Bloomington – Indiana basketball is in a state of fast forward.
With Friday night's exhibition opener against Anderson drawing near, IU Coach Tom Crean and his staff are doing everything they can to get the team ready for its first test.
Wednesday was a perfect example. The day began with individual workouts for members of the team on one end of the Assembly Hall court, and tryouts for six more potential walk-ons on the other end. In the afternoon, the team was slated to spend a good portion of the practice scrimmaging complete with Big Ten officials, and the staff would look at some more potential walk-ons tonight.
It's all a part of doing everything that can be done to fill some holes and to test an untested roster as frequently as possible before Friday night's match-up against Anderson. Crean said the staff also made a decision last week that it was going to throw more things at the team in practice as the season drew closer.
"It's not like they are learning one or two new things every day – they are learning one to two new things every 15 minutes," Crean said.
Crean will get a chance to see just much his young team has absorbed Friday when the Hoosiers host Anderson at 7 p.m. He said he'll be looking for a variety of things from his team including shot selection and intensity, but he's also counting on his team to push the pace more so than they have thus far.
"One thing we're not grasping yet is how much we want to run, miss or make," Crean said. "We're very sporadic with our running. Most teams that talk about running, it's not the coaches who pull it off, it's the players who don't run hard all the time. We haven't understood yet how important that is."
Indiana's constant search for additional walk-ons isn't so much about numbers as it is about creating competition.
The Hoosiers have six walk-ons, and Crean suggested Wednesday that they could continue to add more. The Hoosier coach hadn't made any decisions on any of the six who tried out Wednesday morning, but he did make it clear that the roster will remain in a state of flux for a number of weeks.
It's doubtful that there are any prospective starters floating around the IU campus these days, but Crean is hoping that the additions to the roster can keep the competition level high in practice for the next four months.
"You have to create competition in your practices," Crean said. "What happens (if you don't) is players mentally get it figured out that ‘I can coast through this, I can coast through that and I'll be okay.' That is exactly the culture we don't want to have."
One current walk-on who clearly has a chance to play this season is point guard Daniel Moore. The 5'11", 167-pounder from Carmel H.S. led the team in assists in both of IU's public scrimmages, and he could very well be the team's best ball handler against pressure.
Crean says that there are still some things Moore needs to do, though, before he's ready to commit to making him a regular part of the rotation.
"I see him playing, but I see three things have to improve with him – No. 1 he has to talk more," Crean said. "Number two, he has to be an absolute nasty pest on defense, no matter what kind of defense we're in. And number three, he has to find something that we can get out of him reliability-wise with his jump shot."
An Indiana All-Star last season, Moore averaged 13.5 points and 7.8 assists as a high school senior at Carmel, and point production hasn't been his specialty. But Crean said the staff has been working with him on his mid-range game as well as his ability to get to the rim.
"He has to have more of a presence for us and I know he's capable of it," Crean said.
Moore is actually one of two Carmel H.S. products who figures to contribute this season. Crean said that fellow walk-on Brett Finkelmeier has also found his niche in the first couple of weeks of practice and will start the season as a likely role player.
"We joked the other day we stopped practice and freeze this moment in time, the two Carmel guys talked to each other on the court…those two are a little too quiet right now," Crean said. "But Brett is going to have a role with this team, especially early on. Then it will be his job to keep it."
It won't take Crean long to find out exactly where his basketball team stands on the national scene. After the two exhibition games and then home contests against Northwestern State and IUPUI, the Hoosiers head to Maui to play in the Maui Invitational.
Indiana opens with No. 9 Notre Dame, and they're in a field that also includes No. 1 North Carolina and No. 7 Texas, among others. It's a daunting challenge for an IU team that has 13 new faces on its roster.
Despite the challenges that await Hawaii, Crean said attempting to get out of the tournament this year as never a consideration.
"You can never say no to Maui," said Crean, who led Marquette to the Maui final last season. "It could be the only time that some of these get there in their life.".
In addition to the opportunity to go to Maui, Crean sees it as a chance to give the team a feel for what they are going to have to do if it wants to compete on a national stage in the future.
"There's a huge downside to it, but we're not going to look at it that way," Crean said. "We're going to look at it that it's a chance to go in and to play a top 5 or 10 team right off the bat.
"We're going to go in there to compete. There will be a lot of learning from it, but we'll have our guys excited and let's compete and see where we go."
One player who appears to be on schedule to be able to play in Maui is senior Kyle Taber. Crean said Wednesday that the 6'8", 220-pounder is on schedule to rejoin the team soon following his summer knee surgery.
"I would think we're still right on schedule, which means he could potentially play sometime next week," Crean said. "That would be very hopeful."
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