Bloomington, Ind. – Outside of Bloomington, big things aren't expected from the Hoosiers next season.
As a spattering of preseason national polls surface, nary a one has Indiana and new Coach Kelvin Sampson in its top 10. In fact, most don't have Indiana ranked at all, instead suggesting it will be a long, painful winter in the Hoosier Heartland.
Inside Bloomington – and more specifically, inside of Assembly Hall – those around the program don't share the national pundits' opinion on a dreary outlook in Sampson's first go-around in the Big Ten.
While others point to the loss of the team's top three scorers from a year ago - Marco Killingsworth, Marshall Strickland and Robert Vaden – those in the locker room point to some positive strides being made by some new faces.
One of those players is Lance Stemler, a 6-8 junior college transfer from Southwestern Illinois College. Like fellow newcomers Armon Bassett and Xavier Keeling, Stemler has been in town since the spring to get acquainted with his new teammates and to participate in open gym workouts.
"Lance, he's impressed me," said D.J. White. "He's shown me what he can do. I think he's going to be good once we get into a set offensive scheme and get him coming off screens."
A 22-point-per-game scorer last season at the junior college level, Stemler will provide some much needed size on the defensive end as well. But offensively, his biggest contribution figures to come from the perimeter, where he'll be able to lure big men out of the paint and thus free up White for more one-on-one opportunities.
"Lance is going to be a pretty good player," said Rod Wilmont. "He's not a pick-up-type player, but his game is really good."
Stemler, though, isn't the only new face that figures to make an immediate impact. Fellow junior college forward Mike White, a 6-6, 245-pound bruiser from Lee College in Texas, was also a late spring addition by Sampson. The last of the newcomers to arrive on campus this summer, White figures to have the strength to match up defensively with the league's bigger post players while also contributing offensively inside or off the dribble.
Keeling, meanwhile, might be the youngest of the newcomers up front, but White has been impressed with the little bit he's seen from the 6-6, 220-pounder from Huntsville, Ala., as well.
"Xavier, in my opinion, he's the biggest freshman I've ever seen," said White. "He's so strong, and he rebounds so well. He's going to be a big help for us also."
Those three additions are a welcomed sight for White, who figures to log big minutes in the post this season, while also serving as the top defensive priority for Hoosier foes.
"It was a good to get some help (with the late spring signings)," White said. "Every year I haven't played with a natural post man. This year we'll play with some natural post men, 6-7 or 6-8, and it will take some pressure off me."
Those three, along with freshman point guard Armon Bassett, make up the new blood on the IU roster for 2006-07. But even for a fifth-year player like Wilmont and a third-year player like White, the 2006-07 season will be very different from what they've grown accustomed to at IU thanks to the arrival of Sampson.
"Intensity is the word to describe him," White said. "Practices are going to be hard but not too long. He's going to force everyone to play hard, all the way down to the walk-ons. It's going to be a challenge for everyone."
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