Hasheem Thabeet:
"We just have to go play our game. If you are going to take it to the hole, you have to take it even stronger to try to get him in foul trouble. Obviously, he is a shot blocker, so you have to use different moves, like a floater. You have to be strong with the ball."
On playing UConn in the middle of the Big Ten season:
"The more games we play the better. I think this is a perfect time for us to go on the road and show what we've got and to come out with a win would be huge for us as a team right now."
On what a win over Connecticut would do for the team:
"It would be huge. Rankings don't mean much, but we want to keep on winning and play the way we have been playing."
Junior forward D.J. White
On his explosiveness against Iowa:
"I just went out and played. I ran the floor well. Being in shape helped me out a lot. I am just playing on confidence right now. This whole team is playing on confidence right now."
On Coach Sampson's confidence in him:
"He stuck with me throughout everything and kept telling me things are going to come. He told me not to rush things and just play and that's what I am trying to do right now."
On playing UConn this time in the year:
"I'm glad to have a game like this. It's a tough test for us. We are going into this game very confident. The Penn State game helped us a lot. These are the types of games that you will play if we are fortunate enough to make the NCAA Tournament. It's just another big test for us."
On advice he has given Lance Stemler:
"Keep shooting. I went 3-for-14 at the Ohio State game. All you can do is shoot your way out of it. You have to have confidence and not get down on yourself when you are in a slump. You could say Rod was in a slump earlier this year, but he came back from it. All you can do is shoot your way out of it."
Senior guard Earl Calloway
On Roderick Wilmont:
"He's consistently helping us. He's knocking down big shots. He plays the same way every game. He might miss a couple of shots, but he's going to rebound and play hard. He's hitting his shots right now."
On his eight assists against Iowa:
"It helps the team. I get the ball to the right man at the right time. The other night was a good night to get the ball to the people who were knocking down shots. It felt good."
On the offense:
"I can make a couple of mistakes. Coach is going to get on me, but I am more confident to make plays and get better."