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INDIANA UNIVERSITY BASKETBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
September 26, 2018
ARCHIE MILLER: Thanks, everybody, for coming. I guess this would be the annual kickoff for media day, which sets us up for a really good weekend this weekend with Hoosier Hysteria for our fans and our players, their families, our staff and generally just kickoff week so to speak. So it's exciting.
We begin on Monday with less fanfare on Monday the 1st, which will be our first official day of practice. So it's a good time to come in mid-week, set it up for this weekend, and obviously get ready to go for next week.
Q. I want to ask you about the freshman class. What have you seen from them so far in the off-season, and what are you expecting from this group of players?
ARCHIE MILLER: Well, the five freshmen have done a nice job fitting in. I think they had a busy summer, six strong weeks here getting acclimated in school, getting acclimated with the team, and workouts, et cetera, also, getting themselves situated physically.
I think the one thing that stands out about the five freshmen, genetically, physically, they're gifted. There's size, there's strength, there's athleticism. It's a group that can come in and compete in college physically, which is always a good thing.
Not that they don't have room to grow or they don't have a lot of ground to cover in certain areas, but I think just as a talented group athletically, they bring an influx of talent. Each of them has an opportunity to really impact our team. Each of them has an opportunity to define their own niche, so to speak, their own role here early. How much of that is up to them, but clearly I think all of them are confident guys, and through our fall in particular getting to watch them in five-on-five settings and practice settings and drill work and things that they've never been involved with before, you get to see the level of detail and understanding of the game that they have.
That's been good to see, to sort of see where guys have to sort of speed up in certain areas and where some guys are ahead and where you can see them fitting in maybe earlier in the year than others. But we're very pleased with them. All of them are great guys, and like I said before, they've added value in a lot of ways but one. I just think from a talent perspective they make us bigger and stronger and deeper.
Q. Looking at the roster, seems like you've got 12, 13, 14 guys who could play, have a niche, whatever. How much do you put it on them to make clear who gets any sort of minutes, who gets in the rotation?
ARCHIE MILLER: It has to be that way. When you don't have it that way, you're sort of strapped as a coach and you kind of live and die with the results, and when you have depth and you have competition level that I think we can have, every day you're going to have to earn it, and that's how teams really grow. We talked a lot about how this team has to progress, and part of it is if you are maximizing your effort level, your concentration level, you're giving everything you have, you're pushing yourself to a new limit individually, then obviously you're going to push somebody next to you to do the same, because if not, then the guy is going to stand out in a negative fashion.
But if you can ever get a group of, like you said, 10, 12, 13 guys always doing that, trying to push themselves to be the best, which results in others around them having to respond in that type of manner, your environment becomes one of which is very competitive. When you have that every day, you get better. When you have that, you generate a mutual respect for one another.
How you earn minutes is obviously through production, and if you can get it done every day in practice, typically with the way we do things, I think it translates to the floor. When it translates to the floor when you have your opportunities, you continue to grow your role.
But without question, competition is going to be something that we hold dear to our heart this season. Not that we don't do it every season, but this is a season in particular where there's a lot of guys with expectations.
Q. Juwan talked at this time last year about being a leader, being more vocal, all those sorts of things, and he kind of lived a lot of that last season as a junior. How have you seen him grow from that experience and what are your expectations for him this year?
ARCHIE MILLER: Well, Juwan is really -- he's a senior now. He went through a career-best year last year on the floor, and I think he gained a ton of confidence. I think he's carried that confidence into the off-season in his actions and his leadership ability. I think everyone on the team kind of understands where he's at right now at this stage of his career compared to even 12 months ago.
My expectation for Juwan really, to be honest with you, is to be about the team and be about his senior season, be about his two-year legacy with transition, and find an opportunity, find a way for him to be the driving force behind a team that reaches its maximum potential, has an opportunity to compete for the top of the Big Ten, has an opportunity to compete for an NCAA Tournament bid.
But none of that's possible unless he does it every single day the right way like he did a year ago where he really didn't have any concerns about the outside world. If he can do that again as a senior, I think that he'll show some of the added dimensions that he's added, without stress, and I also think he'll be able to carry our team in big games here early in the season because I do think he has a confidence level.
Q. I know a lot was new for you last year, first year here, but now that you have a year under your belt, how much are you personally and with this team looking forward to the upcoming season?
ARCHIE MILLER: Yeah, much different. You go from month to month, really trial-and-error with you and your staff and your players. You never know, even when you get into December, January, February, everything is all new. Once you get to the end of your first year, you take inventory, you look back on what needs to be done, and you go right to work on it, which we did.
But I think as we start college basketball season, tip-off this season, there's just such a different familiarity with everyone. There's such a different comfort level with everybody. That's with me all the way down. Just understanding who you deal with every day and who you talk to every day, how your family is doing every day. It's a huge adjustment, whether you want to admit it or not, and once you get through it, you get through it, and as you start to approach the second coming or second season together, you're obviously much more relaxed in things that you never would have really worried about a year ago.
We're in a much different place. I do like our returning guys. I think that's the most comforting thing is our returning guys really understand sort of how we do things, what we're doing, the steps that need to be taken. And our younger guys have people that they can watch where you're not having to teach not only your coaches but every player. Right now it's more or less along the lines of trying to do things we've done in the past the best we've ever done them, and then having everybody roll in the same direction where we can get sped up with our younger players sort of viewing by example at times, which no one had a chance to do a year ago.
Q. Kind of following up on that, had some defensive issues early in the non-conference, but you guys ended up fourth in the league in defensive efficiency by the end of the year. So how much better is it going into year two defensively having laid that foundation?
ARCHIE MILLER: Well, you never really -- one thing you do learn is you never really hold your hat to things that have done in the past. That team a year ago started at ground zero. I think everybody knew that, and I think we finished playing in a very competitive, spirited way.
I think we learned how to battle together. We did things together all season long, and that team finished the season last year with a much, much better understanding of how we have to do things.
Now, the key is for those eight returning guys to not regress back to where the beginning was again. It's to start at a much higher level. The expectation is much different, and they should be ahead of our younger players. Our younger players, our freshmen in particular, should not be in the same boat, where a year ago everyone kind of looked the same at times until guys started to climb the ladder.
You know, that's all part of it. That's all part of building a program is having consistency and some continuity. A lot of our older players now are going to be held accountable at a much higher standard early in the year. That should put pressure on our younger guys to be better. But definitely without question, there was a lot of improvement a year ago, which is something to really keep in your back pocket, so to speak, that you can always get better.
Q. With Justin Smith, we saw the athleticism and stuff last year. What are you guys focused on with him to help him make jumps? What are maybe steps one, two, three for him?
ARCHIE MILLER: I think the biggest thing for Justin in my mind is to obviously use that great talent and athleticism and get points on the board. So many times I think a year ago you saw the explosive jump but you didn't see the two points get on the board, or you didn't get the and-one, you had to go to the foul line and maybe make one, which to me was a very young -- a guy who was very young and talented, but at the same time adding the value of style over production, and I think that's something we've really hammered home with him in terms of his concentration level because he could probably put four to five more points on the board for us this season with the amount of repetitions he's going to get, the amount of minutes that he'll get, where Justin has a chance to really be one of the best finishers in our league. He has a chance to put more points on the board for us, and for him in general, I think that's the difference between averaging six or seven and maybe 11 or 12, maybe 13 on a deep team.
We've also really focused in on his skill level, becoming more perimeter oriented, spending a lot of time on his shot, like we always do, becoming a better just perimeter-oriented player.
But just in knowing him, he's a great kid. He's really, really intelligent. He did show signs last year where he really belonged, and I think now it's more consistency. It's more approach of production, especially, like I said, finishing, but maybe finding a way this year where he's a lot more skilled on the perimeter, especially if he's open shooting the ball.
Q. What have you seen from Romeo's development? We all saw what he looked like six months ago; what does he look like now?
ARCHIE MILLER: Well, he's 15 pounds heavier, which with a guy like him is a huge deal. The bumps that he takes, the amount of drives that he has at the basket, his ability, obviously, to leap and get in the air and take contact. He's roughly 6'6", 215 right now as a freshman, so that's not a little guy. So I think just being stronger is something that you're going to see.
From a game perspective, I've really enjoyed being around him. He's a guy that I think is so used to really being perfect in many ways or at least trying to approach being perfect in many ways, that making mistakes and some things like that here as he's been away from us and out of his comfort zone, it bothered him, whether he missed a couple shots in a row on a drill or whether he's been in practice and he struggled defensively early. You could see almost a pressure or almost a, wow, this isn't as easy as I maybe once thought, to a guy that has learned week by week that it's okay to make a mistake. It's okay to understand that you're not going to be perfect and make every shot.
But the rapidness that he can grow will only really stay within his framework of concentrating on just getting better and being one of the guys. And we've really tried to approach that with all of our players, coached him the same way we've coached every guy here so far in the first however many months we've been here, and from week one to sort of feeling it out to week to, maybe feeling a little better, week three taking a jump, then all of a sudden week 4 and 5 in our preseason I think he's been at his best.
To say the least he's gotten better. He's embraced the system. He's embraced what we've tried to get through to him. But he's got a long road ahead like the rest of them, and we look forward to coaching him, to be honest with you. I think he's really, really in a good place in terms of being here, getting coached, being with his teammates, getting pushed. He's having a good time. Obviously it's a great place to go to school. We feel good about where he's at.
Q. How big of an off-season acquisition was Evan Fitzner, in terms of maybe fulfilling that three-point need that you guys were maybe missing?
ARCHIE MILLER: Evan is a fantastic kid. He's a fantastic player. Couldn't be more excited he decided to join us, and I would say of all of our additions, he may be the most important just due to the age that he comes with, the experience level in college basketball's big scene, by winning as many games as he's won, and he brings an offensive skill set that maybe, like you said, was lacking a little bit from the ability to maybe have a fourth shooter on the floor, fifth shooter on the floor. I definitely think he's a bona fide game three-point shooter. His percentages stay that way, and then watching him work out, he's very serious about his game. He just brings another mature winning approach, and I think he'll be a home run in terms of to our fan base and to his teammates and everyone. He's just a really, really likable guy that we're excited to have.
Q. Last year Devonte Green was a guy that showed flashes of what he can do. What's the biggest difference with his mindset and his game after the off-season and the fall?
ARCHIE MILLER: Well, I think Devonte, like a lot of guys when they go through their first year with change, it goes in ebbs and flows where things are going well for you and then they aren't. I think when that happens through the course of a year with change, you question things. You question coaching; you question am I at the right place; you question the style of play. You start to question everything that goes into it, and you're not as easy to just dive in and embrace.
I think the one thing that he came to grips with at the end of the season was I'm going to dive in and embrace and I'm going to do what I'm supposed to do here, and let's just see how it works. With a six- to eight-week period of time from the end of the season, he did a great job not only on the floor but he did a great job in the weight room, he did a great job in the locker room. So he had a great six- to eight-week period of time there.
His numbers in terms of the spring really, really stood out as a guy that really embraced the challenge and he got better.
I think as we got into the summer, he put another really good 10 weeks together where he was just as consistent as he was the last 16.
If you ranked our players top to bottom in consistency, it would be very hard for me to tell you that Devonte didn't have as consistent as an off-season as any guy. How that translates as we start practice and games start looming and minutes start to be handed out, that's where as a junior you'd hope he would be the guy that could really see the light at the end of the tunnel. He's got a great opportunity to have a great role on this team, and he's just got to embrace what we're asking him to do.
When he played well last year, our team was a lot different. We had some really, really good wins and we had some really, really good performances when he played well. When he didn't play well or we didn't have that other guard on the floor at times, that's when I thought we really struggled.
We came down to so many games in the last four minutes, and that's usually when it comes down to winning time, and I always say if you've got great guards the last four minutes of the game, you trust those guys to make the plays.
We just didn't have that a year ago in terms of being able to make crucial stops or at the end of the day, not have a crucial turnover or make the correct read with two minutes on the clock. Sometimes it goes unnoticed, but you could go two, three wins, take two, three losses off the schedule if you just did a little better job finishing games, and I think Devonte could be a big reason why if he's locked in and consistent that hopefully maybe we pull one of those games out a little bit this year.
Q. What do you think a guy like Rob could learn from playing with Devonte?
ARCHIE MILLER: Well, I think Rob has got to learn the ropes just like every other guy does, but I think Rob's game is Rob's game and Devonte's game is his game. They're different players. But if you ask me what you can learn, I think one of the things that Rob can really take from Devonte is the pick-and-roll game. I think when Devonte is playing at his best, he's the one guy on our team that can really deliver sort of an assist-type pass, get an easy bucket, whether that's the pick-and-roll bounce pass or whether that's just making the proper read. I think Devonte has really got a pretty good feel when he's playing the right way on how to attack off those ball screens and some stuff, but making people better.
But Rob is going to be a guy I really think that's going to grow. I think Rob's biggest asset here early as I've seen him is right where we expect. He's got a high IQ. He's really intelligent. He's competitive. He's 185 pounds as a freshman, which gives him an added advantage in strength defensively. I think off the ball defensively watching him here early he's got a chance to help our team.
So I think Rob has just got to work to keep his feet on the ground, do it every single day, and he'll create his own niche. But definitely as you watch older players, as you watch other guys on the team, having the ability to kind of take a couple parts from Devonte, I would say really being creative with the ability to get the assist.
Q. Can you update us on De'Ron Davis, where he is? Has he been able to keep his weight down without being able to put weight on the foot, and how far is he from full contact and so forth?
ARCHIE MILLER: Well, really De'Ron is taking it slow. He was here all spring and summer doing his rehabilitation. He wasn't really cleared to start running until maybe June I would say, so he was slow in terms of his recovery.
As we've gotten here into the fall, we've really started to increase him. He's participated in not only our five-on-five non-contact, but he's also participated in some two-on-two, three-on-three half-court contact, so he's starting to elevate to where you can get a chance to see him play a little bit, and I don't think that he's that far off.
His biggest battle will be conditioning and getting his weight back down because he just hasn't had the ability to consistently condition every single day. But slowly but surely he's coming around.
I think the one thing we'll be interested to see as we start practice on Monday is as he gets elevated in his activity, how does he feel on a back-to-back, or does he have to take a day off in between a three-day period of time when we practice just because of the stiffness, the soreness.
But he's going to have to deal with that, and a lot of times when guys come off these injuries, you really don't get a chance to see them maybe recover and feel good about themselves in almost a year. So you're looking at January 1 when he did it, and to me, he's on schedule, but in terms of looking like a De'Ron that played in November and December a year ago, he's not there yet. But we're hopeful that every week he'll get a little bit better and he'll keep progressing without resistance because clearly he's a bigger, stronger, older guy that has shown glimpses you can throw him the ball and he can get a basket for you every once in a while.
So we've got to just hope and cross our fingers and keep him on the everyday approach, and I think he'll get there eventually.
Q. You often talk about conditioning, and obviously coach Clif Marshall has had a tremendous impact on this team. How do you expect to see that translate onto the floor this year?
ARCHIE MILLER: Well, the biggest thing is preventative. I don't think that -- obviously as we train, we try to do things in a manner where as we start the season, guys are feeling pretty good, and you're not dealing with a ton of knickknack stuff, and knock on wood, I think that's been our off-season. We've had a lot of good stuff happen in terms of development, physically, stronger, weight gains, weight losses. Whatever it may be, our team physically is looking good, but they're feeling pretty good coming into the year when we're not dealing with a ton of just maintenance issues. That's always important as we start.
And really, the month of October is a huge test to the body. You start to go back to back, you start to get physical, and then that's where you hope that you can use your practices to really start to energize your conditioning level towards not even games but just scrimmages and things like that, because scrimmages get you to the games, and maybe your first couple exhibitions obviously are leading you into that opener.
So our approach is slow in, and the hope is to always be at your best at the right time of year, and for us that's January, February, March. That's when you've got to have that ability to really push through and finish strong.
But Clif has really, really been monumental for us. I think our players gravitate to his style, and from a strength and conditioning element, I don't think that we're really lacking there in terms of the development side of things.
I think just taking a look at guys being here for 16 months with him or a year being here, year to year, our sophomore class in general has really changed physically, which should really help their games. If you look at Juwan just being where he was when we first got here to where he is now, by far and away the most explosive he's been since he's been in college, and I think you go down the line and sort of see the gains, but we're pleased with the development this season coming into the year.
Q. Talking about Romeo, I imagine you were kind of keeping an open mind about him, but you'd also evaluated him when he was in high school. Are there ways he's surprised you as you've worked with him here since he got on campus in the summer?
ARCHIE MILLER: Just how talented and gifted he is athletically. I think you can probably say he's very athletic or watch him play and say, wow, but he just does things so easy and so smoothly. If he was a football player he'd be Randy Moss. If he was a track athlete, he'd probably be Usain Bolt or one of those guys. Just the stride, the elevation, quick jumps, second jumps, the -- just the knifing through people, covering ground from rim to rim, things just like that that just -- he probably takes for granted but in most cases you watch him and he really makes it look easy.
I think he's a better scorer than he is shooter. I think he's a better in-the-game five-on-five lights-are-on than he is five-on-zero and around. He just seems to be a guy that has the ability to play with others around him, against him, rather than just kind of going in the gym, and he's just going to look like a million bucks in an individual workout. I think he's more of a player than he is a skill demonstrator. He's got a lot of feel to him, as well.
The thing about him, I think the other thing that's been very unique is he can pass the ball. He can make guys better. He's not afraid to make guys better, and that will be a big attribute to him with the amount of attention that maybe he'll see in terms of being able to drive into traffic and whatnot.
Q. Jerome Hunter, what are your impressions of him since he's been on campus, and how will his versatility maybe help him get into the rotation this year?
ARCHIE MILLER: Jerome loves the game of basketball, more than any guy that I've probably been around in a long time. He can't get enough of the gym, which is a great sign as a young player. It's a great sign, an attribute to deal with me or our staff. You've got to love the game. Jerome loves basketball. He is 6'7", probably 210, 212 pounds as a freshman. He's got to get bigger and stronger. He's going to develop from that combo forward to more of a wing perimeter-oriented guy, which that's a tough change in terms of ball handling and guarding smaller players. So he's going to go through a bunch of that, but he has as much upside and talent as any guy that we've got, and I think within time here, he can develop into a terrific Big Ten player, all-conference type player in his time. He's a much better three-point shooter than I ever imagined he would be coming in.
So I think he's got some good things going for him. But just in terms of understanding the game, seeing it as a guard more so than seeing it as maybe just a kind of a guard, I'm kind of a big -- one of those combo guys that really we're going to try and move, because the key is size of your team just in general, especially at the wing spots. When you're 6'7", that's a lot different than being 6'2", which we were at times last year.
Q. With the amount of size and athleticism that y'all have on the wing and at forward spots, do you feel like switching is something you might be able to do more of on defense this year?
ARCHIE MILLER: Yeah, it's actually one of the things we talked about a lot in the off-season is being able to play a smaller lineup and being able to do more complementary switching, so to speak, on the ball, not as much off, but definitely on the ball where we're not in rotation as much, just dealing with the certain styles of play that we see throughout the course of the season, especially in the Big Ten.
There's times when you're playing against four guards or five guards, whether that's Nebraska or Penn State at times at the 4 with Stevenson, and there's different guys and different teams that you play against where you do think that our traditional way of doing things, which I don't think is right or wrong, I think when you're aggressive and you can be the team that you want to be and get away with it, that's always the best, but if you had to throw maybe a curve ball in there every once in a while, it's to provide a different way of doing it, and I think switching with our like sizes is something that's been talked about a lot.
Q. You have touched a lot on Romeo and his athletic ability and all of that type of stuff with his talent, but how have you seen him kind of affect the team and the team chemistry and just the camaraderie of the group so far, and how do you see him affecting that throughout the season?
ARCHIE MILLER: Well, I think he's getting used to the team, and the team is getting used to him, just like all freshmen have to do. They have to find their groups, their cliques. Everybody kind of figures their way out, but I think the one thing about Romeo that's very unique is he's a quiet guy, but once he starts to feel some things out, especially with his peers, he's a fun guy. He's a good guy to be around, and I think that's what's been good with our team.
He hasn't come in here and trying to, so to speak, run the show or stand out in any different way. I think one thing that's good about him is he's just going about his business, doing what we're asking him to do, and at the same time, when he's gotten more comfortable and as he's gotten a little bit more time to be on campus with the guys, you can kind of tell that he's just a regular guy that likes to be in the locker room.
Q. Race Thompson is obviously coming off a redshirt year. How do you see him fitting in this year?
ARCHIE MILLER: Race took the redshirt year, and he did a nice job with it. He really changed his body, and he got healthy, so I think you'll see -- you probably won't see it as much, but we as a staff have seen a much more fluid athlete and a much better conditioned athlete. He's in a much different place than he was a year ago at this time. He had just gotten here a year ago at this time.
He's not afraid to mix it up. He proved that last year in practice every day. He'll get in there and rebound. He'll get in there and bang. And he's got a really good IQ in terms of being able to think the game where he can pass it. He can move it. He's not an unskilled player in terms of not being able to play facing or with his back to the basket.
He's got to shoot the ball, especially from the three-point line at certain times here in his career where that's going to be his biggest gift is being able to stretch the floor because he's not really above the rim, so to speak, around the basket.
But I think he's a guy that's a great team guy, he's very popular. Did another great job last year really just fitting in and working hard, and I think if Race just stays the course here, he'll have a chance to really find himself on the floor at times because, like I said, he's physical, he's not afraid to mix it up. He's got a good IQ, and as the season starts of evolve, hopefully offensively, his niche can start to be more of a perimeter face-up guy than he is more of a back-to-the-basket guy.
Q. How much of a balance is there, if at all, to understanding Romeo as a freshman has some adjusting to do versus the need for him to score and kind of create for you guys?
ARCHIE MILLER: There will be give and take. I mean, there's a growing period for young players in college. There's very few that can just get off to a good start and just seamlessly start making it look easy. He's going to have to work through it like everybody else.
But Romeo's gift is scoring. His gift is obviously offensively. He's always been a very gifted scorer at all levels, whether that's from the three, the basket or in transition. I think he'll have the opportunity in all three of those areas to be as aggressive as he possibly can. We want him to attack, and I think he's smart enough to understand that winning is a big part of what's going on right now here at Indiana. I think he's looking at it much less of, hey, I'm going to get out there and score 25 and we'll see how it goes more so than understanding that his imprint on what's going on here really changes in the win column if that happens.
I think all of our guys are sort of understanding that. There's going to be some sacrifice this year, and painting that picture for them sometimes isn't easy for them to see until sometimes their first game and only five of them take the floor. But there's going to be some serious sacrifices, not just from Romeo but Juwan to every single guy that just wants to contribute. This has to be a team of depth and togetherness this year. It really does. If we're not playing nine, ten guys, then we're not getting the maximum out of everybody on the team.
So with that being said, you play nine, ten guys, there's going to be a little give and take, but over the course of a season when more people can help you impact games on a given night, the more chance you have of being a team that can win more games. And that's what we're going to try to strive for.
Q. What kind of an impact can Forster bring to the front court and maybe what does he give you this year that maybe you didn't have last year?
ARCHIE MILLER: Well, Jake is a livewire. He really is. He is a livewire. He as energetic, as vocal, as high-strung of a guy as I've had come into college in a while. He provides instant energy. He provides instant energy, he provides instant talk. He can be the life of the room, and in practice just more so than anything, you really need life in practice, which I love. With that motor, he's also a guy that's not afraid. He's going to challenge you on both ends of the floor, whether he's trying to dunk on you or whether he tries to block your shot, which is another great attribute to have.
He's got to learn to slow down. He's going to have to learn that he's going to be guarding bigger, stronger guys for the first time, and he's going to have to do less -- more technique, more learning than just energy level. But he's a guy that if he can ever really just start to maneuver around, he's almost like a -- I don't want to say a Dennis Rodman or somebody that -- he's going to be an energy level guy that I think the crowd will be behind him, and he's a guy that's going to make energy plays, whether it's tipped dunks or offensive rebounds or blocked shots. That's going to be his identity for our team, to bring that toughness level, bring that energy.
He's a guy that when you bring those things to the table, you jump in the forefront pretty early because you're not afraid.
Over the course of his career here and what he's trying to do with his game, he's got a great work ethic, and I think he'll be a guy that really you can see really evolve, and as he leaves here one day, see as a much different player. But he's coming in with an energy level that we didn't have last year.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports