Sampson Lays It On the Line

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – The start to the 2006-07 IU basketball season is still more than five months away, but first-year coach Kelvin Sampson has already laid it on the line with a trio of the Hoosier players...

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Kelvin Sampson has already laid it on the line with a trio of the Hoosiers.

While many think it's going to be the first-year Hoosier coach who once again returns the IU basketball program to the status of Big Ten title contenders, Sampson has instead told Rod Wilmont, Earl Calloway and D.J. White the team's fate is in their hands.

"Coach Sampson has told me, Earl and D.J. that as far as we go is as far as the team goes," Wilmont said. "We've been here for awhile and we know what it's like. The new guys, we have to lead them and make sure they are following in the right footsteps."

Wilmont and Calloway form two-thirds of next year's senior class, joined by Errek Suhr. White, meanwhile, will be returning to the court for his sophomore season after missing most of the 2005-06 campaign with a broken foot.

"(Sampson's) relying on me, D.J. and Earl as guys that are going to be in his starting group," Wilmont said.

That's a trio of players that figure to put up big numbers this season.

White was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2005 and a preseason All-Big Ten pick last season. Now completely recovered from his foot injury, he's expected to be one of the league's most dominant offensive weapons.

Calloway, meanwhile, averaged 5.7 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists last season. After a slow start, though, the 6-3, 162-pounder finished the season with a flurry, averaging 11.0 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 2.0 steals in Indiana's four postseason games.

Now preparing for his fifth and final season in Bloomington, Wilmont is coming off his best season in an IU uniform. The 6-4, 200-pounder from Miramar, Fla., averaged 9.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 22.2 minutes per game while starting eight of 30 games.

But Wilmont knows his value to this year's team will come in more ways than just point production. Instead, he'll have to fill a leadership role as well.

That's an opportunity Wilmont welcomes.

"People say you always have to wait your turn, and now it's my turn to be a leader on the court and off with my teammates," Wilmont said.

"Since I've been here, we had Bracey (Wright) as our leader, and then we had Marco (Killingsworth) and (Marshall) Strickland. So I was never in a place to say much, but now I am."

While Wilmont is one of the more out-spoken players on the Indiana roster, he also expects his approach to serve as something emulate as well. Wilmont has always been a high-energy player whether he's been in the starting lineup or coming in off the bench, and that won't change this season.

"My play is going to do a lot of my talking," Wilmont said. "I'm always going to go out there and give it everything I have. My teammates, guys like D.J., know I'm really competitive at everything and don't like to lose. That's something the younger guys will see."

While Sampson may have designated his leaders on the 2006-07 squad, Wilmont thinks that this year's team will have a different characteristic than those in the recent past.

"One thing I can tell you about this team that will be different from a lot of the teams here in the past, this team is going to be together a lot more," Wilmont said. "Guys on this team are going to play hard."

That's an approach to the game Sampson brought with him from Oklahoma, but Wilmont says it's not just about the coaching staff demanding it out of the team. He says the players will expect it from each other as well.

"In the past, there were guys you couldn't really say anything to, coach was really the only one to say something," Wilmont said. "This team, guys are going to get on each other. And that's going to help us have the kind of season we're hoping for." Top Stories