Dec. 28, 2006
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Indiana Head Coach Kelvin Sampson sat down with the media on Thursday, Dec. 28 about his preparations for the upcoming Ball State game on Saturday, Dec. 30 and other issues surrounding the Hoosier program.
On whether he likes extended breaks between games:
"It doesn't matter. Over the years, we've had different ways. ... Players always think they are ready to play. I like practices. We practiced at 5 p.m. on Dec. 26. It's hard to go two normal practices. Our afternoon practices have been really tough, and I wanted them that to be that way. We practiced on the 26th and twice on the 27th, with one of them being a more cerebral practice and another one being a tough practice, and we'll go twice today. We'll work on Ball State today and tomorrow, play on Saturday, and then head into conference season."
On if the team is getting comfortable with his system:
"We're playing better today than we were earlier in the year. That is really all that matters. We're getting better. It's obvious the way we are playing. ... Earlier in the season, the tougher schedule you play the more games you are going to lose. Ohio State has lost two games. They've lost at Florida and at North Carolina. I look at some of the schedules in our league. Some of the teams have some gaudy, gaudy records, but they haven't played at Florida, at North Carolina, at Duke or at Kentucky. The good thing about playing a tough schedule is you really find out what you need to work on. If you look at the Butler game, we turned the ball over 20 times and put them on the foul line 26 times. In the Duke game, we had 16 turnovers. We're a lot better now than we were then. Look at the turnovers. Look at how many free throws we are shooting versus our opponent. We had a three- or four-game stretch where we couldn't get to the line, we couldn't keep them off the line, and we kept throwing the ball away. ... If you have first-year junior college players or freshmen, you are going to struggle in November, especially if you play a tough schedule. That's the thing those games showed us. I liked how our kids responded. The three captains on this team are starting to get it, where as early in the year they were trying to survive the practice. I told them that wasn't good enough. There's a reason why you guys are captains. You can't be like the other guys. You have to help set a tone and help the coach coach the team. Rod, Earl and D.J. have all become better practice players. They're starting to value practice and what practice means. We've just gotten a lot better."
On what the team has worked on since the IUPUI game:
"I think it's important that you know who you are. Being able to define some roles. Xavier came off the bench and helped us in the Southern Illinois game, and he was nowhere to be found in the Western Michigan game. Against IUPUI, he was a little better. Everyone on your team is a role player. Sometimes we get misinformed about the term `role player.' We tend to stereotype that phrase. Everybody is a role player. D.J. is a role player. His role is just a little bit different than some of the other ones. A.J. is a role player. Earl is a role player. Errek Suhr is a role player. Sometimes you need to revisit what their role is for them, and that is really what this time has been about. You still get upset about turnovers, about missing a block-out assignment, not going hard on a cut. Not having a game to prepare for right away is good for us. We have 11 games the next 35 days starting Saturday. Once you start playing a lot of games, you really don't have a lot of time to work on yourself. You are preparing for your next opponent. Today we'll really get into Ball State. The last three days we really worked hard on the Hoosiers, today we'll start working on Ball State."
On whether the team looked fresher after a couple days off:
"They do. ... We went about three hours last night, and they were sharp. Some of them probably had their best practice last night. There are a lot of reasons for that. ... Errek Suhr will not allow Ben Allen to have a bad practice. You can't drag, you can't be lazy, you can't take possessions of because I'm going to get on you or Errek's going to get on you. He's invaluable. I wish Errek Suhr was a sophomore. He's one of those kids you wish you could have forever. He's so important to our team, regardless of what he does in games. In the Duke game, he played in that game like he practices everyday. He doesn't have the physical ability of an Earl or an Armon, but I'm thankful Errek is here. He's been great for the coach at practice because he gets it. When he leaves here next fall - he'll graduate in December - I think he's going to be a terrific coach."
On what has pleased him with this team:
"Just the involvement. Basketball is an imperfect game. We all want it to be perfect. The fans want us to make every free throw. They don't ever want us to miss a shot or the other team to ever make a shot, but coaches are like that too. I cringe when we miss a free throw or see us missing an assignment. As you get older in this profession there are only two things you can control and try to get them to understand they can control their effort and their attitudes. If we'll all learn that lesson as we go through life, our life is a little bit better. ... As you get older, you go from people that are your heroes to people that inspire you. You try to get kids to understand that. To pick out things and learn from people that overcome adversity that can inspire you. That's really the way you coach your team. You try to get them to give their best effort, regardless. You're going to have games where things don't work that night. As good as you think you are you're going to run up against somebody that's a little bigger, a little bit stronger, a little bit tougher and a little bit better than you. It happens. ... The attitude and effort part is the area I've been most pleased with this team. There were games earlier in the season where you go back in the locker room where you want to scream because you know they can do better. Then you look later in the season and see they are starting to do better. Their efforts are better, their attitudes are better. Like the guys on the bench. I don't like pouters. It's a blessing to represent your university. All the coach is asking is for you to give a great effort, be a great teammate, be enthusiastic, be supportive. That's not hard to do. For some kids, they've never done that, so they have to learn to cross that hurdle. There's not a kid on this team that hasn't improved in that area. Some of them still have a ways to go, but there's not one of them that hasn't improved."
On Armon Bassett:
"I think it (prep school) helped him a lot. ... Any time a kid redshirts, and really when you think about redshirting, it's what Armon did. He redshirted without starting his clock. It's certainly positive for him. The thing I like about Armon, in October, Armon just wasn't very good. Conditioning, in the weight room, and the intensity of our workouts, it wasn't clicking with him. Armon just wanted to play ball. ... It tells you a little bit about him. Even in his toughest days in October, that kids loves basketball. He loves basketball. Now, the first kid at practice is Armon. We had a good practice Tuesday night, and the first one at practice on Wednesday was Armon. They have to have a certain amount of lifts in each week around their schedules. You don't have to get Armon, and he is getting strong. That kid is going to be a good player, and he knows how to play too."
On Coach Knight:
"When Coach Knight first came into the Big 12, I think there was a huge curiosity factor with the fans at all the schools. Texas Tech was always in the league, but when he showed up it was a different Texas Tech. ... I think he sold out every arena when he first got to the Big 12 because of his persona. It's Coach Knight. Everybody remembers him from his national championships at Indiana. He just has that presence about him. ... I remember the first time I saw him was 1979. ... Even then he just had an incredible presence. Most coaches won't admit this, but when you coach a game, sometimes you can feel a guy at the other end and sometimes you can't. I think all coaches are good, but there are some that have a presence about them. You always know when you are coaching against a guy like Coach Knight because of his presence. I think, for our sport that I've been incredibly fortunate to be a part of for these years, I think it's perfect the two winningest coaches in the history of the game are Coach Knight and Coach Smith. They're absolutely the best. Coach Knight will win as many as he wants to win. He's got it going at Texas Tech now, and I don't know how much longer he wants to coach, but he'll put that mark to wherever he wants it. It was an honor to coach against him, and it's an honor to be a coach. ... The fact you get to live in this era to see a living legend do his business and do something like that, we're all fortunate to be able to see it."
On Earl Calloway and Errek Suhr helping develop Armon Bassett:
"Errek has really helped him. Armon may do something half-speed, and I may tell Armon to start running laps. You can hear Errek whispering in his ear, you can hear Earl whispering in his ear and Rod. Rod has been good with him too. You can tell these older kids have taken him and Xavier under their wing. I know I say it a lot but don't discount it - they're good kids. This whole staff, we're lucky to inherit kids that don't have any attitude problems. Armon, to his credit, where he started in September in conditioning and October with practice, he's a different kid. He's got a little swagger about him. All these kids, from D.J. to Armon to A.J. to Lance, they all have a little different step to them now. ... It's their attitudes. They have good attitudes, and they're learning to give effort."
On handling Ball State's pressure:
"We've faced teams that pressed us this year. The key to attacking pressure is where to attack and spacing. We've been good at it thus far because we've attacked it. If you go East-West against pressure, now you're allowing it to attack you. We try to attack pressure. I'm not interested in getting the ball across half-court, getting it back out and let's run our offense. Your offense should be to attack, go try to get an easy basket. Earl's a lot better that way. Since Earl's quit thinking and just start attacking, he's a different player."
On conference play:
"We have to really concentrate and not put the cart before the horse. We play Ball State. That's my main focus right now."