Nov. 30, 2006
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Head coach Kelvin Sampson sat down to talk with the media on Wednesday, Nov. 29, about his preparations for the upcoming game against Charlotte on Saturday, Dec. 1, and recount Tuesday, Nov. 28's game against Duke.
On Errek Suhr possibly starting:
"I'd consider it, sure. It depends on how the practices go. I like our kids to earn things. He certainly earned it on Tuesday night. The thing I liked about our team in the second half at Duke is that we didn't waste any possessions. We may not have gotten off good shots every possession, but we didn't turn the ball over. To be a good offensive team, you have to take care of the ball. Then you can find out the other things you can do. Errek was just solid. Sometimes that's what that position requires. You don't have to throw five touchdown passes every game, just don't throw any interceptions. You have to make sure you get your shot. If you miss a shot, you can get a rebound. We're becoming a solid rebounding team, not a great rebounding team, but we're getting solid in that area. Offensively, the only thing we need to improve on is getting some continuity on offense and then we need to get better finishing the ball in the paint. I think our post guys had plenty of opportunities, we just didn't finish a lot of balls in there."
On the progression of Armon Bassett:
"Armon's getting better. He has his freshman moments, but he's gaining confidence. But he's one of those kids who the more confidence you give him, the better he is. He's going to have stretches where he struggles, especially when teams get out and contest him, but Armon's a good three-point shooter. We just need to get him comfortable making plays, and give him a little freedom to make a play. The thing about getting to the free throw line, which we have to do a much better job of, is you have to drive the ball to the rim. There's two ways to get the ball to the paint, you can pass it in there or you can drive it in there. I'd like to see Armon put the ball on the floor and create more. But Armon is a good offensive player, he just has to keep working at defense and staying at a high concentration level."
On how surprised he is with Joey Shaw's play:
"I didn't see Joey in high school and obviously he didn't play last year, so maybe surprised isn't the right word. I've been encouraged by Joey, I didn't know what to expect. Sometimes as we go along and you see a different situation because you didn't see a kid during his junior or senior year in high school or in the summer and you weren't involved in the recruiting process, you don't really know the kid in terms of game situations, you're learning as you go. I'd prefer to have a set rotation, but until we have five guys that prove they can play the best together, we'll keep doing what we're doing. Close games, road games, I'm seeing things for the first time, and so is Joey. That was his first true road game as a college basketball player. It's not like this is a veteran team. We have some veterans, but the young guys are playing better, and my job is to put the best team out there and that's what I'm going to do."
On Ben Allen's confidence:
"I saw a difference - his body language is better. You can tell a lot about a kid's confidence level by their aggressiveness. I think some guys are prone to foul, some guys just have bad luck. But it's hard to fault Ben for his effort the other night, he's rebounding the ball better. When we get some consistency in our guard play, Ben's going to get a lot better on offense too. Ben can't grab the ball and create a shot for himself, that's what guards do, they get shots for the big guys. I like Ben's rebounding. Look at his rebounds per minutes played. He and Mike White, I thought both those guys played aggressive the other night on the boards. We just have to get a little smarter on defense. I don't know if you could tell it the other night because there were so many fouls, but you can see carryover in the games from what we're doing on defense. As long as we're getting a good effort, we'll turn the corner there."
On his team's defense in the second half against Duke:
"We have to keep them off the foul line. I thought we defended them well. If you can make a team like Duke go deep in the shot clock, that means you're position-wise doing well. They have a quick trigger - they should, they have five guys on the court that can get 20 points. But I thought we defended a lot of things well against Duke. My only problem with our defense is that we put them on the line 29 times."
"They're well-coached. Bobby [Lutz] is a really good friend of mine from way back. We've been on the Operation Hardwood tour together twice - what a great guy, just a wonderful person. In 1999, Oklahoma went into the tournament as a 13 seed and beat Arizona in the first round, and we played Charlotte in the second round, and that's the only time we've played them. I remember that we only had one day to prepare for them, and I said, `Let's just zone them.' They run more stuff offensively, there's so many things that they run, they're really good offensively. For us, this will be a challenge to defend them. We've got two days - today and tomorrow - to prepare for them. De'Angelo Alexander is having a great year, he's a Wooden Award candidate. The point guard, Goldwire, is a talented kid. I've seen A.J. Drayton play before, he's long, athletic and can score. They have three seniors that have been in that system for a while, and offensively they're really, really good. Sometimes you can't look at somebody's record - they played at Syracuse and at Mississippi State and lost both those games - but having played those road games prepares you for your next road game."
On his veterans not playing much in the second half against Duke:
"There was a message, but at the same time, whether I'm coaching the British Columbia Wildcats or Indiana University, my responsibility is to put our team in a position to win, and a lot of that is putting the right guys on the floor. I threw five guys out there to start the game, but they didn't play very well, I just didn't see a lot of confidence with that group. After watching us play the first half and watching Duke play the first half, I felt like we could win the game if we would just get settled down. You can't turn the ball over 12 times and beat anybody. We had five turnovers in the second half. If we had five turnovers in the first half, we might have been leading. It's not a complicated game, it's fairly simple. Look at our turnovers - picking the dribble up, forcing passes inside off of pressure. The best way to attack pressure is to drive it, attack it with the dribble. If they're going to deny the wings and pressure the ball, they're telling you, `drive it.' That's what we did in the second half, you don't need a complicated offense. You saw Suhr get in the lane and finish a little runner - that's the same play Marquette ran. The harder a team pressures you, you have to drive the ball. It's not easy to throw the ball into the post when you're back on your heels and they're up in you. In the first half, we were trying to pass the ball from point A to point B against pressure. I didn't think we had very good composure, I didn't think our poise was very good in the first half. In the second half, we settled in and we played. You look on the floor and see a walk-on and two freshmen on your perimeter - it doesn't matter. Those guys played well, that's all that mattered."
On whether he feels at a disadvantage coaching his players for the first year:
"I don't worry about that. I'm more worried about seeing progress as a team. We're going to have some head-scratching possessions. Had I stayed at Oklahoma, we would have had some head-scratchers there too. If I'm here five years from now, we're still going to look lost at times. I've never coached against a team that didn't look lost at times. The thing you learn as you go along is who to put in, who plays where, who fits best together. You put in a starting lineup, but that's in pencil right now. Eventually we'd like that to be in ink, but we'll find out as we go - who can handle pressure, who has poise. You move forward. I watched Boston College and Michigan State last night, and you can tell Tom [Izzo] has a lot of freshmen. That was their first road game and they played like freshmen at times. Even though Rod and A.J. are seniors, they're freshmen for me, and they play like freshmen at times. It's not anything to question or get alarmed about - I'll figure out who can play and I'll play them."
On whether it's easier to have a lineup in ink if he had players that he recruited:
"If they play good. The guys I inherited, some of these guys are playing good. Ben Allen's getting better, Armon Bassett's getting better, Joey Shaw's getting better - we have guys that are improving, you can see it in practice. Some of these guys are limited. I say, `drive it,' but you have to be able to drive it. You can't sit there and be a fan and say, `Why don't they do this?' There's probably a reason why. `Why didn't that guy throw a fastball?' Well, maybe he doesn't have one. That's why we've been working a lot on half-court defense. You have to hang your hat on something - good, bad or indifferent. You have to have something that you can take into the game and say, `let's be good at this today.' Offensively, we're going to get better as we go when we figure out who can play where and who can do what. That's probably the negative of playing the exhibition games against Division II schools. I get letters with people asking me why we play these schools in exhibition games. We have no choice. That's a rule. You have to play a D-II school, a D-III school or an NAIA school. When you play those schools, you don't find out a lot about your team. I didn't find out a lot about our team until the last six or seven minutes against Butler. You find out a little bit, then you come home and play a couple games, then you go to Duke and find out a little bit more. I feel better about our team now. You have a better feel for who to play, who can do this and who can do that. All coaches go through that, though, I'm not unique to that."
On whether his veterans got the message:
"We didn't practice yesterday, but they'll get the message. These are good kids, high-character kids. That's not an issue and it won't be. I saw them at 6 a.m. I've already put them through a bunch of adversity. Whether Earl starts or not Saturday night, he'll play a lot better. Making mistakes isn't a crime, just don't repeat it. That's the message you send these kids. You don't get mad at them because they didn't play well. Yesterday, Earl came by, Rod came by wanting to know what they could do. They wanted to help the team. If you're worrying about playing time, you're in the wrong place. The name on the front of our jerseys says Indiana. You better figure out how to help Indiana, that's the best way to help yourself."
On Mike White;
"Mike's doing what he does. We signed Mike in May. Mike got eight rebounds the other night, Mike did an unbelievable job. He's 6-4 or 6-5. We got here in April and the only big guy that was going to be here for sure was Ben Allen. So we recruited Lance and Mike after we found out we needed some big guys. Look what Lance has done for us this year, he's been tremendous. Mike White? Great. Don't expect him to be what he's not - he had eight rebounds the other night. He took the ball to the hole, got to the line seven times. We're going to try to get him up to around 50 percent on his free throw shooting, though. That will help. He's in there playing against Zubek and McRoberts - those guys are 7-foot. He's 6-5. We didn't see anybody better in May that we could get to help us. I think Mike's doing great."
On D.J. White:
"He needs to get a swagger. He needs to bust open those swinging doors and say, `Who wants a piece of me?' That's an attitude. We're talking about a basketball game here. Irregardless of what happens, if you start making it out to be more than that, I'll send you over to Kuwait for a week. It's a basketball game - bust open those doors and say, `Who wants some of this?' That's an attitude, that's a swagger. Good, bad, indifferent, you have to be the biggest, baddest dude in the joint. Somebody wants to mess with me, `Let's go outside, show me what you got.' That's what he needs. He needs to get a little nastier, he needs to get meaner."