Bloomington, Ind. – Newly-named IU Coach Kelvin Sampson has a lot of work ahead of him – starting with trying to keep D.J. White and Robert Vaden in Bloomington.
While the team had little time to actually meet with Sampson before he was announced as Indiana's 26th head basketball coach Wednesday, White was surprised by the announcement and still is up in the air about returning to play for Indiana next season.
"I was kind of shocked," said White. "It came out of nowhere. I guess that a lot of people were shocked because his name was never mentioned. But I guess Mr. Greenspan did what he had to do and made what he thought was the best choice.
"His name wasn't in the mix. I thought it was just two people. As of yesterday his name just came up out of nowhere."
After meeting with Sampson for 45 minutes in the locker room, White said he had a good feeling about Sampson, but was nowhere close to a decision.
"He's a good guy," said White. "He gave us a good first impression back in the locker room. He is very happy to be here, and I think that he will be good for Indiana. It was a good talk. For him coming in and meeting us for the first time I feel like we got a lot of things accomplished. We got a feeling for him and he got a feeling for us."
Despite that talk, there are no assurances the 6-9, 242-pound sophomore will be playing under Sampson next season.
"I'm still going to see what's best for me," White said. "I'm going to listen to him and take my time with this decision. But I still haven't made up my mind yet. There's no time table. I don't want to rush anything. Just take my time and do what's best for me and my family. I'm going to finish this semester of course. I have a lot of things to decide. I'm going to finish this school year out and get everything together."
Along with White, Robert Vaden has discussed leaving the Hoosier program to either follow former coach Mike Davis or find somewhere else to play. Vaden was at Assembly Hall during the announcement of Sampson's hiring, but not on the court with his teammates.
"Robert is just being himself," said Roderick Wilmont. "After all the stuff that has happened he didn't feel like it was right for him to be here today. As a team we'll talk to him and hopefully we can get him back here next year."
The job of recruiting Vaden and White will be on the shoulders of Sampson and will go a long way in his unifying of Indiana fans. Lucky for Sampson he will not be working alone in trying to bring them back.
"I think pretty much it's not going to be the coach who keeps D.J. and Vaden around, it's going to be the players," said Wilmont. "We've been with them for a while and I've known D.J. and Vaden since they were in high school. I'm going to try my best to get them back here and hopefully I can do that.
"I've talked to them. I really feel D.J. is going to come back. Robert is going to be hard, but I'm going to try my best."
White admits he and Vaden have talked about transferring together to another program, but that will not necessarily happen if they cannot find a school they both are interested in or one or both decides to stay at Indiana.
"I'm my own man and he's his own man," said White. "He can't tell me what to do and I can't tell him what to do. We'd love to play together if we decided to leave, but he has to do what's best for him and his family and I have to do the same as well.
"I'm D.J., not Robert. I don't know what he's going to do."
Sampson has a tough battle ahead of him if he hopes to keep White and Vaden as Hoosiers – and the coach with the most sway over their decision looks to be their former head coach Davis.
"There's nothing really he can say," said White. "He's a good guy and he's got this team's best interest at heart. I feel he is coming in and he wants to win just like any other coach. I'm just going to listen to him and see what he has to say.
"Coach Davis has been a friend of the family for a while. I look to him for advice. Whatever is helpful, I'll listen. I've talked to him quite a bit. Like I said before, that's my coach. He's the reason I'm here. Of course I talk to him."
One aspect that White is not overlooking if he transfers is having to sit out another season after missing this past one with a broken left foot. It is something White knows he will have to face.
"Sitting out is one of the hardest experiences I've been through in my life, sitting there and watch my teammates struggle at times," White said. "But if I did make the decision to leave and I have to sit out I know it's because I made the decision that's best for me and my future. If I do have to sit out I'll have to live with that decision."
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