Oct. 18, 2007
Bloomingtonl, Indiana -
Indiana Coach Kelvin Sampson addressed the media in his weekly press conference to talk about the first week of practice for the Hoosiers.
Men's Basketball Head Coach Kelvin Sampson
"The matter that has been discussed this week is still under review by the university and the NCAA, and until it has been completed, I'm just going to have no comment about that, but I would be glad to answer any questions on our basketball team, any or our players, how practice is going. Even injuries."
On keeping his team focused:
"I addressed the team about it early, before it was reported, and explained to them what is happening. I had Coach Senderoff address them and talk to them about what was happening and what was going to be reported. After that was over, we said here is what we're going to do. We're going to coach this basketball team. We're going to get prepared. We have an exhibition game on November 4th. I expect us to play well in that exhibition game. That is important that we play well in that game. As we move forward, for practice every day there are certain things that you can see us getting better at. I think it takes time to be a good team, and we are not a good team yet. We have a pretty good selection of talent. Our challenge with this group of kids is to make them into a good team, and that is going to take some time. The work ethic, how hard we're playing, that is just not negotiable. Our kids, they've got to get there. They've got to get to that point, in those areas, and that is what we're working on every day."
"Our practice schedule thus far has been, well Friday night I'm not sure that qualifies as practice, Saturday, we went twice on Sunday, Monday, once Tuesday and yesterday was our day off for the week. We have a bunch of coaches coming over this weekend for the coaching clinic, so we'll go today, Friday, Saturday. Usually on Sunday you like to go twice, once early and once late. It gives us a chance to work on one area I don't think that I do as good of job in early in the season, working on offensive execution. I remember that last year being an issue. I think you have to pick and choose what you want to be good at early in the year. With this team, I think part of getting them to play the way you want them to play is breaking down barriers about offense. For instance, Eric Gordon. You watch him play. Boy, he has great defensive strength. He can really get in a stance, move his feet and guard. I think Eric has a chance to be a great defender, but getting him to understand that and getting him to repeat that and be consistent in that every day that is part of what our challenge is."
"There are no distractions. We practice everyday. I can assure you that there are no distractions. Our practices, if anything, are a little bit tougher than last year. We're practicing and focusing on our daily goals. We'll have a practice plan today and on our practice plan will be our daily goal. Here is our point of emphasis. Now at the end of practice, our video coordinator, Travis Steele
, will take the practice tape, and he'll edit that. He'll put in clips that we'll watch for the coaches and for the players the next day. Here is where we are and what we're trying to emphasize, and that is all we're working on. There is not distraction from this. There has been no other mention of it other than that first day."
On his focus:
"My responsibility right now is these kids. I'm coaching this team, one hundred percent coaching this team. It is like I told them the other day. We start practice October 13th. That was Saturday. And if you take the days off that we have to give them. We've got a game November 4th. We have to go. Coach Watkinson did such a great job in our preseason conditioning that we're allowed to start working on basketball. We'll be farther along early in the season this year. For one thing because we have returning players. We can put five guys out in practice each day that started last year. We can put out A.J. (Ratliff), we can put out Armon (Bassett), Mike (White), Lance (Stemler), and D.J. (White). All five of those guys started games last year. So, if I need to demonstrate something, it is a lot easier this year to put those guys out there than it was. Last year, whoever was out there, it was the first time they'd ever seen it, first time they'd ever run it. This year it is a little bit different. Today is practice number six. I think that is right. I think we are moving right along."
On surprises from the first six practices:
"Probably the thing that jumps out at me about this team is, I don't know if it is a surprise because we did recruit this team. When you go on the road for instance, there are so many good defensive teams in this league, teams that get up in you and take your stuff away. Look how many teams came into Assembly Hall last year when we played them and defensively we were able to take them out of their offense. Well, there are teams that take us out of our offense too. When you take someone out of their offense, do you have somebody that can break the defense down and get into the lane and create and get shots for the other guys? I think that is going to be a strength of this team with Jordan Crawford and Eric Gordon, Jamarcus Ellis and Armon Bassett. My biggest concern probably is we're not as good of a perimeter shooting team as we were last year, but I think we're much more versatile."
On how he evaluates last year's performance:
"Every team is different. We worked exactly on last year what we should have. As a coach you adjust to you team at both ends of the floor, so we don't go in and say here is what we're going to do regardless of your strengths and weaknesses. You're evaluating the strengths and weaknesses. Our teams will always be primarily man-to-man. We are going to play man-to-man defense. This team probably has a little bit better basketball IQ maybe, and that allows us to play multiple defenses. We might come out of a timeout sometimes and trap a little bit more or maybe pickup full court a little bit more. But, offensively, I think when you have kids that can make plays, less is more."
On offensive execution early last year:
"That was not a mistake. It is not a mistake. If we went in every day and just worked on offensive execution we would be great at it. I think our defense and our rebounding and how hard we played, what we want our team to be known for, was good at the start of last year, and that is what we worked on."
On the new rules regarding bench decorum:
"Are you insinuating that I don't have good bench decorum?"
"You guys would know this as well as I do, did I get a technical last year. I don't think so. I don't think I did. Finally, some good news, no technicals last year. Somebody find a way to get that in the report."
On how frustrating the uncertainty surrounding the sanctions is:
"It is what it is. I'm coaching the team, Pete. I don't think of it probably as much as you do. I have an unbelievable group of young men that I'm responsible for coaching. That is what I'm doing. I have a great wife. I have two wonderful kids. I have a great team to coach. That is what I'm doing."
On today's practice:
"Today's practice is important. There are certain things I want to see today that are carried over from Tuesday. We practiced on Tuesday. I want to see us get better in certain areas today. Chemistry is such a, sometimes it happens and you don't have to work at it. Sometimes it just happens. Chemistry among players. The thing that encourages you is that they're unselfish. Eric's best plays the other day were passes to D.J. or Mike White or DeAndre Thomas. Being able to get in the lane, draw the defense and make plays. As long as we stay unselfish and we share the basketball, we are going to be a good offensive team because we can score."
On Lance Stemler's injury:
"I don't want to keep harping on these mile runs because I'm not the track coach, but Lance ran the mile in 5:14. I think he is okay. Tim Garl controls who can practice and who can't. He usually comes to me early in the day about an injury report if there is something, maybe even after practice. We go really hard in practice. Our practices are intense. We get after it. That is why they have the day off. For instance, yesterday was the day off. I think every kid on our team came in and worked out on their own. That is usually a good sign."
On leadership on the team:
"I think our leadership last year at this time of the year, I specifically remember some of you guys asking about that. I think those are good questions. Last year, it is hard to lead when you are not quite sure where you're going. I think there was a lot of that last year with our team. This year I think there is a clear understanding of what to expect, and that is where D.J. and Lance are so important. Those two guys have been outstanding leaders. You can elect captains but you can't elect your leaders. Those guys have been great leaders, and not just because they are captains. I've had some captains that couldn't lead you to their house, but these two guys are outstanding leaders."
On dealing with outside expectations for Eric Gordon:
"Someone asked me earlier today about that. I think Eric Gordon's greatest strength is his humility. He is very humble. This really refreshing and great to see. When he has got the ball in his hands, obviously, it is fourth of July and Christmas morning. He is pretty good with that ball in his hands. There is a whole world opening up to that young man about other areas of the game. Like, I don't think he has ever seen himself as an offensive rebounder. Just watching him the other day in practice, look at his body, he can be really good in that area. He is a joy to coach. He is just a great kid. He looks you in the eye when you talk to him. He gets on the floor after loose balls, takes charges, defends, and he is only going to get better."
On the progress of DeAndre Thomas's stamina:
"I think that is a work in progress. Just because he is under 300 now. I think for DeAndre, from a self-esteem standpoint that was important for him. The easiest kids to motivate are the kids with the highest self esteem. You can tell with him, that really helped his self esteem. His chest is stuck out a little bit more, his shoulders are back, head is a little bit higher. I think he is going to help us. One of our biggest weaknesses last year was when D.J. probably played too many minutes last year. Not by mistake but because he had to. D. J. will be a lot better at 29-30 minutes than he will be at 36-37. He'll have more production. He'll have just as many rebounds because he'll be fresher. Now we have someone that can make a basket when they go in. Last year, if you were to just grade our film of our games when he wasn't in how many baskets we made when he wasn't in there. Maybe on a drive or a steal or an offensive rebound, but throwing it in to somebody and having them score the ball in the paint, that just wasn't what we could do."
On what he saw in DeAndre:
"I thought he had good character. I thought he was a good kid. He is really an affable kid. If you got to know him you'd like him. You'd like him because he is just a big teddy bear. I also had a lot of confidence in Jeff Watkinson. I knew what our program was all about too. I knew that if he got here, the discipline that we have in our program would really help him. I thought that would be something that would benefit him, but he is the one that gets all the credit. We assisted and we enabled, but it was his dedication. And, it is hard work. You know we turned a corner on him when he started asking us. When he started saying, `Coach, want to go for a walk?' or `Coach, I want to work out this evening.' We've already worked out this morning, but I want to work out this evening. When he started getting positive feedback, that is when he started turning the corner. If you have to lose that much weight, when you first start you may have immediate success. You may lose ten pounds right away, but all of a sudden that next ten is really hard. He kind of gives us what Rod gave us last year. He gives us a little spirit in practice. He is vocal. In a good way. I think you have to have guys like that on your team."
On whether he recruited Thomas originally or if he just noticed him while recruiting Jamarcus Ellis:
"We knew we had to sign a post. You don't get every kid you recruit. We always liked DeAndre. I actually saw him in high school when I was at Oklahoma. I actually saw Jamarcus when I was at Oklahoma. They played on the same team in high school. I think DeAndre signed with Missouri out of high school. So, I knew about him. I think they came on the official visit together. I'm pretty sure they did. They both came together, officially. The Big Ten has a rule about over-signing by one. You can't over sign, so we just didn't have a scholarship available, but we recruited him to sign him in April."
On Eli Holman:
"As I've said all along, Eli is a little raw now. For instance, we bring him out early. After practice he works on two or three things every day. The thing I like about Eli is he has a great spirit about him. He tries. I mean he really works at it and really tries. He has got a great attitude. He has to learn to play the college game. Like, when you watch D.J. and Lance or Mike, at times they'll go across the lane and knock the crap out of you. Eli tends to want to jump up and block. That is not going to happen. This isn't a dunking contest. It is a learning how to play contest. We're going to be patient with him, but he is going to help this team this year though, George. I like him. He is going to be really good. And, the good thing about him is he is just a freshman. He is going to get better as he goes. He's got a really high ceiling. He has got good touch. If you watch him shoot the basketball, you'd say well he could be a good shooter because he has got good mechanics. Eli, like all freshmen, he has to learn that basketball is not a game of great plays. It is a game of eliminating mistakes. You learn that as you get experience."
On how good this team could be:
"I think we can be good, Anthony, but you know last year at this time I didn't think we were very good. If you look back at your notes, I told you. We just weren't very good. We were what we were, but our goal was to get better. And eventually, you know what, we became pretty good. At no point were we ever great. And, at no point last year were we ever really good. Now, we had some really good wins, and those nights we played really good like a good team, but you are what you are. This team today has a long way to go. A long way to go. You just have to live the journey with the team. They have their ups and downs. The destination for this team right now, and I'm not being a Lou Holtz, I'm being a Kelvin Sampson, is of little or no significance to me whatsoever. All I care about is getting ready on a daily basis for November 4th. This team has got a long way to go. We've got a lot of work to do. The thing I like about these kids is they are willing to work. If you're having to coach them on effort, if you have to coach them on attitude, chances are you're not going to be very good. I don't have to coach those areas."
On Rod Wilmont:
"I talked to Rod the day before he got cut. He was down in Charleston. I think Rod had a realistic view going down there. I don't think Rod had any delusions of grandeur about making the Knicks. He thought if he could get into training camp and get into some of those exhibition games, people could see him, and maybe he would get a look everywhere. Earl Calloway, the other day, signed a deal with the Eastern Kentucky Colonels. The advantage of signing a contract with teams here in the States is you have an opportunity to be called up on a ten day deal. You get a ten-day look maybe with a team. Whereas, if you go oversees, most of those are non-commute contracts. Once you sign, you're there until it is over. And, that depends on what you want. If you just want to go make money and see how much money you can make over the next ten years, maybe your best bet is to go to Europe or to go to South America. But, if you have dreams of maybe getting called up or getting seen, or just want to play basketball. I think there are a lot of kids playing in the NBDL who know they're never going to make it to the league, but while they're young and healthy and can still play they just keep playing. Rod is going to play with an NBDL team. I think the Eastern Kentucky team is NBDL. That is where Earl is."