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INDIANA UNIVERSITY BASKETBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
April 22, 2015
TOM CREAN:¬† What I want to do first and foremost is talk about the signing of Thomas.¬† I've got my coaches here but they're not all in town.¬† Chuck is out of town recruiting today, so I don't have him up here, but I wanted to do this so it's all official now, and then I'll open it up to even more questions that you would have on the team, where we're at, all that kind of stuff.
Thomas, it's a transformative sign for us, because going into another part of the country and getting a guy that is not only an excellent player, but getting somebody that comes in here with just an infectious attitude and an infectious energy, and that's exactly what we had needed.¬† We needed the presence of an inside player.¬† That's obvious.¬† But he's so much more than that, and I think that's what's been exciting since we started recruiting him and then really picking it up like we did throughout the fall and continuing to recruit him throughout the year.
There's some tremendous qualities about him.¬† His mother has done such a phenomenal job, Linda Bryant, of raising him as a respectful, caring, thoughtful person that brings a lot of personality, which I think is something our team really needs is having that kind of personality.
I say that and Victor is upstairs.¬† Just got in here yesterday and just finishing up meeting with him, and when you get around those personalities that are infectious like that, that make everybody that much more excited to be doing what they're doing, that's what Thomas is like, and I was with him yesterday, and that's exactly how it is when you're watching him play or when you're sitting there talking to him about what he's got to get better at.¬† He's a great teammate.
Being in Huntington, again, the same thing I saw when we were recruiting him, he's like Pied Piper of that area, whether it be little kids, parents with their little kids, they just gravitate to him, and I think that's going to be exciting for all the people here.¬† He's been raised right, like I said, with his mother and his family.¬† Oz Cross, his AAU coach, has done a tremendous job of being a mentor and a leader to him.¬† Arkell Bruce I thought did a phenomenal job.¬† But this is the kind of guy‑‑ like we said about Victor, if you'll rebound the ball for Victor, you could be walking down the street, and if he thinks you're going to throw him some good passes, he's going to bring you feel and he's going to make you feel like you've known him for a long time because all he wants to do is get better.¬† All he wants to do is improve, and I see a lot of that with Thomas.¬† He's a sponge.
For a guy who's gotten the attention that he's gotten as a player, the accolades, the‑‑ you know, the notoriety with the McDonald's game and the Jordan game and the Huntington Prep schedule and all those different kind of things, he's one of those guys that he gets us excited when his teammates make a play, whether it's one of the better players or not.¬† And he does when he does, and that's when you see that you've got a great teammate.¬† Not a great teammate when it's just going well for him, but a great teammate when it's going well for somebody else, and that's why I say that's transformative because that's rare in a young player, but that's exactly what we feel like we're getting.
I love his improvement.¬† I feel he's improved very much as a shooter.¬† He's improved with his patience around the basket, his quickness in the post.¬† He's getting rebounds more and more.¬† He can get out of his area.¬† He can really run the court, and that was one thing that we have missed tremendously the last two years since Cody has been gone is having somebody that could really, really run the court, run the middle of the floor, that we could throw it over the top to.¬† It takes a lot of perseverance and diligence to do that because sometimes you're going to run and not get it, but to keep running and keep being a factor, I think he's got that, and again, that energy just keeps moving.
I think he's improved in his footwork.¬† I think the biggest things that we're going to work on to attack when he gets in here in the summer is to continue to build on that footwork.¬† He thinks he's at 240 pounds right now.¬† He's hiding it well.¬† I'm not sure, we didn't put him on the scale with we were in there.¬† Chuck Martin wasn't buying it, but he looks good.¬† We've got to help him learn how to play, how to trap some traffic around the basket, learn to create even more space with his size, help him get lower, run that full‑speed that he's capable of doing all the time, and really integrate him into what we're trying to do.¬† We're doing parts of our workouts now.¬† We've had 10 individuals, and today will be the 11th, and a lot of that stuff that we're doing, especially with some of the movement, with the forwards and things like that is with him in mind, because we think we're going to be able to put him in a lot of different situations, and I think the same thing with OG and with Juwan.
Summing up Thomas before summing up the class at this point, the class could continue to grow.¬† Those of you that follow recruiting and follow it nationally know that there's always changes, so you never really stop recruiting, and you'd better not stop, and we're certainly not going to.¬† You want to be prepared for different things.¬† But bottom line with Thomas is he comes in with an ability right off the bat because he's a winner, because he's got an attitude of improvement, and he's got an attitude of winning, and he's got that infectious personality and energy that you want in people.
I think he's going to migrate to these guys right away.¬† I think that he already has in some ways because they're going to see that he is a great teammate.¬† And for as good as he is and for as much notoriety as he's gotten, what I like about his attitude is he comes out like he's trying to make the team every time, and to me that's a key.
Now, does he have a lot to learn?¬† Obviously he's got a lot to learn and he's got a lot of strength to gain, and when you look at the freshman people coming into this league right now, especially the positions that he's going to play, I mean, we'll have our hands full in so many ways because the league has done a great job of signing people, whether it's the kids at Michigan State or Maryland, I'm sure I'm forgetting some other ones that have signed, and not to mention that the league is always an older league.¬† There's always experience in the league.
But we think he's going to be exciting when he gets in here and when he gets in here in June.¬† And as far as the three of them, what they bring right off the bat is they bring a winning mentality, they bring versatility, they bring presence on both ends of the floor because not only can they play at the basket but they can play away from the basket, and what they bring is work ethic.¬† I think two of the three were double‑figure rebounders, which is huge, and one was just under double figures.
But they're going to have to gain a lot of strength.¬† They're going to have to gain the intensity and all those different things that go into it and understand spacing.¬† But it's one thing to understand spacing, it's a whole other thing if you're not capable of spacing the floor.¬† And these guys are capable of spacing the floor.¬† Will they understand exactly all the details of that?¬† No, but that's part of the maturity process, how quick you can grasp the details.
But what they bring right away, right off the bat, what every young player has to learn, it's not about coming in and getting your game going on the offensive end.¬† That sounds fun, it's fun to think, and people in their ears might say that's the way it goes.¬† No, everybody that has success gets it going because they move the ball, they work extremely hard on defense, they'll make the hustle plays, that means rebounding, loose balls, 50/50s, whatever it is, and for us we have got to have a better presence defensively.¬† I mean, there's no question we want to be better defensively.¬† There's not one coach or player that doesn't understand we need to be better defensively, and some of that is going to be the length that we provide, but some of that is going to be the change of style of play defensively that we're going to be capable of going to more and more, and one of the biggest reasons people ask, well, why didn't you press more.¬† We didn't press more because at the back line we averaged a blocked shot every 24 possessions, and right away when your rim protection is not good in the half court, the last thing you want to bring is more, easier accessibility to the rim in a pressing situation.
So our pressing last year, and I'm jumping on from the recruiting, but our pressing last year and getting up and guarding the ball full court was more when we were in a‑‑ we wanted to change the pace of the game type of situation, especially when we were down, so a Michigan State game comes to mind, we're down nine with 1:53, being down at Northwestern.¬† We pressed, but it was press to turn over, it was press to foul, it was press to do something different in the half court.¬† It wasn't all‑out let's get after it because we didn't have the presence in the back line.
Kentucky is not a great example because they're so big, but I think they blocked a shot every 11 possessions, and we're blocking one every 24 to 25.¬† We weren't blocking shots back there.
So the last thing we could do with this team was open up that rim any more than what we already had because we weren't as good at protecting it as we have been in the past when we were bigger.
Well, now because of the speed of the backcourt, because of the length of the wings and the forwards, because of the fact that if we get the quickness and things down in that back line, we're going to be able to do more with the pressure, whether it's man pressure, whether it's zone pressure, play more and more like we played against Northwestern in Chicago at the Big Ten Tournament, because again, it's still going to be game plans.¬† If you want to get up and guard Melo Trimble full court, he's going to shoot 12 free throws a game, okay, because he's a very adept at getting to the foul line, especially with the way they're loading up.¬† All right, so you've still got to pick and choose where you're going to pick up your personnel.¬† We're bringing more fatigue to the game because we have more length and more protection at the rim, which will enable us to not only pressure the ball, then incorporate some traps and things like that here and there is going to make us a lot better.¬† So right off the bat, those guys bring that, and they bring a better rebounding presence.
And then the big thing for us on the offensive end is helping us get to the foul line.¬† I think‑‑ I know it was a two‑year period, was it a three‑year period we led the country in free throw attempts?¬† Last year I think we finished seventh or eighth in the league.¬† Now, we scored 1.6 when we went through the paint last year, and I think we scored .78, something like that.¬† You guys that follow that could correct me or write it differently when you write it, but that's an incredible number, right.¬† So when we went through that paint‑‑ well, so much of our paint was on the penetration or on the cut, those type of things, which is good, and we're working very hard at that, but we've got to get that ball through the paint and in post‑ups we've got to get it through slashing, we've got to get it through four‑on‑one, we've got to get it through there in the lane, on the break, all those type of things.
Your defense, your defensive rebounding, your ability to have that length to get fouled, which puts our better foul shooters at the line even earlier in the game, those are all things we get excited about, and we have those things in mind as we're working through things with our team right now to get the understanding that they've got to have where each and every guy has got to get better.¬† I know somebody is counting my words or I'm going to read that somewhere, so one of you guys will have that, so I'm going to stop and open it up to any questions so I can get off the same sentence or same segment.
Q.¬† You started with Thomas‑‑
TOM CREAN:¬† You're counting the words, aren't you, Pete?¬† I see your clicker over there.
Q.¬† With Thomas's personality, when did you first get a glimpse of that?¬† Do you have any examples of when you realized this was an infectious personality?
TOM CREAN:¬† Yes.¬† First highlight tape.¬† What it really came down to is just like anything else in recruiting.¬† Same thing happened with Troy.¬† You start to believe what you're reading or what you're hearing.¬† At one point like even with Troy, it was at one point if you believed common wisdom, it was, well, it's North Carolina and Kentucky for him, and then all of a sudden you watch this, we've got to take a chance, and this school might have changed or that school might have changed and this school is jumping, so let's go see.¬† And then when you really start to dive in and study it, you see why it's so important that you do that, and with Thomas it was the same way.
If you listened to common wisdom, it was real easy to think he was going to stay on the East Coast, but when you watch it and you say, there might be an opening here, and then you start to get into the film, that creates the passion in you to sell the passion to him, that you have for him.¬† That was probably the first thing‑‑ like Victor, everybody thinks it's the dunks and the defense that attracted me, us to him right off the bat.¬† No, it was respect for other people, and the eye contact that he gave people.
The old adage of beauty is in the eye of the beholder, whatever you look at and think that that's the separator, it's your job to build it from there, and if you keep looking for the separators, well, there really aren't any.¬† And in Thomas's case it was how excited he got.¬† He doesn't dunk the ball, he pounds the ball, he pummels it through, and then watching the game tapes and watching his attention, how he was with his teammates, watching how he responded to coaching, and then watching the talent and all those kind of things, so it all started with the tape, and then it got to even more tapes and then it really took shape when we were following him last summer, and whether it be in Las Vegas or Augusta, even at the USA trials, things like that, so we didn't miss a thing that he did, and it just kept growing.¬† But you've got to find something that makes you passionate about them, and it's never just‑‑ it shouldn't just be their talent.¬† It shouldn't just be their size.¬† It shouldn't just be that.¬† There's got to be something, because you've got to have a reason to separate yourselves from them, as well, and how you're going to keep making them better, and we saw a guy that we thought we could really, really help get where he wants to go, but we thought he could also bring a lot of personality and energy to this program.
Q.¬† By signing a kid like Thomas, you've got optimism of going as high as No.9 nationally.¬† How do you temper that or focus that in, use that to your advantage and not let it be a distraction?
TOM CREAN:¬† Well, I think it's the same thing as any example, and this past year was a perfect example of that.¬† There was no real expectation, right, even in the preseason, and we don't need to go over all that kind of stuff, but again, if we would have bought into external lack of expectation, I'm not sure this team would have won some of the games it won early, I'm not sure it would have rebounded the way it did from tough losses, tough segments, things like that.¬† If you are driven by external expectations you're not going to go very far.¬† It really comes down to what the internal expectations are, and you have to teach your guys, especially when you have youth like we have, and we had a lot of youth last year, right, you have to teach them and they have to grow into what those internal expectations are.¬† Well, it better start with them being competitors.¬† There had better be a work ethic that can continue to grow, okay.¬† Obviously you've got to have some talent, but you've got to have an unselfishness, you've got to be excited about the guys that you're playing with.¬† So to me those are the things that you can manage, okay, so internal expectations, are we managing what we can do.¬† Are we working on the things that we can actually get better at, attacking the weaknesses with open minds, and controlling what we can control.¬† And that's‑‑ to me that's what it's got to be.¬† That's what it's always been.¬† And if there's motivation based on what people don't think you can do, well, that'll take you to a certain point.¬† Just like motivation of what people do think you can do will take you to a certain point, but it won't take you past that.
There's got to be something so much deeper for them than draft status, than expectations of fans or families or media or any of that.¬† There's got to be that drive, and obviously nothing in this program this spring, even when the guys are considering the draft, that has been anything short of great work, whether it be the conditioning‑‑ we've really gone to even more of a defensive footwork component in our conditioning, and the conditioning is not as much the endurance this time of year.¬† It's more about our quickness and speed.¬† It's our bursts, our short space quickness, and it's really getting defensive fundamentals down‑‑ the conditioning is without a ball obviously, but getting those type of things down.¬† The work ethic has been tremendous.¬† I see numerous guys in here all hours of the day, times on the weekend.¬† We didn't go Sunday.¬† We've got guys in here that are twice on Sunday.
Now, is it a team full of guys?¬† Not yet, but that'll separate itself, too.¬† So to me, the expectation better be how am I going to get better, how am I going to positively affect the outcome and the impact of the games by the way I help my teammates.¬† All right, when I look out there and I see competition, because that's a part of it, that's why some people transfer at times, right, want that playing time somewhere else because they don't see it there, well, that's a real factor sometimes.¬† What are you willing to do to change it?¬† And that to me is what's most important.¬† That is far greater than what anybody is writing, all right, or not writing or expecting, and as long as we stay that way and keep them to that, that's going to be the most important thing. ¬†But we don't need anybody getting full of themselves in here because nobody has earned that.
We weren't very good defensively.¬† Anybody that thinks that I don't lay awake at night or am happy with out comes, I'm not.¬† I know where we stand over the last four years, and we've averaged 23 wins and we've done all these different things, but that's never going to be enough to satisfy you as a competitor and what you think you're capable of, and that has nothing to do with anybody in the outside things.¬† It has everything to do with what you think you are capable of as a program, and I like the fact that these guys are working at that level, and they'll continue to.
If they don't, they will not play, all right, because someone will beat them out.¬† We had this visit upstairs and Victor was up there.¬† There was never a time in this program‑‑ this is the culture of your program.¬† There should never be a time in the culture of the program in the day‑to‑day where anybody wonders what's expected of them.¬† Now, wondering what they can get better at, wondering where they stand, that's going to happen, but never wondering what's expected of them when it comes to work ethic, when it comes to what we're going to do academically, and even all the things we've had that happened in the past off the court, they know what the expectations are off the court.¬† That means you've got to keep helping them grow, you've got to keep helping them grow up, you've got to keep impacting that change that they need, but they know what's expected, and it's going to be the same thing with building our team to an even better place right now so that our program can continue to flourish.
Q.¬† I know you're not into comparisons, and this isn't a question about that, but Thomas has talked about the legacy he's walking into with Cody Zeller and other guys in this program.¬† I guess how do you get him to sort of strive after those examples but also still be his own player and not feel like he's living up to the pressure of lottery picks that have gone‑‑
TOM CREAN:¬† Well, that's where you come in.¬† That's where you and your business come in, and I don't mean that in a negative‑‑
Q.¬† If it's me, you're in trouble.
TOM CREAN:¬† That's the same thing.¬† These guys have to have‑‑ we can never dismiss what they have to get better at, okay.¬† Like even at the end of the day, okay, we had a bad run at a certain part of the season.¬† We lost three straight‑‑ can't dismiss the fact that this team was not picked to do anything and certainly nobody was writing about being in the NCAA Tournament and they still win.¬† It doesn't mean anybody is happy with it, right, namely coaches and players.¬† All right, you never dismiss what you did, all right, but you never sit there and rationalize what you're capable of, and that's the same thing with him right there.¬† If he's dealing with expectations of, well, this guy did this and this guy did that, no, that's not right.
Now, you take bits and pieces from all those places, okay, but you don't put it on that one person, because everybody learns differently, everybody responds differently, everybody gains strength differently, everybody attacks their weaknesses at a different point.¬† The hardest thing for players to do is to come in and actually want to hear that they have some weakness, okay, let alone believe it, and then the hardest thing is to do something about it every day so that it gets applied, but everybody hasn't.¬† I mean, we have them as coaches and we have them in every area, so what are we doing to attack those.¬† And I think that's the most important thing.
In answer to your question, I think the young man has got a really strong mindset, and a real hunger to win and get better, and because he's such a good teammate, that's going to be at the forefront, and I think he's not a guy that responds to a lot of outside opinions.¬† I think he'll go with the people that give him the insights.
Did the fact that those guys have done what they've done attract him?¬† I would hope so, and I hope it will attract somebody down the line because there's not a lot of programs right now that have had three lottery picks, okay, three top‑10 picks in the last two years going into this past year but us and Kansas, right, so I would hope that it would continue to attract those guys like that.
But you can't put them on that path.¬† You've got to build them to their speed and their path, but knowing that ultimately that's where they want to end up and that's where they should end up.
Q.¬† You spent time last year adapting the offense of not having a big and kind of working more with the perimeter.¬† Now you're going to have to adapt again with a big inside.¬† How much of a challenge is that, because you have younger guys who have already gotten used to this system, now they've got to make‑‑
TOM CREAN:¬† It's not an adaptation at all because we're not talking about people that are just situational.¬† We're not talking about people that are just one‑dimensional, right, we're talking about people with multiple, multiple dimensions, and we're talking about people that have versatility, and we're talking about people that are going to be able to‑‑ in the case of Thomas, one thing we really see is not being able to only go to them but being able to go through them, and that's one of the things that's going to be most important when he gets here.¬† If teams are going to double us next year and we're going to have the capability on the perimeter that we think we're going to have, good luck to them.¬† But somebody will.¬† If Thomas continues to develop and if Hanner develops and all those kind of things, and we're not even talking about Devin yet who you saw him in Montreal.¬† You guys saw the Carlton game, right, and I've said this numerous times in the past, he was coming off his best week that he'd had at Indiana, last guy off the court that Friday afternoon, and then Friday night it all changed, right.
I mean, it's very easy to say he could have been a starter last year, right, based on where he was heading.
Bottom line, he wasn't just a back‑to‑the‑basket guy.¬† He could play away.¬† So I think if we were looking at somebody that just could play at the post or you had to wait for them to get down the court, okay, we need mobility, and whoever is going to play on this team, there's got to be a mobility to it, and that's what I think he has, so I don't think it's going to be that great of an adaptation to it, I really don't, and we've got plenty enough things to go to.¬† But there's already going to be numerous changes to what we're already doing, and I was already planning that before we signed him.
Q.¬† Wanting to get the ball to the post and coming back out as opposed to‑‑
TOM CREAN:¬† Absolutely, absolutely, absolutely.¬† We're working on post feeding right now with everybody on this team.¬† Now, that was an important part last year, but it wasn't crucial last year, right.¬† It's crucial now.¬† So absolutely.¬† All right, if you can't pass, there better be a reason why, right, because you're probably not going to play if you won't, and it's got to go through because we've got to be able to score points in the paint.¬† We scored 1.6 going through the paint, right, on the drive.¬† So now you start adding the post‑up and the two‑foot catch in the lane or the one‑foot catch in the lane and guys can go both ways, that'll be a big difference for us.
But the other part of this, sometimes what happens, and this is where I would invite you to watch this close when you get into next year because we've got to really work hard on this this summer, you have to demand the ball in the lane.¬† Get the ball in the paint.¬† Okay, well, what about the guy that's got the 7'6" wingspan that's in the free corner that won't let that ball in the paint.¬† What about the 6'2" guard that's got the 6'6" wing, that's got the plus‑seven wingspan, won't let us throw the ball in the paint.¬† That's hard, right, that's hard.¬† Everybody says, well, it's easy, just throw it in.¬† It's not that easy.
So when it is easy, you've got to make sure that it goes in.¬† But at the same time you've got to be able to deal with the degree of difficulty that goes into it, and that's really what's fake a pass to make a pass, being able to go over the head, being able to go over the shoulders, being able to go under the hips and the feet.¬† Very few people are going to let you throw the ball through them.¬† Poor defenders will let you throw it where you want.¬† We don't see many of those people, okay.¬† You've got to be able to go around him.¬† You've got to be able to create, and that's hard.¬† That's live, and it takes some real courage to throw it in, and it takes just as much courage to keep holding your spot, moving your feet, and don't post with your back but post with your lower body, demand it and still be able to read that defense.¬† That takes time, so we've got to really work towards that.
But it takes just as much time to learn how to roll on ball screens and not jawk, okay, and not hop but sprint roll.¬† It takes a lot.¬† We're doing as much interior spacing on the drive right now with these forwards as anybody else because the last thing we can have happen is that this post become packed where either we can't get in or we can't get the penetration, because we had nights‑‑ you saw, we had nights we didn't shoot it as well.¬† We had shooters that didn't have great shooting nights, so now how do we get more open shots?¬† The inside‑out, the playing to the post, that stuff will be big on that.
Q.¬† I guess are we allowed to go away from Brian‑‑
TOM CREAN:¬† Sure, absolutely.
Q.¬† I know you probably don't want to talk too much about it, but in terms of Yogi and revising his decision, has he availed himself of sort of the pre‑draft stuff that he's allowed to and‑‑
TOM CREAN:¬† Oh, yeah, we're all through that.
Q.¬† How do you guide him through that?
TOM CREAN:¬† Well, I think the one thing you do is you keep making sure‑‑ I've said this before but it's so important as you go down the line, that you stay away from opinion, okay, because everybody is going to have an opinion, we're all entitled to one, but it doesn't mean we have insight.¬† And the insight, it's what does the research say, not the research we read about, okay, but what does the research say, what do the decision makers say.¬† What does the undergrad committee, which I think is outstanding, Ned Cohen is really the point person on that and does a phenomenal job of wearing all the different hats that he's got to wear in the NBA, but he gets that information in a timely manner.¬† So we have all that, and it's thorough.¬† But the only thing about that, there's a projection and there's not a feedback.¬† So what we try to do is we try to get real feedback that we can add to the projection, and then it becomes a matter of are you going to trust the research.¬† Are you going to look at it and say this is what it is or are you going to believe something that's not there.¬† That's the most important thing you can do, but I don't bug those guys about that.¬† I really don't.¬† They're working at such a level right now, my view is‑‑ now, if they weren't working at that level, that would be another conversation, all right, but they're working at such a high level, there's such leadership, no one has practiced on this team or acted on this team like they have anything less than two feet in, and you know what, that's all you can ask.¬† So if somebody leaves, all right, you can graduate them, you help them in every way that you can, and you'd better have plan B and plan C ready to go because everybody right now is looking at the same thing.
Look at our recruiting, how the landscape has changed since the Final Four with some of the people that are now being recruited by some of the‑‑ without getting into names obviously, but for those of you who follow it closely, how much recruiting is being done by different programs where they weren't even involved with that kid.¬† We don't want to be in that situation.¬† We want to make sure that we have enough oars in the water to make sure that we understand the difference.
But every day we work to make the program better, and those guys are doing the same thing, and because there's respectful people with respectful families that want the right intelligence, that's all you can really do, and then let them make their decision and support it in any way possible.
So I feel‑‑ we don't put‑‑ there's nobody‑‑ I don't have a whoopee cushion out or I'm not picking my fingernails and sitting there worried about it.¬† We're moving on, man.¬† They're moving on every day.¬† We're moving on as a program, and if something changed‑‑ I don't mean moving on in a bad way.¬† You're tweeting right now.¬† Don't put it that way.¬† We move on every day to the betterment of the program, and if somebody goes, then it's what do we got to do next.¬† But we're through those meetings.¬† Obviously we're coming down to crunch time on it, but I don't‑‑ nobody is wearing them out, nobody is walking around on pins and needles, oh, should we do this or should we say that or don't get on him about this.¬† No, they want to be better, or they got no chance to go or ever make it. ¬†That's the key.
Q.¬† More specifically about James, has he made a decision, or is he‑‑
TOM CREAN:¬† I think we're well down the road on where we stand on that, and something forthcoming pretty soon on that.¬† But we've handled everything, and they've been great in the sense of having it all laid out where it needs to be.¬† But I don't want to get into the specifics of decision making right now on either one of those guys today.¬† There will be a time for that.¬† But as far as like giving you some generalities, I don't mind doing that.
But he's working extremely hard.¬† I mean, he's one of the great workers I've been around.¬† I mean, he really is.¬† He and Rob had‑‑ and Emmett has gotten that bug, too.¬† Emmitt has gotten it.¬† Him and Max are in this gym all the time.¬† Those guys have handled everything that we've asked them to do, and I love having those guys around.¬† They're not going through our team workouts with us, but they're in there.¬† They've got 24/7 access just like anybody else does, and if they hadn't handled their business the right way, they wouldn't have that.¬† I haven't done that for everybody in the past.¬† That would be stupid.¬† But when somebody is absolutely giving you their best and you want the best for them and they're working at a really good rate and you want to see them be successful as people, you don't just turn it off because they're not here or because they're not going to be with you.¬† But all those other guys that are working at it right now, they're working at a really good pace. ¬†It's not a good place to be if you don't have a desire to get better because these people are going to go right by you, and that's part of it, too.¬† He's working at a really, really good rate and working to improve what he needs to improve upon, and that's the most important thing.
That's my best answer I can give you.
Q.¬† I'm really curious to know what's going on.
TOM CREAN:¬† In what sense?
Q.¬† With Blackmon.
TOM CREAN:¬† You and everybody else.¬† Are you special?
Q.¬† It just seems kind of cryptic.
TOM CREAN:¬† It's not cryptic.¬† What's cryptic?¬† I'm not answering the direct‑‑ quit reading into it.¬† I'm not answering a direct question on are they in or are they out right now.¬† What I'm saying is when it comes to working and when it comes to the way that they have done things, they've been doing a phenomenal job at that.¬† There will be time to make that announcement forthcoming.¬† That's all I'm saying.¬† So I'm not being cryptic with it.¬† I'm just not telling you what you want to hear.¬† So call it what it is.
Q.¬† How do you weigh in?¬† Do you say get out of here, you're ready to go?
TOM CREAN:¬† I've done that, absolutely.¬† My thing to them is when it's at a place‑‑ and we're usually on the same page with it anyway.¬† It's not like we just start talking about it.¬† But when they're at a place where this is really going to be good for them, I say, hey, we're going to help you pack your bags, all right, so they know that.¬† Anybody that ever puts something in somebody's ear, Coach doesn't want‑‑ listen, I've got a contract.¬† I'm fine, okay.¬† I'm going to be‑‑ it's not about me on that, and it's really as much as‑‑ they love Indiana.¬† I mean, Vic was back five times last summer.¬† The season has been over, what, seven days, six days?¬† He's already back.¬† They love Indiana.¬† We'll have more coming in this weekend, so part of being a part of Indiana is huge.¬† Now, would you like to see everybody graduate like Victor has?¬† Absolutely, but I'll give you an example, sitting down with Troy, because that one has been announced.¬† Troy will be able to graduate in three years.¬† That is a huge deal.¬† Do we have to make a couple of adjustments?¬† Yes, we do, but that's part of the beauty of Indiana, it's part of the beauty of having Marty Mooney, so now he's got to pass everything, right, he's got to do a good job, right, but the plan is set for him to be able to be done next summer.¬† That's awesome.
And if it works out that way, great, Cody Zeller is going to be back this summer.¬† Noah's mom called Marty last week about Noah starting to take classes again.¬† He's 43 percent of the way to graduation.¬† That's beautiful.¬† Right, that's all you can really ask for.
And then whether it gets done or not is another story, but the attempt to do it.¬† So to me, yes, if it's a no‑brainer, it's a no‑brainer, but I don't go on opinions, all right, I go on what I know about them and what I know about that league, and then I go based on the conversations that‑‑ I've always said this, we're calling general managers or directors of scouting.¬† The best is when the key decision makers‑‑ one of the best programs in the NBA put the three decision makers in the same room, we did a conference call, won't name the name because I never do, but my point is that's the kind of relationships you want to have.¬† These guys are getting accurate information, all right, not written information and not speculated, okay, information.¬† And not hopeful information.¬† It's the same thing with the agents.¬† There's some agents, it would surprise you, they tell kids, you need to go back to school, because it's not there.
You've also got some that say you're going to be the face of our program.¬† Really?¬† Really?¬† That's what we're going to do?¬† That's not how it works, right, so you've got to keep making sure that they understand the difference, because if somebody just wants to hear what they want to hear, I'm not very good for them.¬† If somebody wants to just get by, we're not a very good place for them.¬† But when they really want to dive into the truth, then we do the best with them.
Q.¬† I'm not saying you didn't with Troy, but did you look at him and say, it's not‑‑
TOM CREAN:¬† I'm not going into the details of those conversations just like I'm not going to go into the details of the research, but Troy was very much a‑‑ I don't think that's fair to them and I don't think it's fair to the teams.
Q.¬† But as a general example, what did you say that you're not ready?
TOM CREAN:¬† I'm not telling you my conversations because then it's not a private conversation anymore.¬† Did we point to everything that Troy needs to do to be successful at that level?¬† Absolutely.¬† Does Troy have people around him, okay, that have the same view?¬† Are we on the same page with that?¬† Yeah, we just don't get on the same page five minutes before the meeting.¬† I mean, it's a year‑long process if you're doing it right.¬† Is Troy on the road?¬† Does Troy stand to benefit, okay?¬† Troy went up, he took less threes, he shot 25.5 percent better from the three last year.¬† You could say he didn't take that many.¬† Of course he didn't.¬† Victor took less as a junior than he did as a sophomore.¬† Went up from 14 percent to 47 percent in the league, went from 21 percent to 44 percent overall.¬† Took less, made more.¬† Bottom line is where is the improvement level at.
So what we do is we attack, okay, not only what we see they need to get better at, and this is a better answer to your question in my mind.¬† We attack what they see that they need to get better at, so they're that much more attractive when that time comes because more often than not it's going to add into what we need, as well.¬† You guys are here.¬† Does Troy need to get stronger?¬† Does he need to get better with the ball?¬† Does he need to become a better shooter?¬† Does he need to become a better defender?¬† Yeah, you see the same things that other people see, but the trick is will he work at that point to put himself in the position that he could be in, and that's really important, too, and the answer to that remains to be seen.¬† But that's the crux right now.¬† Are you going to work at the level that you need to work on your own to put yourself in that position, because we're not going to change how we push you and work with you, and I'm starting to see that, all right, but now it's got to be‑‑ the best talk‑‑ when you know you've got great workers is when you don't see them and maybe you heard about it because it was sometime in the middle of the night or it was sometime early in the morning or it's when you're gone on a weekend and recruiting and you hear about this guy was in twice.¬† That's the best.
Q.¬† This might be a moot point, but if Yogi leaves or even gets in foul trouble, who becomes the point guard given the importance of point guards if you want to have success‑‑
TOM CREAN:¬† Who was the point guard this year, Pete?
Q.¬† Well, you kind of shared it.
TOM CREAN:¬† Exactly, between who?
Q.¬† Johnson did some of it, Blackmon did some of it‑‑
TOM CREAN:¬† Where did Blackmon have the ball a lot in pick‑and‑roll?¬† I'm answering your question for you.¬† Because I have to answer this to other people, so I'll answer it to you.¬† Where did he progress to where you saw him with the ball more?¬† What kind of pick‑and‑roll?
Q.¬† His vision improved and I can't give you specifics‑‑
TOM CREAN:¬† Middle pick‑and‑roll, okay.
Q.¬† I have a hard time remembering names.¬† I remember his vision improved, his passing improved, his decision making on when to pass improved.
TOM CREAN:¬† Sure.¬† That's the whole thing.¬† We said at the beginning of the year we wanted to have three‑‑ you wanted to play the position of three point guards.¬† Well, it takes a while to get to that point.¬† Well, to me what this team brings‑‑ now, do we need if James is here, more from him?¬† You'd better believe it because he's capable and he's going to get to that point.¬† But Yogi, who took the ball out of bounds for us most of the time on made baskets?¬† What took the ball out?¬† Yogi, because he got the ball out fast.
And the year before, what did Yogi do‑‑ I'm not trying to treat it like a classroom, but what did Yogi do that got us in trouble a lot, okay, the second year, his sophomore year?¬† Where did that ball stop a lot on the break?¬† Come on, where did the ball stop a lot?¬† Come on, you guys are experts.
Q.¬† On assisted shots‑‑
TOM CREAN:¬† Not as much, yeah, but where did the ball stop a lot on that break?¬† The slot.¬† Right?¬† Bring it up.¬† The lane would be loaded because we didn't throw it ahead, and he is a tremendous driver, right, but the lane was loaded, and we weren't as good shooting the ball, right?¬† Well, last year we bring it up, we've got James running the side, we've got Yogi throwing the break, now all of a sudden you can throw it right to James, you can throw it left to Yogi, plus it opens up the middle of the court.¬† Now, I'd like to do even more of that with James in the sense of bringing it up in that area, but my point is this:¬† You've got to move guys around constantly, all right.¬† When we were at our best and we moved the ball well, really well, right, when we weren't, we didn't move it quite as quick, okay, and that's the thing, the ball has got to move.
So the guards are the ones that are not only creating and initiating offense for themselves, but they're seeing the whole play.¬† That's what it really has to be.¬† But we need to get‑‑ we're going to play with more length next year up top, and that's the way that it is, and Troy is developing, and certainly we added the recruits.¬† We added Thomas and we'll have Devin back and Collin we run with the wings and do all the different stuff with him.¬† I mean, we've got a chance to be a different type of team and not be‑‑ when we lost hard, tough, physical games, the other team was a little bit more physical, a little bigger, sometimes a lot bigger, and better at those things.¬† Was it age and inexperience and body size?¬† Probably some.¬† But some of it was also length and being able to match up with those guys better.
So I think it gives us even that many more weapons next year to do different things, and it kind of depends on how everybody advances during the year, or during the summer I should say.
Q.¬† Yogi became great at last year driving through the lane almost underneath the basket and then kicking it out or whatever.
TOM CREAN:¬† Designed action.
Q.¬† Are other guys developing that?
TOM CREAN:¬† Sure, we worked on it all the time with the other guys last year.¬† It wasn't like we just did it with Yogi.¬† Yogi just picked it up the best because he had the most experience.¬† But we did the same things with James and with Troy.¬† Now, with Troy, too, but Rob.¬† Where were those guys‑‑ who was the biggest beneficiaries of Yogi driving that ball underneath?
Q.¬† A lot of times Zeisloft‑‑
TOM CREAN:¬† Sure, James.¬† I think we had like six‑‑ I'd have to go back and look.¬† I think we had six threes in that Minnesota game just on that ice alone.¬† Yes, we work on that stuff all the time.¬† It's a progression.¬† It's like your season.¬† It's a process, right.¬† I know that sounds boring and doesn't get a lot of re‑tweets, but it is.¬† It's a process, and they've got to get to the point where they get those type of things in their game.¬† So yes, we absolutely work on that and we're adding all kinds of things right now to make it even‑‑ that's the fun of creativity when you have a lot of different guys that can do different things.
Q.¬† You said Devin will be back next season?
TOM CREAN:¬† Well, I'm certainly hoping.¬† He's not in the point‑‑ nothing has changed in the sense that he's not getting contact.¬† I didn't sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night, but I'm certainly hopeful that he will be, and we're going to get into the summer.¬† He's doing everything everybody else is doing except he does not play and he doesn't get any contact.¬† But we won't know probably‑‑ we'll know a lot better in the summer, but we may not totally know until we get into the school year, but am I projecting him to be here?¬† Well, certainly in my own mind I am, but does that mean he is completely?¬† Not yet.¬† Medically speaking not yet.
But as his coach, I certainly hope that he is, and we're certainly planning for him.¬† Make sense?
TOM CREAN:¬† Good.
Q.¬† You talked about Steve McClain, where you are in that process, and also for strength and conditioning‑‑
TOM CREAN:¬† I'm in the process of both of those.¬† What we've done right now is we did not‑‑ we hit the ground running, so to speak.¬† We didn't‑‑ the most important thing is that we didn't lose any days.¬† We didn't lose any days with our strength and conditioning, we didn't lose any days with our recruiting, we didn't lose any days with getting guys better in the sense of, because we're transitioning.¬† We haven't had to transition.¬† Will we?¬† We very likely could be, but that's a process right now.¬† One that we're going through but not one that's definitive at this point.
Q.¬† Just how quickly were these guys back to work?¬† You mentioned how quickly they were in here.¬† How quickly after the‑‑
TOM CREAN:¬† We started‑‑ we lost on a Friday, came back.¬† They were in and out throughout that week.¬† We started lifting the middle of that week, and we started officially the next Monday.¬† So what, eight, nine days, 10 days, right in there.¬† Anybody else?
Q.¬† Did you get measurements on Thomas, his reach, height?¬† Somebody had him at 7'6" wingspan.
TOM CREAN:¬† Yeah, we did, and I don't remember what they are off the top of my head.¬† I have not seen that.¬† I know we have that back there, but I should have thought of that.¬† I should have had that because I'm into that wingspan.¬† I just know it's going to be a lot bigger than it was this year.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports