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September 30, 2016

Tom Crean

Bloomington, Indiana

TOM CREAN: A couple things before we talk about our team. First and certainly foremost, on behalf of this entire program, we want to offer our prayer, our empathy, our sympathy, our condolences - there's really not words strong enough for that - to the Hoeppner family for what they lost with Allison. I saw some of you at the funeral, obviously, and I've said this before, I said this when I got here, it would have been an honor to coach with Terry, and I never got to do that.

But I've never stopped learning about him, not just because he's standing here, but Terry's book was one of the great windows into what he was all about and what that family was all about. But after being at this funeral and seeing the strength of this family, how firm their faith is in God and the love that they have for each other and the love that so many people have for them, it's incredible.

I can't imagine what they're dealing with, but when you look at them, it's hard not to see just incredible strength. Certainly the impact that that Hoeppner family has had on many communities, but even in this community after Coach Hoeppner was gone, it is obvious that they've made this place a much better place. Our hearts are going to continue to go out to them forever, as everybody else's should, because they mean a lot to so many people here.

A couple other things: John Laskowski. It's awesome that he's going in the Hall of Fame, awesome. Landon Turner receiving the Clevenger Award today, on his birthday, those people, they graced the walls in here and they graced the tradition of Indiana, and they epitomize what it's supposed to be like after you leave.

I don't think there's any question that Landon Turner and John Laskowski made it a better place, just as the other people that have won the awards, just as the other people that have gone into the Indiana Hall of Fames. They made it a better place where those guys continue to give back in such a huge way.

They're not alone, obviously, and it's one of the great things about being at Indiana is the way that the former players, certainly some of the former coaches and managers, the way that they give back and care about the program. So it's extra special when somebody gets honored for what they did here and what they continue to do.

We want to say thank you and congratulations to them.

And then I want to add something on the football team. I know they had a tough game last week, and this is something that's just on my mind, that there's a different spirit about that group. They lost a lot of key guys. I mean, I read a story where Nate Sudfeld was kept on the active roster because they didn't want to put him on practice squad where somebody else could grab him, and they drafted him in the seventh round. That doesn't happen everywhere. Some of the NFL teams now carry two quarterbacks, and if they put a guy on the practice squad, he could be picked up by anybody, so they don't really have that safety net.

Darius Latham making the Raiders, I mean look at it, the Howard kid getting ready to do what he's going to do with the Bears. They lost some really, really good players.

And just seeing it from afar, you guys see it far closer than I do, and obviously we're not over there with the coaches and players, but there's a real, real spirit about that group, and there's a resiliency about them, and I think that's going to continue to come out.

Obviously they're playing great teams in this league, and Michigan State doesn't take a backseat to anybody tomorrow night, but I feel really good as a coach and as somebody that studies leadership and somebody that really tries to look at people and see are they really, really committed and serious about getting better with one another, the football team has that, and I hope that it manifests itself in victories, and I hope that the fans -- it pains everybody when people leave early, because that's not what Indiana -- it's not what Indiana is about. I mean, when we were really struggling at times, people weren't leaving us; that's why we made so many good comebacks.

Well, that team -- and again, this is just me. If somebody told me to say it I probably wouldn't say it, right. I mean, this is just me looking at it from the outside, and to me we've got to keep supporting that team, because I'm going to be asking for the same thing when we get into this season. We have not had a healthy team yet, all right, that goes from when the season ended in Philadelphia to when we get started today.

At times this summer, well, we never went up and down the court five-on-five this summer because we didn't have enough healthy guys to do that. We got better, we had great workouts, everybody has improved, but we haven't had that.

So teams -- when I say that, not in comparison to football, but in the sense that teams take different steps, and you don't get to skip any step. Some team might have X amount of steps, this team might have X amount of steps, everybody has X amount of steps, and none of us can predetermine them, and none of us can really know what they are, and unfortunately in life sometimes, every step we take or every step we take back, we look at it with an exclamation point rather than just part of the dash like we're continuing to move forward.

And we're going to need it, and look at what soccer is doing this week, they're having a great week. They've had a couple moments where it could have gone either way with a loss or a tie. Everybody needs it in sports, and one of the things -- they need it in life, but one of the great things about being with Indiana is we're with such a knowledgeable fan base that has such great passion, and I hope that people will absolutely stay committed to those games and to keep supporting those guys because you look back at them and there's just a little bit different look, and I know there's some youth over there, and I know there's some experience over there, and they've got to all come together and they've got to replace some key positions like everybody knows, but I think there's a real spirit to them.

And as far as our team, and then I'll open it up, I like our spirit. I think we have a really good team energy, and we're getting ready to start practice in less than an hour, and it's almost like the season never ends. These guys, we got beat on a Friday, well, I guess it was Saturday morning by the time it was over in Philadelphia, and I get ready to go out and recruit on Tuesday, and there had to be eight or nine guys in the gym that Tuesday. I know I've said that before, but there was nobody making them be in there, and we started our workouts with James and with Josh early and then got going that week. They were excited to be in there. They wanted to be in the gym.

And I think that's continued to really grow in titanic efforts for us this off-season. We have a team of guys that really, really are committed to being in that gym, getting better, doing the work. The spirit -- you see some of it with social media and the Instagrams and the videos that go out, but being around it on a daily basis, there's a real camaraderie developing, and it's such a big deal because we lost so much. We lost so much in the form of senior leadership. We lost so much in the form of experience, and not just experience of age but experience of going through so many things.

So now, especially with Collin going down, which is hard -- I mean, it's just hard. I just love that kid. He's been through so much, and I know you're going to ask me about timelines. I don't have a timeline, okay, because I'm most concerned right now about his mindset. He just got back here, and that young guy was putting so much into getting ready to be our senior leader, and we're going to need it. We're going to need that right now, but most (no audio) obviously I'm not the doctor, but the doctor has approved all of it and put it together, so the level of toughness that he has is incredible.

He's a real -- he's not a point guard but he does so many things for us with moving without the ball, moving the ball, making plays. We put together over the last couple weeks, which we'll starting introducing to the team today, concept tape, the defensive concept tapes, not just play tapes and not highlight tapes certainly but concept tapes. He's probably in 70 percent of the clips, and this was before the injury.

Our biggest concern with him and with this whole team is everybody continuing to develop this right mindset. I see the rankings, I see the predictions. None of that has anything to do with what we're trying to do right now. We've got to get a mindset that continues to grow as we start to get into these practices. We've got to learn to play up and down the court because we haven't done that.

We've got to really integrate some guys. Rob just got cleared last Monday. I believe it was last Monday. James has been cleared for a couple of weeks. Juwan Morgan is not cleared at least for a few more weeks, very least, and certainly Collin's timetable is not even remotely where we can look at it yet and see that.

We've got a lot to overcome, but I love working with them. I'm excited for the practices, really want to see Collin, no matter how the -- it's two things. He's a graduate. He's a graduate of Indiana, and he's entering his senior year, and it seems like he's been here for so long. Well, it seems like he's been here for so long because we've been recruiting him since the eighth grade. Knew about him in the eighth grade, we weren't recruiting him in the eighth grade, I guess we were recruiting him in the ninth grade, but you just feel for him, and what I want is I want to see him just -- no matter what happens with this right now, that he just continues to build that leadership and that mindset that he can overcome anything and that he can bring a lot of value, and at the same time we're going to bring a lot of value to him in the sense of helping him through tough days as he gets into his rehabilitation.

And hopefully we just keep getting better, again, keep getting better at the details, and we keep understanding that we're only going to go as far as our ability to make each other better. We're only going to go as far as our ability to really have really good team defense. We're only going to go as far as our ability to not only move the ball quickly but move without the ball, which is something now when you take Collin out, when you remove Troy, okay, when you remove the fact that Yogi not only could drive it but he got to the point where he was so good at moving without it, and Nick is one of the best ball movers I've ever coached, and the fact that Max provided so much. It's really easy to say, well, Max was here one year. That one year was incredibly impactful. He went from making 11 threes in three years at Michigan at 26 percent career three-point shooting to 46 percent shooting, making 29. We're going to miss that. We're going to miss that.

But the exciting part -- I'm not doing a woe is me. The exciting part is we get to keep building on that as we go, but it is going to take -- just like in football, it's the same thing in basketball. Have no idea how many steps it's going to take for us to really grow and get to be good, but they're there, and we've just got to take them, as corny as it sounds, one step at a time, not knowing how big one is, not knowing how steep one is, not knowing how long one is. We just take it and continue to grow and get better, and we get started at it in a little bit.

For those of you on a word count, I did not plan to have that, but just kind of played into it.

Go ahead.

Q. Last year, one of the keys for the team was how they improved defensively over the course of the season. What do you think some of they keys on defense will be this season?
TOM CREAN: Well, again, I didn't cover this. Freddie McSwain is not able to go right now because he had knee surgery. He's going to be back fairly soon, but he had to have some stuff that -- he'd had issues in the past before he ever got here, and it flared back up, so we had to get that taken care of.

So he's a couple weeks away from going, and I add that because like that's the kind of guy -- he comes in and he makes our defense better. He looks like an NFL tight end, came in here and set the squat record.

Freddie is really strong. He's active and athletic, like he's going to make our defense better.

I think we could be -- I think when we looked at this season, going into the season, we looked at a team that can pressure more. We can get three-quarters type of pressure, some full-court pressure. I think we're going to have the ability to do a lot more switching with this team. All right, I think we're going to be able to do that.

It's going to be really, really important that we talk, right, like we lost some really, really knowledgeable, experienced guys, and Collin takes a backseat to no one on that right now with what he brought, because they had such awareness.

Like we have athleticism, we have strength, we have the length, we've got to make sure we have the awareness. We've got to make sure we have the communication, and we've got to make sure that we -- and it's going to come into our ball screens, our post defense. I mentioned the full-court pressure, the three-quarter pressure, about how we keep the ball on the side. We've really got to learn how to use our length, and we had guys last year like OG who when they really learned how to use their length, they became tremendous mainstays for our team. But we've got to have other guys do the same thing, and those guys take it even another notch.

I think I said back at Huber Farms that OG texted me one night, can I guard point guards this year. Well, absolutely you can. But we've got to have a team of guys that can switch out and guard those guys.

Q. Talk about Johnson and Blackmon Jr. coming back and having the experience to lead the guards.
TOM CREAN: Well, especially in Rob it's big, it's huge, because last year outside of Yogi, he was our best perimeter defender, guard defender. OG certainly developed into it, as well. Everybody gets better here. Nick Zeisloft was doing some tremendous things defensively in the last month, month and a half of the season, especially going into the tournament, and Marcus Paige took care of all of us a little bit in that. But Nick helped really get us better, and what happened is when Rob went down, guys had to step up. When James went down, guys had to step up.

What has to happen now is those guys have got to learn from what they missed. They've got to take those next steps of confidence that come from doing it time and time again. They've got to not only do it, they've got to bring leadership to the younger guys. But they've got to come out -- it's going to be -- they've missed a lot of time, so like we can't -- we're in a totally different -- we'd have already practiced this morning, and then we'd be getting ready to go tonight if this was a year ago, but we've got to tailor make this thing. We can't be in too much of a rush with these guys. It's certainly not going to be the level of full-court basketball that we would be used to to start the season because so many guys have not played that for us because we've trained running-wise, cardiovascular-wise, but we haven't played. So those guys fit into that.

So having Josh helps. He's in a completely different role. Curtis and Devonte have done an excellent job of coming here and establishing themselves. Zach McRoberts has gained probably upwards of 28, 29 pounds since he got here -- since he got on the team in May. All of a sudden with Collin down, his ability and his chance to move -- Gelon is coming and established that he can shoot the ball, that he's going to work, that not going to take a backseat to anybody on the work ethic. He hasn't had to be behind. Those type of things.

And then we integrate De'Ron and Freddie and we can talk all day about who we have to integrate. De'Ron took a test on a Friday, his last exam back in Denver, got on a plane at midnight, was here in the middle of the night Sunday, started classes Monday, never looked back, and in the meantime he's had to deal with a couple injury situations that have shut him down from time to time.

We've got a long way to go with getting any type of depth, but those guys along with Josh have got to wear a lot of hats for us, and showing confidence early on that they've improved, especially on the defensive end and especially on the ball movement, moving-without-the-ball end, it's going to be really big.

Q. What was the impact of not having post players the same size a Thomas on campus this summer?
TOM CREAN: Well, two things: Again, I think what one of the strengths of this program is that when you're down for a certain reason, injured, it's not like you just go sit on the side and ride the bike. We start with the chair in the sense of the shooting, the passing, the ball handling. There's a real progression to it. So we didn't have the guys that can go against Thomas because OG wasn't healthy this summer. OG was dealing with a groin injury that he's recovered from to the point where he's live but he wasn't live this summer, and live means contact, and live means up and down. Live doesn't mean working out and getting shots up, which they did. So what we would do is we would tailor-make half the week to Thomas just having to deal with just hitting him with pads, the managers and graduate managers swiping at the ball, short-burst workouts that would be really focused on his inside play, on his ability to run out and set ball screens. And then the other times he was kind of like everybody else, working on the shooting, working on the ball handling, working on the pick-and-roll, working on -- just completely training him like a guard, like we did with Cody, like we did with Nolan, and like we want to do with him.

And then the next step would be him guarding those people in the summer, which has improved, but again, it's improved in a half-court one-on-one, two-on-two to three-on-three situation. We have no idea how it's going to transfer to the court yet in five-on-five. He got better with his -- he's really gotten better athletically, and in 14 months, 14 and a half months, his vertical has gone up 14 inches, and I've never been around anybody that's done that, and squat has gone up to -- it's almost jumped 200 pounds since he got here last June.

Again, one of the biggest need areas for him were feet and lower body, right, quicker feet, lift his feet, lower body being stronger, and he's well on the way to doing that. Well, now we've got to apply it to the court where it actually has to go against other people like his size, and certainly no sooner than when we get to Hawai'i, he'll be dealing with that.

Q. I know you said you don't have a timeframe on Hartman's return, but would a medical redshirt be a possibility for him down the road if the situation arises?
TOM CREAN: Oh, long-term if it gets to that, yeah, absolutely, but again, he's a senior. It's got to be something that down the road he would want -- it's too early -- it's very -- you can speculate the moment it happens, right, but it's too early to put real timeline on exactly how he responds because he is a senior. Let's see how responds to the rehabilitation. But that certainly, that would be on the table for sure down the road.

But I'm more concerned, like I said, rather than timelines and looking down the road at that, is him getting his mind set because he was in a great place when he got hurt. He was in a great place, great place of leadership, skill level. He's been so valuable to us. I mean, he's been so valuable, and now we've got to find a way as he recovers for that value to continue to be there when we're -- as a leader, as a coach. This is not a guy that's going to be sitting at the end of the bench. He's going to be up there and have a real active role with us.

But everything has been moving so fast, we haven't had a chance to really dive into that. We just got back. That's a way-down-the-road type situation for us.

Q. The key last year was improving on defense; what are the keys this year?
TOM CREAN: Oh, there's so much. We established a few changes in how we orchestrate the drills, what we do in the three-on-three, four-on-four, because we are so young at so many key spots, and there's no question in my mind it's changed a little bit since the injury with him because we've really always tried to develop -- because Collin has been a coach on the floor and a guy that could do drills. I treated him like a senior last year. When Yogi -- we treated Troy like that, as well, but Troy and Yogi, Nick. Max was new and could provide leadership in other ways, but I've always tried to make sure like those guys can put things in for us. Like we wouldn't call them captains at practices, I wouldn't say that, but like there are like those moments where they're shooting with guys, all right, let's put this drill in, let's put that drill in, and it kind of creates leadership.

We don't have any guys that have done that now. So I think we're going to have to slow it down. All right, this is one of the earlier year type things of slowing down, trying to get in, make sure we are really, really detailed and focused on -- I get moving so fast with the concepts, especially on offense, and there's so many other things that we've started to add throughout the summer to what we're already doing, I think you start with where you're going to -- where you can be a better coach. I think you look at where you can coach your team even better than what it is, and you don't pick up from where you left off, ever, and the moment you think you've done that is the moment you're giving the advantage to someone else. So we've got to slow it down, and I'm going to need that help from the coaches because I'm not great at slowing it down.

But I've got to really recognize we've got a very fragile group but young because they just haven't been through it. They don't have the experience of it.

Got to take care of the ball better; there's no question about that. We've got to get our decision making right. We've got to get our ball movement right. We've got to get our moving without the ball right. We cannot try to make plays that aren't there. We've got to get that established early.

And got to make sure that our rebounding is really high on both ends. We should have a chance to have a tremendous offensive rebounding team.

Defensive rebounding we've got to make sure we're blocking out, make sure that we're physical. We lost -- Yogi might as well have been 6'9" with the way he hit people, right. I mean, that's the level of toughness that he brought to the table when he put a body on somebody. Well, we've got to get that established, especially the guys coming off the injuries.

But in two weeks I'd like to say that our fast break and our going after made baskets is going to be much better. I have not put the break in one single ounce yet. I've never had it like that where we're focused on the other stuff.

And then I think what we're really going to try to do with this team is get the -- some of the continuity down before we really, really, really start getting this cerebral spacing and the creative packages and stuff like that, basic things down. But we've found some places that we can be a lot better on the offensive and defensive end, and I think it's up to me and the coaches to make sure we're adhering to that constantly in how we set up practice, and we can get way better moving without the ball. We can get way better at using more floor space. We can get way better at going into the post. We can get way better at taking care of the ball. We can get way better at defense. We can get way better at our defensive rebounding, so there's a long list. Hopefully at the end of two weeks we feel like we've made a dent or got the introduction done and made a dent in some of that.

Q. What is the biggest thing for James Blackmon Jr., as he continues to return from his injury?
TOM CREAN: Get confidence, right, just confidence in that plan. I'm not trying to make light of the situation at all with this group, but like I have not seen them go up and down since we were at North Carolina -- I mean, in Philadelphia against North Carolina. It's a different group, a much different group. So just taking time on that. But him making the game simple, him getting better at moving without the ball, him being ready to shoot. Not everybody coming out and trying to show how much better they are at the things that they've worked at because they are. I mean, we have added some real skill. I have no doubt. But now we've got to transfer it to live, right, and the best way to do that is to make it as simple as possible.

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