March 2, 2007
BLOOMINGTON, Ind.- Indiana men's basketball head coach Kelvin Sampson sat down with the media on Friday, March 2, to talk about the final home game against Penn State.
On preparing for Saturday's game:
"I asked our kids the other day if this has been a whirlwind week. We have an opportunity to win 20 games in the regular season and we have an opportunity to get to 10 league wins. For this team, that's pretty good. I couldn't be more pleased for this group of kids. Those are some team goals that you don't set before the season, and then all of a sudden you realize them. Also, we want to get on a two-game winning streak, and win three of our last four, all which are positives going into postseason play. Little things you can pick out and use as motivation. This is an especially close-knit group of kids. I know we have three seniors who are loved by their teammates. I think that is their motivation for tomorrow night. They want to send these kids out winners."
On Roderick Wilmont's play against Northwestern:
"Basketball's a humbling game. We played Michigan State awful tough, but we didn't get anything out of Rod in that game. Rod has a lot of pride. You could tell he was determined to play well the other day. It's not just his made shots. I was just as impressed with his 12 rebounds. That was a big part of the game plan. I think that's something we're starting to get back to doing well. We've had 27 offensive rebounds our last two games, which is really good. Against a team like Northwestern, it's difficult to live off getting the ball inside. They force you to make 3s. Against a team like Northwestern, there are two things you have to do well, get outside shots and make second shots, and I think we were really good in those two areas."
On being undefeated at home so far this season:
"It sets the standard as we go forward into next year. When you play at home I don't think you should hope to win, you should expect to win. I think our kids should expect to win, regardless of who we play. But it's hard to do. There are only two other teams in this league right now that are undefeated at home. Just because you play at home, there are no guarantees. Our kids have played great on this court. I can't think of a game this year where we didn't play well. Even early in the season as we were trying to figure our team out, I always saw some things that we could go forward with. Think of the games we've played here and the level we've played at. I can't think of a team in the country that can play at the same level, home and away. It's tough to win on the road in any league. To win on the road you have to play mistake free, and it's hard to do that."
On Armon Bassett at point guard:
"I think he's done good. Armon's biggest improvement has to come from the point of attack on defense. Learn how to handle screens better. He'll get better as he goes. Armon has a really good feel for the game. Armon is really the only guy we had the other night who could penetrate a gap. I thought Armon did a good job of attacking it."
On the senior class:
"Whether you coach a player for one year or four years, you have an opportunity to help them and to try to make their senior year as successful as possible. Rod, Earl and Errek. Look at how Earl was playing up until his injury. He's having a really good senior year, especially in the position that he's played. I think it's hard to change quarterbacks 80 percent into your season. Earl's a big reason why this team has had the success that it's had. Errek Suhr's an Indiana kid. Maybe more important, he's a Bloomington kid. He's left his legacy. I think Errek has left a great legacy here. Because of how he approaches the game, his heart, toughness; it's in all three of those kids. They've been wonderful. For a new coach coming in and trying to establish certain things the first year, I couldn't have asked for three better people. I'm honored to have had the chance to coach those three young men. They set a tone in practice every day. Coaching becomes hard if you've constantly got to coach effort. The best teams are teams that freely give effort. Not every kid is the same. These three seniors, all three of them have been really good practice players. They understand, and I think their maturity has really helped them. We have some kids in this league; they went to prep school so this is really their sixth year. Earl is really a fifth-year senior. Those guys set the tone for your program. A guy like Armon Bassett, it's good that he was around those kids his freshman year. He'll learn from them. This is how you respond. On those days when it's our fifth or sixth consecutive practice prior to a day off is how to respond on the fifth and sixth day of practice when you're going hard. How to get through those days. Those are things they learn from each other.
On Roderick Wilmont:
"I think when kids get to be seniors they tend to be reflective. As freshmen they're just trying to survive. Rod has probably been more reflective than the other two because he's been through so much. Emotional people tend to be reflective in these types of situations. Rod's a very emotional kid. He's hung in there. I'm really happy that he's had a really good senior year. That's rewarding. He's put a lot of work into this year. I think that was important to him. We've got to play well tomorrow night, but the opportunity to win 20 games in the regular season and 10 league games is there, and he will be a key component in this season. Rod will remember his senior year, and will think back fondly on his IU career because of it."
On Earl Calloway:
"I think Earl struggled early. To play winning basketball, there has to be attention paid to certain areas. I thought that when Earl grasped the importance of becoming a really good defender was when he started turning the corner. The first half of the Duke game, he struggled. It was after that. If my shot's not falling tonight, what is the one thing that I can give the team and be really good at tonight? Until you start playing games and learning from them and knowing your role, it can be tough. Earl has all this speed. Sometimes speed is not necessarily a strength, it can be a weakness too. When Earl embraced the defensive end of the floor was when he started making strides. I think that end of the floor requires more maturity than any other part of the game."
On Errek Suhr:
"I was excited about him. I've always had kids like Errek Suhr. They're invaluable to your team in a lot of ways other than scoring. He has maturity and knows what to do with the ball. We're an evolving road team. We've had a chance to win 28 games. Not one game we've played we didn't have a chance to win. Not one. That's where a guy like Errek Suhr helps. If Errek is playing 8-10 minutes a game and backing up and coming in and doing what he is best at, I think we're ok. That's where losing Earl helped us, it forced Errek to come into his role. I told my assistant coaches to find us another Errek Suhr. I always want an Errek Suhr on my team. I thank the good lord that Errek decided to come here to walk on. It made Indiana basketball a little better."