Bloomington – So if given the choice, what person from the long, storied tradition of IU basketball would you like to sit down to dinner with?
The obvious choice is Bob Knight, who could talk about the three national championships as well as the stormy end to his time in Bloomington.
Perhaps some would choose Steve Alford, to talk about the 1987 championship season as well as his two flirtations with the IU coaching job.
Maybe others would pick Scott May, who has memories of the undefeated 1976 national championship season as well as IU's recruitment of his son, Sean, who wound up going to North Carolina.
But I have another person to consider, someone that probably isn't on the tip of everyone's tongue.
What about Kyle Taber?
The fifth-year senior has nearly seen it all during his four-plus seasons in Bloomington. Brought in as a walk-on by Mike Davis, Taber was a redshirt freshman during Davis' final tumultuous season in town. He was a sophomore when Kelvin Sampson was brought in to right the Hoosiers' ship, and a junior when Sampson exited amongst a slew of allegations of recruiting improprieties.
Now, Taber is ready to play for his third head coach in four years, and on a team that is a consensus choice to finish last in the Big Ten. The low expectations are a result of an IU roster that's been gutted by player dismissals and transfers following the exit of Sampson last season.
"I've had a lot of unique situations, and each one is different," Taber said. "I never would have thought about this when I came here. It's going to be a crazy experience, a crazy year, but it should be a lot of fun."
Taber probably also could have never envisioned that he would be the most experienced player on the IU roster. The extent of that experience, though, is only 34 career points and 261 career minutes, but he's still going to be counted on to provide plenty of leadership on a team that has only one other player available who's ever played meaningful Division I minutes (transfer Devan Dumes).
For the time being, that leadership will have to come from the sidelines instead of on the court. Taber had off-season knee surgery and said he's still about three weeks from returning. That would get him back with the team right around the time of the Nov. 7 contest against Anderson, although he'll likely need to take a little bit more time in order to get his conditioning back.
"It was hard (to go down) because I felt I was ready to go," Taber said. "I worked all summer to get in shape, and now I'm going to be a few steps behind. But I've got some time once I get back. I'll have to work even hearder and get back to where I was in a short period of time."
Until that time comes, Taber's efforts have been directed at showing support for his teammates from the sidelines, and in trying to help coach big men Tijan Jobe and Tom Pritchard with the fundamentals of playing around the basket. It's not really a role that Taber could have seen himself fulfilling, but it's one that Coach Tom Crean has asked him to handle.
"Coach wants me to a be a leader, and that's what I'm working on every day," Taber said. "I'm not there yet – far from it – but I'm trying to get better at it everyday."
Once Taber is able to return to the floor, he'll give Crean another big man to turn to this season. Taber also plans on making every effort to help the Hoosiers surprise some people once conference play starts so they can avoid becoming the first IU team to finish last in the Big Ten since 1970.
"I'll be ready to play this year," Taber said. "Last year, I didn't know what would happen. But this year I know I have to be in top shape and ready to compete every day."
If he can do that, Indiana might in fact take some teams by surprise. If that does occur, Taber will have another story to tell about his up-and-down Hoosier career.
"I should have a lot of stories to tell," Taber said. "Even talking to my former teammates, I have a lot of stories."
Taber Has Tales to Tell About His IU Career
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