Is Future Success in the Cards?

Bloomington, Ind. – The IU basketball program's path to big-time success will start with something small.

Bloomington, Ind. – The IU basketball program's path to big-time success will start with something small.

A 3x5 notecard.

It's on this card that IU Coach Kelvin Sampson will tell each returning member of his basketball team what they improved on this past season and where they need to make strides in the future. Ultimately, it's Sampson's final grade for each on the past campaign and a syllabus for future seasons.

Each player figures to see plenty of positives about what they did during the last 12 months. Despite losing three starters from last season and dealing with a handful of injuries throughout the 2006-07 campaign, the Hoosiers managed to win 21 games, finish third in the Big Ten and win a game in the NCAA Tournament before pushing Final Four participant UCLA to the wire before falling in the final minute of a second-round contest.

Whether it was a newfound toughness that many thought A.J. Ratliff lacked; a better commitment to rebounding from D.J. White; or the emergence of Armon Bassett as a go-to scorer at crunch time, there were plenty of positives to point to this season.

"When you look at this team, I don't think we had one kid that didn't improve as the team progressed," Sampson said.

At the same time, there are plenty of areas that the Hoosiers could be much improved in, both as a team and individually. And it's on the flipside of that notecard where Sampson will address progress - spelling out his points of emphasis for the Hoosier players as they begin their off-season work.

It's a good bet that just about every notecard will talk about making gains in the weight room. Much of that work will need to be done during the off-season individually with IU strength and conditioning coach Jeff Watkinson, and it figures to be an important part of the Hoosiers' future success.

"Strength training is a major point of emphasis, especially with the young kids," Sampson said.

It will also be a different approach to what IU did a year ago. At that time, Watkinson had yet to join the IU staff, so the IU players were just beginning to get a taste of the importance Sampson places on weight room work. But the intensity will be turned up a notch or two this off-season.

"It's not changes for me, but changes for here," Sampson said. "But over time, they'll become accepted as common practice."

Sampson's approach, though, doesn't necessarily mean IU's players will be spending countless hours in the weight room in an effort to gain weight before the 2007-08 season tips off. It's more about quality than quantity in Sampson's mind, getting stronger as opposed to heavier.

The design of the workouts will also be a reflection of how Sampson wants the team to play in games.

"Your off-season work should be conducive to how you play," Sampson said. "The workouts in the off-season aren't long in duration, but they are really intense."

This will all get started in about a week, once the Final Four comes to a close. In the interim, Sampson said the Hoosier players are focusing on making sure they are on track academically. But once this weekend's events conclude in Atlanta, IU's players will begin hitting the weight training hard while also participating in the NCAA-allotted two hour/week individual workouts for three weeks as well.

It's the first step toward preparing for the 2007-08 season, one that appears to hold a great deal of promise for the Hoosiers.

And also in taking things from one side of the notecard and putting them on the other. Top Stories