Hoosiers still seeking offensive identity

The Indiana Hoosiers will likely go as far as their All-Big Ten forward D.J. White takes them this season. No one is disputing that, certainly not Kelvin Sampson. But the first-year Hoosier Head Coach is also adamant that his team won't be one-dimensional and that's one reason why he isn't panicking about White's inconsistent play early this season.

The Indiana Hoosiers will likely go as far as their All-Big Ten forward D.J. White takes them this season. No one is disputing that, certainly not Kelvin Sampson. But the first-year Hoosier Head Coach is also adamant that his team won't be one-dimensional and that's one reason why he isn't panicking about White's inconsistent play early this season.

The 6-foot-9 redshirt sophomore has ran hot and cold this year, while spending much of his time on the bench saddled with foul trouble. So far this season White has put up numbers that are modest by his lofty standards with 14 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. Often this year the Hoosiers have simply not got White enough touches, but Sampson says it's not as easy as just dumping the ball into their big man.

"It's not easy to walk down court, pass the ball to the wing and throw it to D.J. (White)," said Sampson. "If that was the way it was, we'd do that every time. They guard that. So how do we get that reversed, get him at an angle? Then when he gets that, they're going to double team him."

Indeed, opponents have made it priority 1 and 1A to smother White defensively by fronting him and throwing double and triple teams on him when he receives the ball. White is still shooting 56 percent from the field, but opponents have done a good job of denying him the ball. When he has touched the ball the increased defensive attention has sometimes made him tentative, impatient, or reckless. IU has quickly found out that they can't just force the ball to their big man four out of every five trips down the court.

"I think the more stuff we run away from D.J., the better D.J. is," Sampson said. "You can't run every play to D.J. That is one thing we've found.

"Sometimes we are ‘Lets get the ball to D.J.', well, why don't we just write a note to the other team, tell them the same thing."

That predictability worked against the Hoosiers when they played Butler and led to their defeat. By fronting White hard, bringing weakside help, and quickly trapping when he touched the ball, the Bulldogs were able to frustrate White and the entire IU offense in turn.

"In the Butler game, they forced us to play half court," said Sampson. "We weren't ready to be a really good half court team then."

Since that game the Hoosiers have put more focus on threatening with other offensive weapons to take much of the pressure off White and become less predictable offensively.

"You know when you start running stuff for Lance (Stemler), or stuff for Rod (Wilmont), or for Armon (Bassett), we have a lot of guys that can make a basket," said Sampson. "D.J. becomes a pretty good secondary option, but obviously he needs to touch the ball."

That obvious fact won't change, but Sampson knows his team has a long way to go before it can efficiently get the most out of White. It's not as simple as just getting the Alabama native touches, the Hoosiers have to play smarter when trying to feed White the ball. Sampson says it's all about setting up good passing angles and having White work hard to get good post position.

"It's a two-way street," said Sampson. "It's not just the guards. D.J. has to work harder to get open. He has to demand the ball."

Sampson wants his team work the ball around more and also for White to be more active in the paint without the ball.

"If your strength is on the inside, it requires more execution," said Sampson. "You've got to get the ball reversed."

Eventually, Sampson would like White to become the identity of this IU team, the proverbial hub of their offensive wheel. With a new offensive system and plenty of new faces, though, the coach knows the Hoosiers aren't there yet. Right now this team is still searching for its identity.

"I think before you can be a good road team you have to have a foundation of how it is you want to play," he said. "That's the thing that we're still searching for, is something that we can say ‘This is who we are. Every game this is what we're going to be.'

"There have been flashes that we're pretty good at different things, but there hasn't been one common thread in any of the games we play. We have some guys who can make 3's. D.J. is playing better and better. There's not an area that I can say is our strength right now. That's kind of where we are after four games, we don't have a strength."

Just four games into the season Sampson accepts that fact for now, but hopes he's not repeating himself come January.

Peegs.com Top Stories