New Faces Galore at IU's Media Day

Bloomington – A program steeped in tradition and prestige has a roster full of players still cloaked in anonymity. Indiana University held its basketball media day festivities Wednesday, an event that attracted a room full of reporters to interview a roster full of unknowns...

Bloomington – A program steeped in tradition and prestige has a roster full of players still cloaked in anonymity.

Indiana University held its basketball media day festivities Wednesday, an event that attracted a room full of reporters to interview a roster full of unknowns.

Gone are Eric Gordon and D.J. White, a pair of first-round NBA Draft choices who were the faces – the cardboard cutouts – of the team a year ago. Also out the door are Jamarcus Ellis, DeAndre Thomas, Armon Bassett and Brandon McGee, four players who were bid adieu for disciplinary reasons by Coach Tom Crean shortly after his arrival.

From coaches to players to support staff, nearly everyone associated with the program other than senior Kyle Taber and sophomore Brett Finkelmeier have been replaced as Crean begins the process of rebuilding a team and restoring the pride in the program.

He'll begin doing that with a roster made up of players he assembled almost from scratch after taking the job April 2. They'll begin official practice next Friday, Oct. 17, with Hoosier Hysteria, while the season opener comes just three weeks later when IU hosts Anderson University Nov. 7.

"Like most every other program in the country, we are excited about getting started," Crean said. "Unlike most every other program in the country, we have no idea what to expect."

Unlike years past, there wasn't a marquee player for the media members to gravitate to at Media Day - proven commodities and familiar faces were pretty scarce. There's no question the most popular page in IU's media day handout wasn't a player's or coach's bio, but rather the "Radio/TV Roster" which puts some names with faces for those in attendance.

But even that didn't answer all of the questions. The most recent addition to the team, forward Steven Gambles, was added in the last couple of days, leaving a handful of media folk scrambling to figure out exactly who this 6-4, 220-pounder was.

"I was in the right situation at the right time being a student here," Gambles said about being the most recent add-on to the roster. "It was me coming in here to see if it would be a possibility, and once I started working out they embraced me. It's a blessing."

Gambles might not the last new face to surface, either. Crean said he worked out approximately 30 potential walk-ons Tuesday, and has designs on holding another tryout session as well. He already has five walk-ons on the roster, and said he could see himself adding a couple more by the end of the month.

It's the kind of situation Crean has never experienced during his coaching career, and certainly not one IU's most experienced player ever anticipated.

"I've had a lot of unique situations and each one is different, but I would have never thought about this when I came here," said Kyle Taber. "It's going to be crazy experience, crazy year, but it should be a lot of fun year."

"Fun" isn't a word that most outside the program expect to associate with this year's season. With so many new faces and unproven players, nearly every preseason publication has tabbed Indiana to finish last in the conference – other than USA Today, which Crean pointed out has Indiana finishing 10th.

While he's realistic about the challenges ahead, Crean doesn't plan to place any limits on what this year's team can accomplish, and his players aren't, either.

"I'm not going to coach them like they can't do things. When you're trying to get them to dive on the floor for loose balls and you're trying to get them to block out at a high level, you don't coach with a lot of predictions in your pocket," Crean said.

"I think we use it as a motivator some times," freshman Verdell Jones said of the preseason predictions. "We want to come in and do what we know we can do, and that's win."

For this team to win, Crean doesn't necessarily think any of his players need to go from obscurity to the spotlight. In fact, his approach is that individual players can't upstage what they're trying to do as a team.

"If we get into a situation where we have different people thinking they have to manufacture shots…because we're not as experienced, we're not as talented as others, that's a bad deal," Crean said.

"We have to make the star of the team, the team."

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