Kelvin Sampson NCAA Verbatim

The transcript from Kelvin Sampson's NCAA press conference on Wednesday at Arco Arena in Sacramento. Sampson talks about the match-up with Gonzaga, the importance of D.J. White and Rod Wilmont, and what's special about coaching at a school like Indiana...

Starting in October, the 14th, whenever the first day of practice was, I knew it was going to be tough for this group, because you almost have to change the culture a little bit. We're not finished, we're an unfinished piece of work. We still have a long way to go.

I just remember being down 15 early in that game, and all the work we had put in in October and November it just seemed to me that it quickly went down the drain because I saw kids revert.

It wasn't disheartening, it wasn't even frustrating, it was disappointing. You look for opportunities during the season to pound your point home. That's why I benched three starters, and we played two freshmen and a walk on in the second half.

We tied it up and had a chance to win that game.

The next week in practice, even then it was learning process for those kids. I remember we still had a little of that when we went to Kentucky a week or so later.

You try to get them to play right, to play your way.

(Rod Wilmont's importance) Rod is an emotional kid. I think our team…we're not a good enough team to play without that. Rod gives us a little bit of a swagger. He brings that to the game.

Recently, when we were in Chicago playing Northwestern, just his bravado vs. maybe the Illinois game in Chicago. We need that from Rod.

A basketball team before it becomes a well-oiled unit usually is made up of its part. For this team, and the way this team is made up, Rod's bravado and swagger (is important.) The thing I've had to consistently get on Rod about is don't make your game be tied to your made baskets. When Rod isn't making baskets, he doesn't rebound either.

(get over aches and pains) if you want to go that direction it helps.

I've been on both sides of the fence onthat. At Oklahoma I remember winning three games in three days and our kids were drained. You're trying to weigh both. The elation of cutting the nets down and winning a championship doesn't seem like such a big deal when you lose your first round game. People forget that real quick.

What they don't remember or what they don't talk about is how a playing on a Friday, Saturday and then a Sunday and then turn around and play on Thursday. It's tough to recover from three games in three days. I've always said that I wished the committee would adopt a rule if you win your conference championship and play three games in three days…put those teams, especially the first week of the tournament, and play Friday. But I don't think that will go.

(overachieved) I don't like the word overachieved. I prefer you play as good as you are. I think these kids have played to their ability level.

You look before th season started, the only opinion you can really trust is your own. I saw them practice in October, I saw them in November, for this team to win 20 games in the regular season and finish in third place by themselves in this league this year…the thing about Indiana, Illinois, Michigan State, Purdue and you can probably throw Michigan in there, there probably isn't a basket difference between us.

Ohio State as the best team in our league. Wisconisn was definitely the second best team, and then there was a drop with the next group. We finished the best of the next group, at least in terms of record and it reflected with our seed.

We're not a great team. For those who have covered Indiana, you've heard me say that a lot. That's the truth. We are what we are. We're very capable of winning tomorrow, but so is Gonzaga.

We have to play really well. The last game we played…it's easy to pick apart that we didn't play well. Well, we put the ball in our best playmaker's hands, absolutely the right kid to take the shot. No question about it. If I had to do it again I wouldn't do a thing different because he was our best playmaker. He missed that shot. We win the game, shooting 30-something percent from the floor. That tells you how far this team has come.

If we shot 31 percent in December we would have been beaten by 50. But we learned to win games when we weren't playing well.

The thing about playing in the Big Ten this year, it's hard to score against these teams. We had a No. 1 vs. No. 2, Ohio State and Wisconsin, and I think the score was 49-48, and honest to god they were trying to score every possession. That's the Big Ten this year. A tough league.

(DJ White what need) DJ is almost a perimeter post guy having to play inside for us.

I think it's going to be important for him to be able to pass out of double teams tomorrow and get it to the right spots. When we get doubled tomorrow, if he throws it back out to the guy that threw it in to him, that guy better be the right person. If not, we might get stuck in a shot clock situation.

He has to rebound like he did last game…he has to do a good job passing out of double teams and being an opportunistic scorer.

(in Pullman – what's the diference with Gonzaga) I just think they've become a national school. The tournament when Dan Monson was coaching, I remember them playing Florida (1999), that kind of put them on the map, and then they kind of became America's darling.

Since then, they've just been good. When you do it for a sustained period of time, you go from being a Cinderella, to just being good. Do you realize that there's a generation of kids growing up today that think Gonzaga is one of the national powerhouses because they've been good for so long?

(Pod system) It will never be fair to everyone. There's no such animal. I was looking at the Lexington, Ky., regional, where Texas A&M is a three seed and they could be playing Louisville, a six seed, in Lexington, Ky. That doesn't sound very fair to me, but they may have been a lower or higher seed somewehwere else.

I'd rather be a 10 seed in Chicago than a 7 seed in Sacramento.

(Grade) I don't grade myself. How would you grade me? (B) That sounds good. That's about the kind of student I was, I've never had an A. Except if it was a PE class. I was good in those.

I don't know if a B gets ten league wins, though.

(at Washington State you didn't play Gonzaga) Why did I think that question was coming? I thought about it…how do I answer that. Give me some advice, John? What did I say back then? They're too good. I wanted to play someone we could beat.

How many years ago is that? I'm just happy to be alive.

When you're the head coach at Washington State for 7 years, the head coach for Oklahoma for 12 years, now in my first year at Indiana, I'm just happy to be here.

(was it a respect factor) They're too good. Our last 3-4 years at Washiongton State, we were pretty good, and I think our best teams at Washington State were after I left. The year I left to go to Oklahoma, I think we were…10-8 in the league maybe, 20 wins, an 8 seed, and we had 8 of our 9 players coming back. Three of those kids got drafted into the NBA…that's why it was tough to leave. I thought we had a chance to be really good.

I think that was early on. They were better than we were.

(chance to see Caleb Green play tomorrow) I think he was a late bloomer. I think Caleb is probably 6-8, 230 now, and in high school he was probably 6-6 and 190. Scott Sutton and Oral Roberts did a great job evaluating that kid, and I think he committed really early – the summer before his senior year.

He's fantastic, a tough kid to guard. You know the scouting report on him – he's going to go to his left shoulder. Everyone knows that, and he still scores. Oral Roberts has a good team. That will be a good match-up, Oral Roberts and Washington State. From everything I've heard about Caleb Green, he's a better person than he is a player, and that's saying a lot.

(Big Ten – how would you assess how the league will do) I think Purdue is going to be a tough match-up. The thing that I really like about Purdue that I like is they have two fifth-year seniors, and one might even be a sixth-year senior because he went to prep school for a year. Those two guys carried that team.

Purdue is really a Big Ten team. They are tough, hard-nosed, they'll be a tough out.

Illinois a great defensive team, can rebound.

Michigan State, Indiana, Illinois, Purdue, I don't know how you draw a difference. Illinois is a 12 seed and we're a seven. We could easily be a 12 seed and Illinois could be a 7, or Purdue could be a 7 and we could be a nine. You could just shake them up.

(coaching at a school like Indiana) We play Chicaog State on a Sunday afternoon at 3 o'clock. Coaches are all the same, we just coach at different schools. It's a 3 o'clock game, I usually walk in when there's about a minute and a half, 1:45 on the clock.

Old habits die hard. I walk in and I always look at the crowd. I don't look at anyone, just the crowd, a general glance. 17,300 people on a Sunday afternoon at 3 o'clock vs. Chicago State. I said this place is a little different.

We were 15-0 at home, beat some really good teams, Southern Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Purdue, really all those teams. And really I felt our most valuable player was our crowd. In a lot of those games, they willed this team to win. Tremendous, tremendous atmosphere at Assembly Hall. Top Stories