Bloomington – When Indiana released its men's basketball schedule Wednesday, a lot of people had the same reaction.
It's a schedule made for a big-name program like Indiana, but it will be a big-time challenge for this version of the Hoosiers. Gone from last year's squad is not only first-round NBA Draft picks Eric Gordon and D.J. White, but any semblance of experience.
Left in its place is an injured Kyle Taber, one returning walk-on, and 11 new faces who will be entrusted with navigating a schedule that includes road trips to Kentucky, Wake Forest and the Maui Invitational plus the always rugged Big Ten slate of 18 contests.
Also gone from a year ago is any real expectation of success. After climbing into the nation's top 10 at times last season, most expect Indiana to be one of the bottom feeders in the conference this winter. But that's not a sentiment shared by the most experienced Division I player on IU's roster, Devon Dumes.
"We're taught to let people think what they think, but I wouldn't be a basketball player if I didn't think we could win now," Dumes said Thursday. "So I feel we can (win)."
After a summer of open gym and weight room work, the 6'2", 195-pound Dumes and his teammates were able to work with the IU coaching staff for the first time earlier this week. Now that school is in session, players can spend a limited amount of time working in small groups with the IU coaching staff. Classes started Tuesday, and members of the team worked out for the first time Wednesday.
For the time being, Dumes says the focus of the workouts will be on the fundamentals of the game as well as Coach Tom Crean's system. While the season opener is still more than two months away, Dumes said it's already clear that Crean is taking a no nonsense approach on the practice floor.
"He's very intense, very passionate, and he's a very skillful, well thought out person," Dumes said. "He lets you know what's going on and he gets it done to the T."
If Indiana is going to get much done this season, it's going to rely on Dumes to a big part of the equation. The junior college transfer is the only player on the IU roster who has any meaningful Division I experience besides Taber, and Taber is expected to be sidelined for 10 weeks after undergoing knee surgery last week.
Dumes' experience came at Eastern Michigan, where he averaged 8.1 points per game as a freshman before transferring to Vincennes (Ind.) J.C. last season. He averaged a team-high 16.9 points and 4.1 assists last season and is most likely the most proven commodity on the entire Hoosier roster.
That experience means he expects to be one of the team leaders this season, despite the fact he's never played a minute in an IU uniform. But he does plenty about the IU program due to his Indianapolis roots, and he's willing to take on that burden in his debut season.
"It's going to be a good test to go through," Dumes said. "Everything's a challenge in life."
Indiana's players have been preparing for what promises to be a very challenging season by spending as much time together as possible in the off-season. Other than Tijan Jobe and Jeremiah Rivers, everyone else on the roster spent the majority of their summers in Bloomington getting to know each other and trying to get prepared for the upcoming campaign.
Dumes says the hope is that time together will help them now that they'll be together on the basketball court.
"Our learning curve just has to be a little faster," Dumes said. "We'll always play hard, we're all competitors, and if we get on the same page we'll be okay."
Dumes: We Believe We Can Win Now
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