Bloomington, Ind. – Kelvin Sampson can't spend the sort of time with his new Indiana team that he'd like, but in the meantime he's making sure the players are getting well acquainted with each other.
The first-year Hoosier coach is all but counting the days until Aug. 28, which marks the first day of first semester classes. That's when he'll be able to return to the court with his players for two hours of instruction per week, something he hasn't been able to do since the spring semester ended in early May.
In lieu of spending time with his new Indiana team himself, Sampson has made sure the players are getting familiar with each other, according to senior Rod Wilmont.
"We've been doing team things (this summer)," Wilmont said. "We have Play Station night, we've gone bowling together, we've done all that this summer. Coach Sampson came in and told us all about the team. Guys always get together now. If something is going on we call each other. It's all together now, not individually."
Wilmont says that's a change from what he's seen in his first three seasons in Bloomington.
"It was never like that," Wilmont said. "(In past years) everyone on the team liked each other, but it was never a type of bond. We always had guys here, separate here, separate here. But this year, everyone is together, and I think that's going to help us in the long run."
While that's good news to Sampson, he'd also enjoy getting more familiar with his first Indiana team as well. That opportunity, though, won't come until the start of first semester. For a coach who's trying to familiarize himself with what his upcoming team can do and what it can't, it's a source of frustration.
"You ask Rod (Wilmont) what he's working on (this summer), and I can't teach Rod, I can't work with Rod, I can't even see him with a basketball from May until the end of August," Sampson said. "Anybody else can work with him. Anybody else can do whatever they want with him in basketball, but his coach can't. Think about that."
NCAA rules allow coaching staffs to spend 20 hours working with their team while their teams are in-season. A recent rule change also allows coaches to work with players for two hours per week from the start of first semester up until practice starts Oct. 15, and then again after the season concludes up until the close of the second semester.
Sampson would welcome another rule change that would free coaches up to spend a little bit of time working with their teams during the summer as well.
"What I'd like to see is if a kid is enrolled in summer school…I'd like to see the same out-of-season rules apply, year-round, if he's in school," Sampson said. "I think there are a lot of coaches that would like to work their kids out in the summer for two hours per week.
"Let's take four days a week for 30 minutes. We can get a lot done in 30 minutes."
The former Oklahoma coach is quick to point out he's not suggesting freeing up teams to practice for long hours year round. In fact, he says it's important to have the down time when they're in the off-season, but it's also an important time for player development.
"It's not a matter of coaching them or practicing them," Sampson said. "From March to October is a great time for an individual to get better, that's where you work on your game, and a coach can help – especially a new coach.
"I don't want to practice my team in the summer - they need a break. During the season, you get tired of seeing them sometimes, so you better believe they get tired of seeing me."
For the time being, NCAA rules will force Sampson to wait until Aug. 28, which will be the first time in nearly four months that he's been able to get on the court with the Indiana players.
While Sampson said he enjoyed what they got accomplished during the April individual workouts, it was also a tenuous time for the new coach, who was trying to keep players such as D.J. White in an IU uniform, and trying to convince freshmen like Xavier Keeling and Armon Bassett they should still come to play for him in Bloomington.
"I was having to be a little diplomatic in April," Sampson said. "While everyone else was out recruiting in April, I had to stay here and recruit these kids (to stay)."
That sort of diplomacy won't be necessary later this month, as everyone on the 2006-07 roster will be in town and enrolled for first-semester classes.
"Once they enroll in classes, I've got them," Sampson said. "I'm not going to be a diplomat in August."
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