Men's Basketball

    Kelvin Sampson Press Conference Highlights

    Go Hoosiers! Kelvin Sampson
    Go Hoosiers!
    Kelvin Sampson
    Go Hoosiers!

    Aug. 25, 2007

    Bloomington, Ind. - Indiana University men's basketball coach Kelvin Sampson addressed the media prior to the Hoosiers first of possible 10 workouts in preparation for a trip to the Bahamas, August 31-September 2.

    IU will play four games in three days beginning this Friday. The teams returning players began practicing today, while the newcomers will join in on Monday.

    Head Coach Kelvin Sampson

    Opening Statement
    "The thing I like about this trip is that we can practice. The new guys can't practice today, but the veterans we will have on the floor today are Armon (Bassett), A.J.(Ratliff), Adam Ahlfeld, Brett Finkelmeier as the guards. Up front we will have Kyle Taber, D.J. White, Lance Stemler and Mike White. So we will have eight guys. The new guys can start practicing on Monday."

    "We are not going to become a great offensive team over the course of ten practices, but defensively we can make some strides. I am anxious to get this on tape, and that is the advantage. In 2004 we took our team (Oklahoma) down to Costa Rica and we did some things there that I would probably do different, so I have learned from that. But this is August, and the kids have done a good job with Coach (Jeff) Watkinson. Jeff has done a great job with these kids over the summer and you can tell a difference in their bodies. We didn't get a chance to do anything last summer, because some of their summers had already been planned. The ones that stayed we were able to get some things done. But this summer, I thought we ran a full-fledged program...weight room and conditioning. It is nice to have a strength coach to be the coach's voice when he is not there. All of our kids passed at least six credits in the classroom and made progress academically. From that perspective, it was a positive."



    "We have taken two or three things that we have said let's try to be really good at these things. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the new kids are a long way behind, defensively. We have top talented offensive players that will help us in a lot of different areas."

    "(Jordan) Crawford, (Eric) Gordon and (Jamarcus) Ellis...those three guys coming in will really impact us. The other kids we will just have to wait and see. A lot of people say they saw the kids in the barnstorming recruit game and they looked pretty good. But there is no correlation between that and the way we play. So with that, are there any questions?"

    How is Lance Stemler doing?
    "I can only go on what Coach Watkinson has said. He said that he doesn't seem to have any problems. I've asked Lance about it, but I haven't seen Lance do anything. I'll see these guys today for the first time since our last individual workout. I don't think we are allowed to work our kids out the week before final exams. So we had to stop workouts then and we haven't seen them since then.

    What is your approach going to be at the games in the Bahamas?
    "I don't think these games are that important. I don't put a lot of value on these games. I'm going to try to let everybody play an equal amount of time if possible. I may even let some of the assistant coaches coach some of the games and I'll sit and watch. There are a lot of different ways to approach this. The value of this is the ten practices, not the games."

    "I have no idea who we are playing. I know we are going to play four games. There are probably 50 schools around the country that are doing this during the summer. I know Clemson and Old Dominion and I was told there are going to be five or six teams that are going to be in the Bahamas at the same time we are."

    "I want to see the new guys play as much as possible. There is a good chance that D.J. is not going to lead us in minutes down there...I know what he can do. It's probably good that Lance is getting to do this, just to get him some confidence coming off his surgery. The games are what they are. We are going to try to win the games, but the scores are what they are. How we play is more important."

    "Our video guys will go down there with us and we will get all of it on film and be able to come back and watch it and point some things out and make some strides from there."

    What did you learn from the Costa Rica experience you mentioned earlier and how will it impact what you do this time?
    "One of the things is the pace of the August practices, they are so different than October practices. For instance, if we were not going on this trip we would not be doing anything basketball related this week. Nothing. There would be no individual workouts, nothing. They could do whatever they wanted to on their own, but we wouldn't do anything. Because I think the first week of classes should be just that. It should be devoted strictly to academics. Get in a routine; figure out where your classes are, where you are going to study and how you are going to get your study hall hours in. You should spend more time with our academic people than you should with the coaches. The second week is usually when we start doing stuff. And then we don't start our conditioning workouts until after Labor Day."

    "And then we go five weeks of pretty intense conditioning...weight room, different kinds of conditioning, sprints or whatever...we put them through pretty tough conditioning. And then they do that up until the first week of practice. We usually shut things down on that Wednesday (before the start of official practice) and give them Thursday and Friday to recover and start practice on Saturday. So they are prepared for practice."

    "We will workout today for a couple hours and tomorrow for a couple hours and the new kids will get to sit and watch. But what I want them to watch is the intensity of the workouts and the speed of the workouts. We hardly spend more than 10 or 15 minutes on anything. We'll spend 10 or 15 minutes today on hedging ball screens and they can watch how hard we work at that. I thought that we were pretty good at that last year. The best team that did that against us was UCLA, so we have about two and a half minutes (on tape) of how they defended us against the ball screen. On that tape we have UCLA defending the ball screen and we have us defending the ball screen. Both teams were pretty good at it, but they did it a little bit different. Both teams really played hard doing it and the new kids have to see that."

    "Today we will also work on how we rotate out of ball screens and how we rotate out of flat screens...just teaching things. We are going to spend a lot of time teaching things today and tomorrow and next week, instead of seeing how hard we can make these practices, that's not what I'm interested in."

    Is the trip more beneficial because you have so many new guys?
    "Yeah, that was the thought behind it. I don't know of a school that doesn't do this. Most of the schools in the Big XII do it and we did it while we were there. It's just a good opportunity. We have school on Monday and normally you come back on Monday. But we have to come back on Sunday night because we have class Monday morning. Some people say `wow coach, you get to go to the Bahamas.' That's in theory. The plane is going to leave as close to three o'clock as possible on Friday. I think it is a three hour flight so we'll get down there around six o'clock. And we have scheduled a game just after eight o'clock, so when we get off the plane we won't even go to our hotel. We'll have to go through customs and then go right to the gym. I told our kids to take a gym bag with them because we are just going to wear our practice gear. We'll actually check into the hotel around 11 o'clock or so and then the next morning we play at noon. After our game at noon on Saturday we play at eight o'clock so it's not like we're going to run back and lay on the beach or anything. And then Sunday we play at two so we will get right on the plane and get back here because we have kids that have eight o'clock classes Monday morning. Normally you would think Labor Day would be an off day, but it's not here."

    What will the practice schedule be like this week?
    "We will go twice on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. We will play it by ear for the rest of the days. If you count one today and one tomorrow and then those six you are at eight and then once on Thursday. I was thinking about treating Friday as a game day. No tape, just come in. We have to put some baseline out of bounds and sideline out of bounds plays in. I'm not going to worry about that a whole lot but it's something we may want to think about Friday morning. We'll also do a lot of teaching in the timeouts too. We'll draw some things up and see how they react to it."

    On Brett Finkelmeier being added to the team
    "Well he tried out last year (with the walk-ons). He made it through persistence on his part. He really wanted to be part of the program. Coach McCallum and Coach Meyer both said if we were going to keep a walk-on (last year) that he was the one they were talking about."

    Do you have any background information on any of the teams you are going to play in the Bahamas?
    "No, that's not important. I have zero interest in those teams. I'm just glad we get to go and practice. You get to play four games. Who we play is not important...we could play teams that are really good or teams that are not good at all. But that is not the issue. We get the ten practices and go through some game situations."

    Will your playing style change this year?
    "On offense I think it will. Defensively I hope not. Offensively I think we'll be more of a transition team. I think we will get to the free throw line more. Coaches should play to their team's strength's. If your team is good at shooting three pointers then you should shoot a lot of three pointers. If you are not, then you shouldn't."

    "Jamarcus Ellis, I really just like the way that he plays. When you watch him play, there isn't anything that just screams wow-factor to you. That's just not the way he plays. He's not going to make a lot of great plays off the dribble... and I think his strength is that he has great instincts for basketball. He is a good rebounder, a good passer and is a 80-plus free throw shooter. He's not a good three-point shooter but neither was Magic Johnson."

    "I think he is a kid that fits really good with Eric (Gordon) because he is so unselfish. Eric is a really good scorer so I think they will work really good together."

    "We aren't going to have a lot of guys taking and making a lot of three pointers this year. Jamarcus isn't a great three-point shooter, not to say he's not going to take some, but that's not his game. Eric will shoot three pointers, but I expect him to be at the free throw line a lot too. And then don't forget we still have the D.J. guy inside as well."

    "As long as you are playing inside out and being opportunistic on the break and playing a little faster tempo you will be fine. When I say faster, I mean we'll be able to score in transition a little more because we have more versatile guards."

    How can Armon improve this season?
    "I remember the Illinois game last year where we put him in at the point and he was a really good point guard the last 10 minutes of the game. He was a pass first guy and just running the team and that's something he has to get adjusted to. Handling pressure in the backcourt and getting it into the frontcourt and then running what we are trying to run is important...I want him to run our offense and be solid at the point of attack. I will say that from the start of last season to the end, I thought he improved more than any kid we had, defensively."

    What did you think of D.J.'s performance in the Pan Am games?
    "I watched a couple of those games and I liked his presence. He had great body language and good eyes. You can tell a lot about a kid by looking at his eyes during a game. I talked to D.J. a lot about that last year. I think good players should walk into the place like they own it. That's an attitude...but I didn't think D.J. had a bad game. If you look at the statistics from that trip, he led the United States in scored, minutes played and even steals. I said, `D.J., what are you doing leading that team in steals?'

    Will you mold DeAndre Thomas into D.J. White?
    "Would I like to, sure. But it's not possible. That's not him. D.J. is a unique player. You don't just say, `Let's be like him.' DeAndre does some things better than D.J., but he's not as long, he's not as athletic, doesn't score the ball nearly as well as D.J. D.J. is just better. I want every kid to be as good as they can be. I don't want them to be like somebody else. I have no interest in that whatsoever. I want DeAndre to be the best he can be. I don't think we have a big guy in our program that passes the ball as well as DeAndre. Make a note and remind yourself to watch his outlet passes. He's an excellent outlet passer. But he's not D.J. That's not his deal."

    Do players who have already played on a team together have an advantage in transitioning to their new team?
    "I think later when we start playing games, it will help. But right now, I think there is so much novelty with we're getting ready to do. I saw them all yesterday and you could tell that there is a bright-eyed approach. They veterans are confident. I always think that you should start at one point in October and then you just build yourself up and hope that you're playing your best toward the end of the season. I want each player to maximize their abilities and I want this team to be as good as it can be. That's all."

    On last year's seniors academic success
    "I like the fact that we've had Earl (Calloway) graduated, Rod (Wilmont) graduated, Coach (Errek) Suhr, with the Bloomington North Cougars - he still needs to graduate, but he's doing his student teaching in the fall and will graduate. So far we're 100% and we intend to keep it that way."

    What is your approach to preseason rankings?
    "I've had teams that were No. 1 in preseason rankings. Andy Katz gave us the kiss of death one year ranking us No. 1 in the nation in 2003. There were times during the '02 season when I thought we were the best team in the nation. I thought we were as good as anybody in the country. We've had teams top three, top 10. There should be optimism about this team. If this team stays healthy, it's going to be pretty good. I think we have good guards."

    "I think D.J. is going to have an outstanding season. There is a lot of difference between D.J. today and D.J. last year at this time. There is just a lot of difference. When I watched him in September practices and in October practices, I didn't see a great player. I didn't see that. I said that kid's going to struggle. Basketball is a game that you have to play with great abandonment. There can't be any distractions. He tip-toed around. He was saying the right things, but I saw something different in practice. This is credit to him - I thought he was better in March than he was in February. He was better in February than he was in January and so on. So this season, I think D.J. just isn't the same kid. He's a lot more confident. He's got swagger. This is his team. Let's not make any mistakes about that. This is D.J. White's team. Teams that are billed as talented and as touted, but they aren't as good as you think they should be - it comes down to player leadership."

    "Like last year, I thought we had great player leadership. (Rod) Wilmont is probably not you're conventional leader, but Rod was a good leader in his own way. He did it his way. Our kids responded. No matter what kind of leadership you have, it will elicit some kind response positive or negative. The response that Rod got was positive and that's all that matters."

    "I think with Lance and D.J., we have two very mature kids that get it. They are great character kids. They are both on target to comfortably graduate in May, and hopefully, we're 5-for-5 then. I'm excited about this team. We have a lot of young talent and new guys, but you have to have good leadership in your foundation. Those two guys stand in front of your team everyday for stretching and making sure that the practices go the right way at the right level. Great captains are never afraid to get on their teammates. I don't think D.J. or Lance are worried about that. I think our captains are pretty solid people."

    On controlling the hype around D.J. White and Eric Gordon
    "I'm not hyping them. Even if there is, I'm not sure that I feel it. Not to say that I'm oblivious to it, it's not my deal. I'm not sure they see it either and I'm not sure that I'm real worried about that. Eric is by nature a very quiet kid. When you look at his best games last year, if he has 10 great games where he scores 40 points and two games where he scored seven or eight points, human nature will have him worry about the seven or eight. You pick and chose what it is that you want to think about or write about or hype or whatever.

    Eric is kind of his own man. I had a chance to sit down and talk with him this summer and I'm not sure that he knows about that stuff to the level where he thinks about it. I think he's good about deflecting that and D.J. has set the tone for this team. When we go practice this afternoon at 4 o'clock, D.J. and Lance will be the two hardest workers. Those two kids are going to get after it. It's a great feeling as a coach to know what to expect.

    "I have no idea how Brandon McGee is going to practice. No idea, but I know that he's going to be a lot better as he goes along. Eric and D.J., I don't think that they walk around here soliciting or getting carried away with the hype. As the year goes on, you hope that it gets bigger. It's not like we can do this on the sly. What we do is out front. I hope it gets bigger and we win on a high level. I think this team has a chance to. If our guys buy in and work their tales off, that's what it comes down to. That will be the key for this bunch. They have to really, really work. I think Lance and D.J. are going to help keep them grounded."

    Can you talk about the Basketball Development Center?
    "I am involved in the design from the locker room space, player's lounge, coaches' office, weight room. I know Tim Garl and Dr. Rink did a great job of designing the training room and player rehab area. Jeff Watkinson did a great job with designing the weight room. Every coach or every person that's involved in an area, helped design that area. The people that are building this are really good and allowed us to have unbelievable input on that. We're all anxious to get it started."

    What impact will it have on recruiting?
    "That's the most important part of this. We're going to really celebrate Indiana basketball. The past National Champions, the great players, the great eras, great coaches, all of the great teams will be celebrated. A lot of programs that have already built these facilities, that's one of the parts that really appeals to kids coming in for a visit. We're excited about it."


      Check back soon
      Indiana Sports Properties