Bloomington, Ind. – Kelvin Sampson knows how Indiana can be a higher scoring team this season.
Get more easy baskets.
Of course, that's easier said than done. To get points in transition and easy opportunities, he knows his team needs to get stops on the defensive end and have the players who can get the ball up the floor either off turnovers or defensive rebounds.
This season, he thinks he has both ingredients instead of only one.
Last season the Hoosiers limited their foes to sub 42 percent shooting from the floor and forced 14.5 turnovers per game, but didn't have an abundance of capable ball handlers to immediately turn defensive stops into offensive opportunities. The tandem of Earl Calloway and Armon Bassett was the extent of those that Sampson felt comfortable attacking off the dribble.
Now, the situation is much better. Bassett returns, and he's been joined by a trio of newcomers who can do the same.
"Jordan (Crawford) and Armon (Bassett) and EJ (Eric Gordon) and Jamarcus (Ellis), those four guys are really good open floor players because they can really pass…the fact they can score and pass, they're down there getting other people easier shots, that's what I'm excited about," Sampson said.
Bassett might be the one returnee of the group, but he also might be the one who's going to be facing the biggest transition. After spending much of his basketball career as a scorer, Indiana will likely lean on him to be the team's primary point guard this season.
It's a role he filled at times a year ago, but Sampson knows it will be a transition for the sophomore.
"Armon, last year, I'm not sure was a point guard or a two-guard, he was just a good guard," Sampson said. "This year, we need him to be a good point guard."
That means Bassett will need to strike a happy medium between looking to score – which Sampson said he'll still want him to do – and looking to distribute to a talented ensemble of teammates.
"If you look at his background, I think (scoring's) where his identity has come from, making baskets," Sampson said.
Sampson said on paper he'd still anticipate Bassett being one of the team's top three scorers, but he said Bassett will have to do some things differently than he's done in the past, and they are the sort of things that can lead to more easy buckets.
"In transition, little things like we get a defensive rebound and one of our bigs kicks it out to Armon, Armon has to catch the ball and look up the court and kick it up the court instead of dribbling it up the court – little things like that."
Doing those sort of things figures to be a focus beginning this weekend. Indiana opens its practice season Friday night with Hoosier Hysteria, an event designed for IU fans to be able to come at get a glimpse of a team that most have pegged as a top-10 squad in the preseason rankings. But Sampson and his team will really get down to business Saturday, when the fans are gone and it's just the coaching staff and players beginning preparation for the season, which gets underway Nov. 12 against Chattanooga.
"Teams that get the easiest baskets are the ones that score the most points," Sampson said. "If you're having to score your baskets in the halfcourt versus halfcourt defense, it's hard to score a lot of points. You need to score in transition.
"We'll be better at that this year."
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