Bloomington, Ind. – Kelvin Sampson is anxious to get practice started…Saturday.
While Friday night's Hoosier Hysteria was the first official practice of the 2006-07 season, the event's assortment of slam dunk competitions and 3-point shooting contests was a great deal different from what Hoosier players will experience beginning Saturday.
"I'm pleased with this team," Sampson said. "I'm pleased with the way they've attacked preseason conditioning. These kids have worked hard, but they're going to start working a whole lot harder starting tomorrow."
Sampson has yet to coach a game in Bloomington, but he's already been busy during his first six months on the job. He's spent a great deal of time traveling around the state talking about his vision for the program, and he's also been working hard on the recruiting trail as well. That work has paid off with four commitments for IU's '07 class, including Friday's most recent addition, Indianapolis guard Eric Gordon.
As important as those off-the-court tasks are, Sampson is excited to get practice underway and begin focusing on the upcoming season.
"At the end of the day, I love to coach basketball," Sampson said. "That's what I do. I love to teach, see kids get better, see them succeed, see them fail, and then succeed after that. That's what coaching is all about.
"The bottom line is I came here to coach basketball. I'm looking forward to tomorrow."
The players, meanwhile, have heard stories about the rigorous practices Sampson oversaw at Oklahoma, and they've gotten a taste of what to expect during off-season conditioning and individual workouts. But Sampson insists everything goes to a new level Saturday.
"We've given our kids as many lessons, whether it's through the weight room or conditioning or individual workouts about how we want to play and we've talked about it a lot," Sampson said. "(But) it's like trying to experience something you've never done.
"Tomorrow will be a new experience for them."
Two of the players Sampson will lean on heavily this season are senior point guard Earl Calloway and sophomore forward D.J. White. The 6-9, 251-pound White is back after missing last season after breaking his foot twice. Calloway, meanwhile, takes over at the point guard spot after a strong finish in the postseason a year ago.
While most people are focused on what White will do this season, Sampson says Calloway will be just as critical to the team's success – if not more so.
"If our team goes according to form, our most valuable player should be Earl Calloway," Sampson said. "Don't ever confuse your most valuable player with your best player. I don't want D.J. to be my most valuable player. I want Earl Calloway to be my most valuable player.
"He'll have the ball in his hands more than anyone else, he sets the tone for us on defense."
White, meanwhile, will anchor the Hoosiers in the post. As good as White was while earning Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors two years ago, Sampson wants to see more out of him on a daily basis.
"DJ has a chance to be really good," Sampson said. "But D.J. has to learn to sustain things over time. We're going to play probably 30-plus games this year. Every night D.J. goes out someone is going to try to put a notch on their belt by how they perform against D.J. He has to learn to prepare for that.
"I've had some really, really good players in the past, and when you have a quote, unquote name where people are constantly talking about you and writing about you, other kids read it. These other coaches are smart. They'll take every great article written about D.J. and put it in their scouting report that's going to play against him that night."
Gordon, Hoosiers On Hand For Hysteria
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