Dec. 27, 2007
Press Conference Video
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Indiana men's basketball coach Kelvin Sampson met with members of the media on Thursday to discuss the upcoming game against Chicago State.
On how the team looks:
"We practiced yesterday and we actually practiced once today. We went this morning at 9:00. You could tell we probably needed a break - I think all the teams do this time of the year. You go from October to November to December - now's where you want your team to start finding a little bit of a stride. We played Ball State this time last year - I remember that game because A.J. [Ratliff] broke his left wrist - and then we went to Ohio State and came home and played Michigan State and Purdue. This is the time you want to start hitting your stride. I'm anxious to see this team play Saturday and then we start right in to Big Ten play. You work your tail off all year to get ready for this time of year so we're excited about it."
On A.J. Ratliff's injury:
"He's a lot better now than he was last week. I think he hurt his ankle Tuesday afternoon last week. If we had a game tonight, he'd play. Armon [Bassett] was really sharp yesterday and today. In the Kentucky game we had two guards. It's nice to have a full complement of guards. Where it will help us the most is defensively, keeping guys fresh."
On the game plan once all five guards are back:
"I've never played five guards. If you have six guards, is that good or bad? We played 40 minutes against Kentucky with two. I think Lance [Stemler] has done yeoman duty. We talk so much about the guys that haven't been in there and that's not really fair to the guys that have been. Lance Stemler's done a great job for us. From the first day of practice until Kentucky, I don't think he played a minute in practice on the perimeter unless it was in a drill. I think Lance Stemler deserves a lot of credit for what he's been able to do for us. I thought defensively, our best game of the year was at Southern Illinois or Kentucky, probably. We had two guards - three at Southern Illinois, two against Kentucky. Now we're at full strength, it'll be interesting to see how we're going to play five guards. E.J. [Gordon] is going to play heavy minutes. Jamarcus [Ellis] has been our most versatile player. It'll be interesting to see. It's not something you plan or project, you just have to see.
On whether the team is ready for Big Ten play:
"Yeah, absolutely. We were ready to go play Southern Illinois. We were ready to play Kentucky. Everything we've done thus far has prepared us to play. When you look at the schedule in August - if we had already played Connecticut, that's a non-conference game - Connecticut, Kentucky, Southern Illinois, Georgia Tech, Xavier - that's a tough non-conference schedule. All those teams have had injuries or guys out just like we have. You can't project how teams are going to be on the night you play them. I think when Southern Illinois gets their guys back, when they get healthy, when Kentucky gets healthy, Xavier - all those teams are good teams and are capable of being NCAA Tournament teams. I haven't seen Connecticut, but they have everybody back from last year."
On how much he's watched of other Big Ten teams:
"I watched Michigan State and Texas play on Saturday. Some of the teams I haven't seen at all. I haven't seen Minnesota play yet. I've seen Iowa some on the Big Ten Network. I saw them have a great win at Northern Iowa. I haven't seen Michigan."
On what he thought of the MSU-Texas game:
"After playing Texas for 12 straight years and playing Michigan State, you knew it was going to be a tough matchup. We played Michigan State in that game when I was at Oklahoma, in the Palace of Auburn Hills - I'm not sure what they call it, but we played in that game."
On IU being eighth in the league in assists but being among the leaders in scoring:
"We lead the nation in free throws made. That's the significant statistic there. Getting to the free-throw line, that's the strength of ours. Last year our strength was 3-point shooting, and we were good at it - that's why we shot them. This year, getting to the foul line. Eric went 1-for-9 Saturday [from 3-point range] but was 10-for-10 from the free-throw line. He shot nine wide open threes. He made one, but he was 10-for-10 from the free-throw line. As long as he's attacking. I don't want him to fall in love with the three and think that's the shot. Smart players have a way of figuring out what the defense is doing. As we get into conference play and we start playing more road games, logic says we probably won't go to the line as much. We're smart enough to find other ways to score. As we rotate our guards, we have a lot of guards that can make plays off the dribble. Every year, you assess what your team's strengths are and you play to your strengths. Our assist numbers would be a lot higher if we weren't getting to the free-throw line. Somebody's got to pass it to the guy that's taking it off the dribble. We're running our offense, getting the floor spread and then driving. I think our offensive numbers speak for themselves."
On entering Big Ten play:
"Big Ten play - no matter what conference you're in - kids get excited about it. You could tell with our kids coming back yesterday and today, there's an excitement in them to play this game Saturday and then get ready for Big Ten play, but we're 10-1 right now and our goal is to be 11-1, and to do that we've got to beat Chicago State."
On Chicago State:
"That Holston kid is really good. I think he scored 23 points against us last year. I watched them play against Michigan State last year - Chicago was ahead at halftime, and I think they led at the five-minute mark too. And I think their guard had 30-plus points too."
On what he wants to see against CSU:
"Just getting better, improve. We need to put 40 minutes together, start stringing halves together. We were really good in the second half Saturday, not very good the first half. But we're capable of doing that. Sometimes kids have to remember - some kids do, some kids don't. Defensively against Kentucky we were really good both halves, but a lot of it had to do with who we were playing. Sometimes when you only play one half versus two, that has to do with who you're playing. That's a fault that needs to be corrected. Regardless of who we're playing, we have to play. So there will be a lot of emphasis on getting off to a good start on Saturday and playing a complete first half, then going to the locker room and trying to play a complete second half. I get these same questions every year. It's an imperfect game, and we all want it to be perfect. We're still chasing perfection here, but we're not going to get it. I've learned that.
On Michigan State:
"I think they're outstanding. They have five starters back and you knew they were going to be good early. When you integrate new players, you're going to struggle early. But they were integrating new guys and everyone can relate to that. I think the better the team you play, it brings out the best in you. Texas brought out the best in Michigan State, just like UCLA brought the best out of Texas. I think Duke and Pittsburgh brought the best out of each other. We'll have those games too, and we'll be ready for them."
On Eli Holman's injury:
"If it was his right wrist, I think he could play, but with the left wrist I don't think so. He can't bend his wrist. Because it's his shooting wrist, he could not shoot a free throw. He could throw it up there, but he can't follow through. Same with the jump hook. When it's the shooting wrist, I think there's a tendency to make sure it heals so it doesn't have a recurrence of that injury. Tim [Garl] treats him and he still has a lot of discomfort so we'll just have to go day by day."
On Eric Gordon's biggest strength:
"I think how he works every day in practice. He's getting better in different areas. He's such a great kid. We all like to see good things happen to people who really work at it. He can really score, he's becoming a better defensive player, but there's a lot of areas in his game that he's got to improve. He's got to become a better rebounder, he's got to cut down on turnovers. We see him every day - when you see someone every day, you have a tendency to look at areas that he can improve. His strength is that he has a lot of confidence when he has the ball in his hands and he can really score, but there's a lot of areas that Eric can continue to improve in."
On Earl Calloway and Rod Wilmont playing for the NBDL team in Fort Wayne:
"I talked with both of them over the holidays. I think it's great that they're in Indiana - Hoosier fans are everywhere and I'm sure that's helped ticket sales for that franchise having those kids in Fort Wayne. They're still chasing their dream, as well they should. But the great thing about both of them is that they both have their degrees. They've graduated from IU. We encourage them to play as long as they can. They're making decent money. The value of playing in the NBDL - the Pistons and the Pacers, maybe a couple other teams have the rights to the players on those franchises - so they're an injury away from it. If they get hot and continue to play well, I think they're both trying to get a 10-day call up and maybe an opportunity to make their mark and sign a contract. Good for them. They're chasing their dreams, they're great kids, they have their degrees, I'm really proud of both of them.