April 26, 2007
Indiana men's basketball head coach Kelvin Sampson recently sat down with IUHOOSIERS.com to discuss his program. Sampson talked about his first season as head coach, off-season workouts and what he expects from his Hoosiers next season.
On his first Indiana team:
"I liked the way we developed individually and as a team. From our first day of practice until the end, I just saw constant improvement. I think back to the exhibition games and the Indiana State game, we struggled a lot early because we weren't very proficient in certain areas. As the season went on you could see this team coming together. Guys had a better understanding of how to play and how we were going to win. I thought our leadership was good and the character of this team was outstanding. We became a hard team to play against. I've always asked my teams to play a certain way and that is how we get our identity. I think we became more comfortable. Instead of calling the number of a set and trying to think through the steps, we became more comfortable. These kids embraced us as a coaching staff. I thought our staff did a great job. When you look up and see us at 10-6 this year in the Big Ten, when there was so much parity 3-11, for us to finish on top of that group was huge. Then we had it 49-49 against UCLA with a chance to make the Sweet 16. I thought this team had a great year."
On the seniors:
"Earl was probably the one kid who transformed his game. He came in here as a roadrunner-type offensive player and he became a lockdown defensive guy. I think that was the biggest adjustment Earl had to make. He had to buy into guarding the other team's best offensive player. Look at some of the people he had to defend - Drew Neitzel, Derek Ravio, all the way down. Earl became the point of attack on defense and he triggered it.
Rod became a rebounder this year and not just a shooter. The way his game was set up, if he was not making shots there was not one thing he did that could help us. He really became a more all-around player.
People have no idea how much we are going to miss Errek Suhr on a daily basis. He gave us an identity in practice. Errek did not play enough minutes for the entire team to gain an identity through him, but in practice everyday he saved that team a lot because he was the one constant. If an employer were to call me and ask for a reference or want a hire that would help make his company or business better, I'd hire Errek Suhr. You know what you are going to get from him everyday."
On the off-season:
"April is a time to establish a foundation for what we are going to do in May, June, July and August. A.J. (Ratliff) has a cast on his wrist, so he was not allowed to do anything with the team. He was allowed to work in the weight room, but he can't absorb any contact with that left hand. Joey Shaw and Armon Bassett, those two guys impressed me the most of anyone on the team. It's almost like they said we're going into our sophomore year, we now realize what is expected of us and we want to make a commitment to this. Their work ethic, their attitude, their commitment to wanting to be the hardest worker everyday really stood out to me.
Adam Ahlfeld, A.J., Joey and Armon are returning in the backcourt. Upfront, we'll welcome back D.J. White, Ben Allen, Mike White, Lance Stemler and Kyle Taber. Both groups had quality workouts. We worked a lot on foot quickness drills, conditioning drills, shooting and just established a work ethic. I'm only allowed to work with them three weeks in April. Their biggest gains will come in the weight room. Not necessarily weight gain as much as strength gain. We have a great strength coach in Jeff Watkinson. He establishes habits with those guys. Good habits are what we are looking for in the off-season."
On D.J. White:
"I thought D.J. had periods where he didn't rebound the ball as well as he could. Sometimes D.J.'s rebounding and defense was tied into the way he scored. That's the next step for him in his maturation process. Against Gonzaga and UCLA our last two games, D.J. had 27 rebounds. The challenge for D.J. is to carry that on and be consistent. We want D.J. to be a consistent double-double guy for us next year. If he can average around 10 rebounds and score the ball, he gives us inside balance. Without D.J. our team is more of a perimeter team. With D.J. we can have some balance and that is something I want him to be more consistent with this year."
On Eric Gordon:
"First of all, congratulations to Eric for being named Mr. Basketball. I know what an honor that is. The thing that stood out to me in the all-star circuit is how hard he played on the defensive end. I'm just really impressed with his attitude. You can tell he is a tough kid who embraces both ends of the floor. Very rarely in those all-star games do you see someone play both ends of the floor. Eric played offense, he played defense and he competed. I was really impressed with that."
On the rest of the recruiting class:
"Jamarcus Ellis was named National Junior College Player of the Year, which is a tremendous, tremendous honor for him. He led his team to the national championship game. DeAndre Thomas is a kid who has a chance to really help us next year. I'm excited about working with DeAndre. He's a size guy who has good feet, good hands and thinks the game at a high level. We just have to get him in a position where he can succeed. That is what the off-season is all about. We expect Jordan Crawford, Brandon Magee and Eli Holman to be hear in June. The four high school kids will be here sometime in June and the two junior college kids will be here in May.
I'm really excited about Jordan Crawford. The one area we have to improve in at the guard position is getting to the free throw line and making plays off the dribble, either getting to the rim or getting fouled. That is where Jordan is really going to help us. Brandon is a jack-of-all-trades, master of none. He's a good basketball player with good size. He can step out and make jump shots. He's also a good rebounder and tough kid. Eli's length and athleticism is impressive. He is a little raw and is not going to come in here and make a difference right away. Eli has to develop and we are excited about developing him."
On the new coaches in the Big Ten:
"I applaud the Big Ten. We have as good of coaches as any conference in America. These three guys are high-level coaches. The thing about these three, as good as coaches as they are, they are just as good as people. All three are great guys."
On his camps:
"Our overnight camp, we expect it to be one of the best camps around. The thing I love about our camps, our coaches work the camp. I run the camp. Each one of my assistant coaches is a commissioner in the camp. Our players coach in the camp and we go out and get the best high school coaches to work the camp. We want this to be a fun camp and a great learning experience for everyone attending."
On the Big Ten scheduling expanding to 18 games:
"I think it helps balance the schedule and makes it more fair for everyone. With a 16-game schedule, someone will always play a tougher schedule and someone will play an easy schedule. I think it's good for the fans, it's good for the league and it helps prepare us better for the postseason."