Jan. 26, 2007
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Indiana head coach Kelvin Sampson met with the media on Friday, Jan. 26 to discuss the Hoosiers upcoming game against Big Ten foe Michigan on Jan. 27 and other issues surrounding the program.
On the Super Bowl:
"Being from Indiana, you pull for the Indianapolis Colts. You are a little torn because I like Rex's (Grossman) father. He's been really nice since I've been here. So I am pulling for Rex to have a great game, but I would like to see the Colts win. The Bears have a lot of kids from Oklahoma that I know, so I would like to see the Bears play well. Tommy Harris and my son, Kellen, went over to Africa this summer on a mission trip. There are a lot of Oklahoma guys I know."
On the matchup with Michigan:
"Their length is a problem probably everywhere. I don't think we have played a team that can bother us in so many different ways, starting with (Courtney) Sims. D.J. (White) is not a power post player. He shoots a lot of jump shots and jump hooks versus taking it strong to the basket, which is one of the reasons we don't go to the foul line as much. You go to the other positions. (Lester) Abram, (Ron) Coleman and (Brent) Petway, their length is a concern."
On Mike White:
"I think that's where Mike has problems is inside against length. I don't think Mike has problems against 6-5, 6-6 guys. I just remember (Josh) McRoberts at Duke. We had the ball inside a lot down the stretch to win and couldn't finish over length. The other night against (Warren) Carter and (Shaun) Pruitt, we had a couple chances to tie it at 39. Mike's contributions for us is his defense. D.J. gets stuck behind sometimes, where Mike does a much better job at making it harder to enter the ball into the post because he is kind of a bulldog in there. He will get around and sit on your lap and take away an entry pass. He's just tough. Mike's a kid that was signed in May. He's done great for us. Anything he gives us is great. He's a wonderful kid to coach, too."
On the youth of the team and playing on the road:
"Our practice is always the same. I think for young teams, especially for guys like Armon (Bassett) or Joey (Shaw), understand those three days. We are scaling a mountaintop on a Saturday and beating Connecticut on national television. You have no idea how good those kids felt about themselves, and I let them all day Saturday. They came back on Sunday and they are still on a high about Connecticut. Sometimes that's a lot easier to say to put that behind you and move forward. That's easier said than done. Then we turn around Monday and bused for three hours to Champaign. I wish we could have had another day with this group. We came out ready to play. I think when Illinois started becoming really physical with us, which was surprising that we didn't buckle down...but you aren't going to play with an edge for 30 games. You can't. I had a team win 31 games, and we never played with an edge every game, so that's something I'm not going to worry about."
On A.J. Ratliff:
"He is not the same kid that he was the first couple months of the year. A.J. doesn't have any fear. He is playing with a lot of aggressiveness. When he rebounds, you never see him go with two hands. He gets stuck on one side of the floor...We have to think strategically where A.J. can play. Before he could go either way. Unfortunately for us, I don't know if that's going to improve. After the Michigan State game, his hand was actually shaking after he took the wrap and the brace off. Look how he played that second half. When he catches a pass, it's like a dentist taking a filling out and blowing cold air on it. That's the way his hand feels. He can't play quick turnarounds because he deals with pain. Obviously, if it was in his right wrist he wouldn't be playing at all, but because it's his left, I admire A.J. for having the courage to try...Catching the ball for him is contact. The Connecticut game, he didn't play the second half. He told me he couldn't go, so I took him out. I like where A.J. is right now. Look at him in the Penn State game. We sure wished he was healthy to help our team."
On the confidence gained from the UConn win on the road:
"Yesterday was one of those days where you enjoy being a coach...We played at Connecticut and at Illinois. We split it. You move on to Michigan. Those two games are over. It's a great win at Connecticut...For this team, the thing I am encouraged by is that we are going to keep working. The most important game of the year for us is Michigan. Why? Because it's our next one. When that one is over, you move to the next one. That's the why college basketball seasons always happen."
On bouncing back from the loss at Illinois:
"This time of the year, teams are what they are...I am sure Michigan will see Indiana as a game they can win. For us, length, athleticism, I don't care about any of that. We have to go play, and that's what we are going to do."
On the difficulties of playing on the road:
"Teams are better at home than they are on the road. If we had to play Duke 10 times at Duke, it would be tough to win there. If Duke had to play us 10 times here, they would have a tough time winning. That's just the way it is. It's been like that since dirt."
On the team:
"I think we are a good team. I like our team. We have kids that obviously have limitations. I enjoy coaching teams that like to be coached and work hard in practice. The last two games are a great microcosm of this team. We are good enough to go win at Connecticut, then we lost at Illinois. A lot of good teams would lose them both. Winning at either is not easy. We won one and lost one, and we are going to come back to practice and get ready for the next one. Watching film with D.J., he realizes that he has to play a certain way on defense."
On playing on the road:
"Not the other night. I can't explain that. Why do teams go on the road and all of the sudden slow down...sometimes you slow down. I watched Michigan State play and score 80-some points. That same team scored 50-some here. Your defense is usually a lot better at home...It's just harder to get going offensively, unless you are a team that doesn't worry about defense. If you are a team that's going to win with defense, you can get slowed down...That's not the way we want to play and that's not the way we are going to play. In the Penn State game on the road, we scored 84 points. We scored 85 at home again Michigan State and 85 against Purdue. We have not shown that's the way we are going to play and hopefully that doesn't happen again. You have to give some credit because Illinois' defense was awful physical too. I thought they were good."
On Earl Calloway:
"Early in the season, Earl was chasing two rabbits and if you chase two rabbits, you aren't going to catch either one. He's uncomfortable. You can just tell in the Butler game and the Duke game. If a kid's uncomfortable and it's effecting how hard he's playing, sometimes he needs to just sit down and watch. Earl has improved. I think the reason why we have a chance to be a pretty good team is because of Earl. D.J. is going to make baskets and the other team's scouting report will revolve around D.J. For us, we have a good chance to be good because of Earl because he is our point guard. That position is critical."
On Armon Bassett and Earl Calloway:
"I think Armon is a big reason why we won the Connecticut game. When Earl gets a little fatigued, it causes you to make poor decisions. Armon is a little different. He's not as fast as Earl, but the game is a little easier for Armon at times. I can transition. I can think back to the Chicago State game where he had 10 assists. He finds people in transition well. Most teams, when we set a ball screen with Earl, they will go under the ball screen. With Armon, they have to go over the top of him. So it's a lot easier for us to make plays off a pick and roll with Armon than with Earl. Little things like that. I don't think Earl ever saw himself as a lockdown defender. He has been a really good defensive guy. He's our best defensive player. Before A.J. had the injury to his hand, I would have said A.J. is...Earl was so conscience of turnovers earlier in the season. Focusing on defense, pressuring and chasing people off screens have helped his overall game."
On Eli Holman:
"I talked to Eli. He is doing good and that's the main thing. That's a scary situation. Where he lives, that's an every day occurrence. We are here in the Midwest and in a safe place. He doesn't live in a safe place. He lives in a very violent place. Richmond, Calif., is tough. We have heard how dangerous Oakland is. Richmond is worse. He is doing good. I told him that there are certain things in life you can control. You can control your friends, your decisions, it's not like he's not going to make a mistake like all of us. A mistake is not a problem, it's repeating it. He has learned from his mistakes. He's in an unfortunate situation, but the main thing of his concern now is his grades."
On the Indiana fans:
"We have great fans. They are knowledgeable fans, too. I think they have appreciated how hard our kids play. I think they have let them know that. Our kids notice the fans. The two most important entities of a college basketball game are the players and the fans. They can play harder because they want to win for the fans. They have started taking pride in how hard they play, and I think that is special."