COACH CREAN: Sure. We're in a position right now where I think we're trying to have a real climb mentality in the sense if we're going to climb in this league, if we're going to climb back to where we want Indiana to be, it has to be a daily process and one that's not just about skill development and team development, but the mentality that you have to have.
And I think that started for us in the spring. I thought we had an outstanding spring, and one of the best I've been involved in in the sense of really trying to get our guys to understand that for us to take steps, it was going to have to be a complete year-round process.
This spring I think led to a very good summer. When they came back in the fall, when we were able to start working with them in the fall, I should say, we could see a difference in their bodies. I think guys had worked very hard on their skills, and I like our fall. I like the fall we had with them in the sense of the work that we did to try to build a defensive mentality, the work that we did to try to build a togetherness mentality, especially on that defensive end.
And I think we're way behind offensively right now. I know we are as far as where I've been as a coach. But I think the time being spent on getting us to understand what team defense and individual responsibilities are defensively and then coming down and making plays for other people.
It's been really important. And we're trying to get the competition level to where great teams have it on a daily basis, where they have it on a yearly basis and we have not had that yet. We've not had the ability to have great competition day in, day out the first couple of years. We certainly haven't had the consistency of depth or a team that's been deep enough to gain any momentum, and then when injuries hit, we certainly weren't able to do it. So every day is a step closer to being better in that sense, and I'll answer questions if you have them on the individual guys.
But I like our camaraderie, the way that it's developing. I like the toughness that is starting to come out. I think our team is maturing. What that means, it's too early to tell. And we've had injuries this year like so many other coaches have had them. And I've talked to Doc Sadler. I thought we had some injury issues until he said he has six guys that still haven't practiced. To me that's what this time of year is all about; you just keep developing your team, try to keep getting guys that are going to feel good enough about their ability to contribute to your team. You try to build that competition. You know that the more competitive it is the more camaraderie that can be built from it if done the right way, and that's what we're trying to do.
THE MODERATOR: Questions?
Q. What have you seen so far from Cody these first couple of weeks? And when he establishes himself, how does he change the geometry of the game both for your offensively and defensively?
COACH CREAN: He's the one player I made an example last week. We were scrimmaging and we were playing some short games and he wasn't touching the ball much, and the team that was playing with him wasn't winning the game. And we stopped practice in a very emphatic way and said that the basket didn't count -- or we weren't going to score unless he touched it. It didn't mean he had to score it, but he had to touch it in a scoring position.
And it was just amazing. Not to be a visionary, but kind of saw it coming; that team didn't lose the next couple of scrimmages they played. The point at the end of it was no matter what you think you have been as a player here at Indiana, you're not somebody that has made it easier for everybody else. Cody makes it easier for everybody else. He makes the game -- we knew this when we recruited him. You can go at him and give him the ball and something can happen, or you can play through him, and that's what our team has got to learn to do right now.
And I think he's got the intelligence. He's got the athleticism. He's got the willingness to do that. He's a quick, quick learner. He's getting stronger. He's gained probably 17, 18 pounds since at the got to Indiana in June. The athleticism is coming out.
I think he's like any other player, they're going so hard and competitive right now they have to be pushed even to a higher level. But when you start to push Cody a little bit, you start to see those gears in him that maybe he doesn't even realize he has. And so he's been a joy to have. I think his teammates really enjoy playing with him. And, again, he truly makes the game easier because he passes the ball. He rebounds the ball. He understands what the other guys need to do, and they're learning how to play.
If there's one thing I think that has really been glaring for us, and I take it as a slight to myself as a coach, our guys are not feeding the post nearly as well as we should be right now. And you start to look at it as a coach. What about that? Well, we haven't really been throwing it in there the last couple of years. So we spent time on feeding the post, but we haven't been emphatic about throwing it in the post every time, every other time, things like that.
So we're kind of all learning together inside of the program, and I think the competition is good for him. I think it's good for everybody else. But them learning how to play with him and him learning how to play with them has been really good.
Q. How important a recruit was Cody in the sense not just for his talent but the perception thing? A guy, Indiana, everybody said, boy, they really need to get him to turn the corner and get things going.
COACH CREAN: I think it was -- I don't think there's any question that it was huge. And I think it's been pretty noticeable. You look at the day he signed and just the effect that it was nationally, just having him, put it in a little bit of perspective. But I think having him made it that much easier for other guys to want to be a part of it.
But I also think Jordan Hulls being there and some of those type of people that Cody developed relationships with and knew from AU days and things like that helped. And we knew we were closer to being a lot better, and we also knew that he could have a huge, huge hand in helping us take steps.
And I think it's not what you can look and say it's just one step or two steps, but take a lot of steps. And I don't think there's any question that you can look at it perception-wise and say it was great, but in all reality it's even better than that, because he's such a skilled player. And he's such a -- he's not a big guy. He's just a big basketball player.
He really makes the game easier for everybody else in the sense and allows them to do more of what they can do. And we've continually played the last couple of years where the defense really could cheat off of one or two people and at almost any given time. So you could play people, a man and a half. You could double team certain people. You could build concepts around taking certain people out of the game. Well, you can't win if you have that.
You have to have players that everybody has to guard. Well, to take it to the next step you've got to have somebody that can make it so much better for everybody else. Just based on the fact that they're on the floor with the attention they command. And I think Cody's got that potential.
Q. When you talk about Cody making other players better, can you talk about like which guys you think he's going to help the most and what kind of opportunities is his presence going to create for other guys?
COACH CREAN: Oh, I think you've got to have -- in this league, especially, learned a lot about it over the last three years, but the teams that win have five players on the floor that are two-way players and they're players that you have to guard.
It's very hard to scheme against players in this league, because they can make shots. Everybody has some special skills. It's really not a specialty league. And there's been times where we've been a specialty team. And you can't -- you can't win consistently with that. You can't say, well, this guy's just a really good defender, this guy's just a really good rebounder, or this guy's just a really good shooter. You've got to have complete players and guys that have the potential to be complete.
So there's not one person or one group of guys that a player with the talent of Cody affects. He affects the entire team, because the game is played with five on both ends. And now, in that sense, him playing with a Tom Pritchard who is a very good defender, an experienced player, four-year player, which certainly helps us, helps Cody a little bit defensively where Cody being on the court with him might help him offensively.
But that remains to be seen. But I think he's just really been -- it's been good for the way the court has been able to be spread. We have some guys like Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey that can take people off the dribble, that can get to the rim. We have Verdell Jones, who's an excellent mid-range player, very good pick-and-roll player. We have Jordan Hulls, who's becoming better all the time.
When the court is opened up, when there's a lot more spacing, when the lane -- you just can't sit in the lane and dare people to drive it, it makes it better for everybody else. So that's what we're hoping for.
Q. One senior on the roster last year, nine upperclassmen this year, how important is that experience level towards the climb you were talking about?
COACH CREAN: I don't think there's any question when you look at this league over the years, it's an experienced league. It's a deep league. Very talented league. And every year it becomes an old league, because there's a lot of juniors and seniors in the league.
We've not been able to do that. We're finally starting to get to that point. There's no question. To have Verdell, to have Tom, to have -- even going into the junior class with Christian Watford, with Jordan Hulls, with Derek Elston, and certainly we'd be bringing Maurice Creek into that, but he hasn't played the equivalent of a freshman season yet for us.
But I think to have a deeper team you've got to have a team that's got experience, has toughness, and that has been in some battles, and then you have a chance. So I think we're starting to get closer to that, no doubt.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
Will Sheehey On how practice has been so far:
"I would say our communication and defensive level has been high. We have been more player driven (this year) than before and I think if we keep pushing in that direction it will help us out."
On how the things he worked to improve in his game have helped him this year:
"It has helped me be more comfortable and read the game and try to see things that I didn't see things last year."
On being more comfortable going into this season:
"One hundred percent more comfortable this year. We know what we are getting into and what the coaches expect so we can give them what they expect."
Verdell Jones III On how he improved over his first three seasons at IU:
"I think I improved my maturity level and the physicality. I also think defense and being able to control the team are some other things I have improved on. I need to continue to work on my defense - you can never stop working on that - and my 3-point shot."
On the motivation of making the NCAA Tournament:
"It has been a goal of mine since my freshman year and it hasn't come true yet. I think this year can be the year if we stay healthy and keep taking each game one at a time."
On how team chemistry translates onto the court:
"I think it helps a lot. If you become comfortable with one another off the court you can be more comfortable getting on someone on the court. That has been something over the past couple years - if someone messed up on the court, we wouldn't get on them. But now, we are so close off the court, we are not afraid to get in their face no matter who it is. We accept it now and that is a big key for us."