Hoosier Basketball Practice Report

Bloomington - IU Coach Tom Crean addresses a host of topics about his team, including how quickly they're adding sets; the progress of Kyle Taber; the situation with student tickets; the roles of Nick Williams and Malik Story; and his involvement on the AD search committee...

Bloomington – When Tom Crean returned home on Monday he didn't feel right.

A day of practice had come and gone, and the first-year IU coach hadn't added a play to his team's offensive arsenal. For a coach who was known for utilizing a voluminous playbook at Marquette, a day with a new play was like a day without water.

"That was the first day on Monday, it was first day in 10 years I hadn't put a play in," Crean said. "It was a little different."

As much as Crean and his staff might want to begin adding new offensive sets and in-bounds plays, they're taking things slow due to a roster that includes 11 newcomers and eight freshmen. Instead of inundating them with new information, the focus has instead been on the fundamentals of footwork, spacing and fighting through fatigue.

The time will come for the offensive and defensive sets to be added, but that time is not now.

"I originally thought about that – we're going to try to get X amount in today, X amount in tomorrow," Crean said. "(But) it's about execution right now. We had three things in and we didn't execute them very well."

It's all part of building the foundation for a team that Crean hopes will get better and better as the days and months go along.

"It's that old corny analogy of climbing a ladder," Crean said. "I think every step has to be taken. Certain teams take the steps a lot faster than others…that's what you don't know.

"You know there are going to be a lot more steps to take, because there are so many things to learn. Right now we still have to learn to practice at a high level for two hours and 15 minutes."

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Crean is busy trying to get his team ready for its Nov. 7 exhibition opener, but he's also doing everything he can to make sure that his first team is playing in front of a packed house every night as well.

To do that, more students are going to need to purchase season tickets. Indiana University has long prided itself on having one of the largest contingents of students at its men's basketball games, but student ticket sales have slumped this season.

Crean has been lobbying for those who haven't purchased tickets to do so soon to preserve IU's homecourt advantage.

"We need to have Assembly Hall filled - there's no way around it," Crean said. "That's what makes it best, that's one of the many reasons why this place is very special."

The decline in ticket sales is undoubtedly a result of a less than stellar outlook for the upcoming season. Few observers doubt that IU basketball why be back among the conference's elite in the coming years, but few think this season has a great deal of promise considering the near complete turnover on the roster.

But to Crean, that can't be an excuse for a program that has enjoyed one of the most devoted fan followings in the country.

"I do understand that everyone has been through a lot," Crean said. "But Indiana University has been a lifestyle for so long for so many people…everyone has lives whether they're students, whether they're families, whether they're owning businesses, alums, whatever it is. But when those games come, there's a unification that's unbelievable…that's how I always viewed it."

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Hoosier fans have a couple of opportunities to see the basketball team for free.

On Saturday, IU will hold a free public scrimmage at Assembly Hall approximately ½ hour after the conclusion of the IU-Northwestern football game. Next up will be the "Haunted Hall of Hoops", which will take place next Friday, Oct. 31, at a yet to be determined time.

The Haunted Hall of Hoops will include not only the scrimmage, but a halftime costume parade for the children and an autograph session afterwards. It's an idea Crean brought with him from Marquette, where his "Haunted Hoops" was an annual tradition at the Al McGuire Center.

While the event is designed to give fans a chance to dress up on Halloween and watch the Hoosiers in action, it also serves a valuable function as well for Crean's fledgling team.

"Selfishly for us in basketball, it gives us another opportunity to play in front of a crowd, play with referees," Crean said. "There could be some structure, some practice elements to it, but there will also be some game structure.

"Anytime we can get our players in front of fans and under the lights, that's a good thing."

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One of the Hoosiers' best big men is going to be out for 6-8 weeks – assistant coach Roshown McLeod.

Due to a shortage of big men, the first-year IU assistant has been involved with plenty of the practice drills during the first week of practice. But he suffered a broken bone in his wrist during a drill earlier this week and is schedule have surgery early next week.

"He was passing the ball, Matt Roth came up on his hand, it was a fluke thing," Crean said. "We'd had some 4-on-4, 3-on-3s, even a little 5-on-5 and he hadn't gotten hurt in any of that."

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While McLeod will be sidelined until December, the Hoosiers are hoping to have another big man back on the floor long before that. Senior Kyle Taber continues to rehab from his Aug. 27 knee surgery and he's still on track to return to the floor sometime in November.

Taber has progressed to the point that he was able to compete in the two-man 3-point contest Friday night at Hoosier Hysteria. He's continued to work on his shot during the last week of practice as well while he waits for full clearance from the IU medical staff.

"He's not doing anything that remotely resembles contact right now," Crean said. "We were working this morning in a segment of trying to get open on the wing, L-cutting up in the elbow area, then coming off with some contact, we didn't do anything like that with him.

"But as far as taking a couple of dribbles to drive into a shot, shooting 3s, Tim and the doctors have okayed him to do that. But I don't think the plan has been adjusted for when he'll be back."

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Roles could be changing for Nick Williams and Malik Story in the future.

Due to the make-up of this year's team the 6'4" Williams and the 6'5" Story figure to spend a good portion of their time playing at the ‘4' position this season. Four-guard lineups figure to be the norm in 2008-09, and Williams and Story will most likely be matched up against bigger players on a regular basis on the defensive end.

Indiana has a handful of big players set to sign for 2009, which should free up Williams and Story to move back out to the wing in 2009-10. Crean doesn't view this season as one that will stunt their perimeter development, but rather a year that will make them even more versatile in future seasons.

"It's all a part of making versatility one of the cornerstones of your program," Crean said. "That's what we want. We want guys that can play multiple positions. Early on, it was like eight guys who could play two positions."

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Crean's work appears to be done on the search committee for IU's new athletic director.

The first-year IU coach was one of 13 members of the committee entrusted with screening potential replacements for Rick Greenspan. The committee has done its work and Crean said the decision is now in the hands of IU President Michael McRobbie and committee head Bill Stephan.

"It was fun to be a part of it," Crean said. "But I've been pretty well out of it since that committee ended. It's in the hands of President McRobbie, it's in the hands of Bill Stephan and I'm very confident with that and very trusting with that."

Crean believes the guidelines will be followed when it comes time to make a final decision on who the new athletic director will be.

"Hopefully it's all going to come back to the criteria that was put out there in the beginning – someone who really, really wants to be here, that is tough and competitive and wants to see these programs continue to grow and give the coaches the things that they need to be successful," Crean said.


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