Bloomington – If you think Coach Tom Crean's 2009-10 Indiana basketball team is going to have last year's slow-it-down, grind-it-out approach, then you obviously didn't see Thursday's team workout at Assembly Hall.
There was nothing methodical and nothing resembling a halfcourt approach at Thursday's 45-minute workout, which was part of the two hours per week that coaches are presently allowed to work with their players. It was high intensity, and it was at full speed.
It included a series of timed drills where the objective was to get the ball in-bounded and up the court in a hurry for a transition score. Groups of five did it one time, then three times in succession, then five times in a row, all with the stop watch running and a goal in mind.
But the stop watch wasn't the only thing the coaching staff was watching. When freshman Derek Elston was in too much of a hurry to get the ball up the floor and failed to get both of his feet behind the baseline on the initial outlet pass, assistant coach Bennie Seltzer was there to blow the whistle.
As Indiana readies itself for the "official" start of practice next Friday with Hoosier Hysteria, it's all about getting everyone ready to play at a pace that's a lot more reminiscent of how Crean's Marquette teams played. That's been a focus of the individual workouts ever since they got started at the beginning of the semester.
"Once we got on the floor together, we wanted to get our running game mentality established," Crean said.
Truth be told, Crean would have loved to install his up-tempo style the first day he arrived on the Bloomington campus. But with a 2008-09 roster that lacked any notable experience and was largely put together in the final months leading up to the start of the season, it wasn't an option.
Instead, the Hoosiers tried to run when the opportunity presented itself, but slow the game down when it didn't. The Hoosiers often found themselves running the shot clock down in an effort to shorten games, and as a result Indiana ranked 311th out of 330 Division I teams with a 60.1 scoring average.
Don't expect a repeat of that number any time soon.
"It's going to be much more exciting to watch," said Verdell Jones, who ranked second on last year's team in scoring at 11.0. "Last year we only averaged 50-some points, this year we'll be in the high 70s, 80s. We're getting out and pushing it. We've got wings that can run the floor and dunk it, bigs that can run and catch, and guards that can really push it."
Besides being fun for the fans to see, it should be a fun style for the players as well. It's the style of play that Crean sold his top-10 recruiting class on when he inked them last November, and it's a style that he told the returning players that they'd eventually get to play once they had the personnel to do it.
"(Playing up tempo) is what we're shooting for," said Jordan Hulls. "I like to play that way. We have a bunch of fast guys on the team that like to get up and down the floor."
"It's going to be fun," added sophomore Matt Roth. "It's a great way to play the game. Nothing's better than getting up and down the floor and putting the ball in the hole and coming back and playing good defense."
To do that once the season gets underway in November, Crean knows it's imperative that the players make commitment to practice that way in the coming days and weeks. He wants instill the up-tempo mentality over the upcoming days, weeks and month.
"Coaches can want to run all they want to," Crean said shortly before the team's workout, "but if the players aren't committed to running every possession, every day, then you don't have a running program."
Crean Has Hoosiers On the Run
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