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INDIANA UNIVERSITY BASKETBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
September 25, 2019
ARCHIE MILLER: All right. Welcome back to another start here of college basketball season. It's always an exciting time. I think for our basketball program in general we're anxious to get kicked off. It's been a long pre-season, been a good pre-season.
Hopefully we'll finish up here in the next five to seven days, but it's been uneventful, so to speak, which is very rare as you start the fall term where you don't have a lot of hiccups, ups and downs, learning each other.
I think our older guys have been very calm. They've been very good with their leadership on and off the floor. I think our newcomers, two true freshman and Joey Brunk; those three guys fit in seamlessly. They've been a pleasant surprise not only from the summertime, but also as we've started school here. No. 1, how much they're embracing the challenge of joining the group, and also embracing the challenge of striving to be the better players on our team, the better leaders. They're not waiting around to learn.
So it's been a good group. Like I said, our staff, we've worked very, very hard to get to this point in terms of off-season and planning, and we're excited to get started like everybody.
Q. Coach, I think you spoke in Evansville about wanting to get more emotion in your offense. Is that a reflection on what you saw from your team last year?
ARCHIE MILLER: I think each team is different every season. You have to play to your strengths. This team in general and looking at the parts that we have and how we'll have to be built, we're going to have to be much more difficult to deal with, which has to have a lot more randomness into what we do. We have to utilize our versatility with the guys that can play multiple positions together.
And we are going to have to move that ball. To do that, you're going to have a lot of concepts and action to the way you play. I'll excited to coach this team in that regard. We do have a lot different guys I think that can play together that may look the same and do some things differently.
But there is some versatility and some interchangeable parts. I think that's going to be the quest for this team, by far and away offensively, is to have more movement. Definitely have more ball movement and play more people.
And to do that, I think you definitely have to spend more time on the concepts and guys playing the game together rather than just a play or two or guy or two. It's going to be much more of a by-committee team on both ends of the floor. From on offensive perspective, how we generate offense, how we score, how we're efficient, is going to be through the bulk of the parts, not one guy.
Q. You talked about building chemistry, having a better chemistry than maybe you had last year. How do you build it? Does that just happen organically, or are there things you can do as a head coach?
ARCHIE MILLER: I think you're always on a quest as you guide the team. Whether you're on the team or on the staff or the head coach, you're constantly trying put people in situations where they learn one another better, they spend more time together, there is more communication and working together.
I think for me and learning how things go, especially with young people these days, they can very much stay in their own lane, on their own phone. You know the setting with young people these days. They very literally don't talk as much as they used to. So we try to put our guys in situations where it forces them communicate, be more active with one another always.
But I think the one thing that's unique as you get older, as you have more familiarity with each other, you have more closeness. You're not as new. Last year's team had five true freshman and one transfer, so six new bodies. This team has two true freshman and one new guy. Those older guys are all back and they're more familiar with one another, with the routine, and they're more able to communicate what to do, when to do it, how to do it.
So there has definitely been some step-up in that regard. I definitely think our team understands from a staff perspective there is a lot of pressure on us as a group of people to really come together. To do that, I think definitely more talking, more communicating, and more situations where we're forcing them to be sort of the driving force behind that.
Because we do have a group of guys that naturally are kind of quiet natured. I think that's where Joey has been a great boost with his voice. His personality has really our workouts, our locker room.
The younger guys who've got a year under their belt have changed. Robert has done a really nice job in our workouts. He's taken a concerted effort to communicate better, talk better, not be quiet.
So I think just in general I think familiarity with each other, getting a little bit older with your younger guys, and then having some influx of some new energy. A guy like Joey can really help the cause as well.
Q. Now that you've had the chance to go through the summer and some pre-season stuff with the new guys, how do you envision Trayce, De'Ron, and Joey being able to fit together, and do y9ou foresee lineups where the two of those guys can be on the floor at the same time?
ARCHIE MILLER: You know, that's the old-school lineup right there. That's the big-ball, traditional two bigs. Can it happen? Absolutely.
In my opinion and how these guys find that niche, will be their ability to defend together. That's obviously the hardest part for two bigs on the floor. It's not offense. You can run a lot of different types of offense, especially when you have some guys who can score the ball down low.
But could they play together and defend a team who doesn't play traditional with bigs. That will be the quest. Can those guys exist on that end of the floor a little bit.
Very, very hopeful. Very, very hopeful with Trayce. His lateral mobility, athleticism, and watching him here early as the season goes, he knows he has to defend on the perimeter. He's going to have to do that to be able to play with other guys. He's going to have to learn early and probably go through some hard times getting used to guarding college actions and scouting and whatnot.
But for the betterment of him and our team, that's one thing I think that we're all hopeful for, is he can take that role as a guy who can defend inside and out a little bit. He's not a prototype typical big. He's very mobile, athletic, he's got great endurance for a young player. He's just going to have to get some experience under his belt.
Q. Talking about chemistry, communication, how important is Rob? You put a lot on his shoulders last year, and seemed like he stepped up a lot of the time. Maybe now asking for some of those intangible pieces to really come out, how important is he going to be for you?
ARCHIE MILLER: Huge. Robert plays a big role. I think you saw a team last year at times when Rob was playing effectively, was healthy. He's a gamer. But with that gamer, as you get another older it's not about -- there is no surprises anymore. You're expected to do it. I think he knows from my standpoint as he looks at me what I expect of him.
As the head coach, I look at our point guards in a very different manner than I do all other positions. I think it's its most important position on the team. It's the quarterback. It starts with Rob on the defensive end. He triggers us in a lot of ways in terms of his on-ball pressure and how he can establish our defense in the half court.
Offensively, playing the floor game that he needs to play, he's traditionally a pretty safe guy, which he does a good job there. Getting more confident offensively. The biggest thing is probably what you said early, is to have an extension of your staff a little bit in terms of what you expect, and he knows that now. He's been through it over a year.
Like you said, he has had a lot of experience under his belt, he's been through a lot in his one year, and he's? More prepared to handle the communication part of it of, and he knows that's a big part of his job.
Q. You talked last year and even at times have kiddingly talked about it in the off-season about how the shooting has to be better. What have you guys done during the off-season, and how did you hope to improve the shooting for this team?
ARCHIE MILLER: You know, I think you work on it. That's the simple thing. Each guy individually has taken some time here and were addressing it, working on it. I think there has been some improvement with guys.
Also think the quality of shots you get is the key. The guys that are shooting the ball and where they are shooting it from, how they're getting them, those are the good ones. If that's the case, we have confidence in making them.
Like I said this team is built a little bit differently. Our versatility is more inside out than it is outside in. I do think we have some guys that are going to have to stretch the floor for us to be effective, and that starts with our back court.
Our perimeter guys have to shoot it in, we'll have to find some other guys that can find that niche. Damezi is a guy we have some hope for in that regard. As a sophomore, he's going to have to have a role on our team. One of the best things that Damezi does is he can shoot the ball. You got to start with that with him.
Hopefully adding Jerome into our mix here a little bit as we get started with the flow of the season. Jerome's best gift as a young player will be his outside shooting. As as he comes off a year where he hasn't played, the rust and all that other stuff you're going to go through trying to find it, hopefully he can find some rhythm.
But he's another good that I think can shoot ball a little bit.
Q. Speaking of Jerome, could we get an update on his status?
ARCHIE MILLER: Yeah, I think we issued a statement about his clearance and what he's been cleared to do. Jerome went through a very tough freshman year. A lot of guys go through injuries. A lot guys have to sit, and that's hard for people. Jerome not only did that, but also had a condition that's not just an ankle sprain or repair of the knee. It was a little different.
So we've kind of listened to doctors, trainers, and Jerome has done his part. He's worked very, very hard to get cleared, and then when he was cleared he did a very good job fighting through the not playing, the rust, getting his legs back under him, his strength, his conditioning.
And we're proud of where he started at five weeks ago. As he started here in this five weeks, as leads into October, he hasn't missed a workout. He hasn't been comfortable at all with that being said. He doesn't obviously look to be the full strength Jerome we inherited as he came off high school season, but that's to be natural with any guy that's taken six, seven months off. He's got to get his legs under him, get his basketball game back in terms of rhythm, catching, running, contact all of a sudden.
He's bigger and stronger, yet he's not playing as strong as he once was. I think all that is going to come with repetition of being out there every day. We're hopeful. One day at time. We work with him every day. Communication is always the most important thing.
I suspect there will be some days he doesn't feel as good ad the other guys as well. We're all very, very hopeful. I think he's very, very grateful. I know I am very, very grateful. The doctors and the training staff and just our administration in general how much work and information went into sharing and working towards getting him just back on the floor.
So to his credit, he did his part. He worked very, very hard. When you work that hard to get back off any kind od setback there is a little bit of pride in yourself, so he's anxious to get back, too.
Q. Coach, obviously Trayce Jackson-Davis is a freshman coming in. Difficult to make an impact in the Big 10, but he is a special player. Is he someone you expect to have an input on Big 10 play once that gets here?
ARCHIE MILLER: Yeah, no question. Trayce is going to have to earn it the old fashioned way by doing it every day, but he's doing that right now. Very, very proud of him in terms of what he's done this summer and how he's embraced the off-season. He's gotten himself in terrific shape as of right now. He's got to continue to go with that. His athleticism, his conditioning, are all very, very impressive. He's a gifted young guy and he's coachable.
He's a guy that sponges it up. He doesn't know what he doesn't know, and he asks questions. He's improved as a player, but he's going to go through some really hard times. I feel like college basketball is harder for young bigs than it is guards because they're not used to the pounding and the size, and in some cases in the Big 10 the age difference.
So he'll go through that, but he's going to be put in the fire. He was brought here to be put in the fire, and he can help our team immensely. I think as you watch us play he's got some confidence in him. The more experience he gets under his belt the better he'll be.
He's got to continue to work on his game, evolve as a player, but he's going to get pushed and thrown into the fire and have to earn it. There is no better guy to be around than him on a daily basis with how he approaches things.
Q. Coach, third year at IU. How do you approach this year differently than maybe you did your first year, and do you approach the season differently now than when you first started your coaching career?
ARCHIE MILLER: Each season is a unique challenge. Each season is different. Each team is different, regardless if you return a ton or bring back a bunch of new guys. It's starting over. You have 10, 12, 13 brains that need to be reset and focused on the mission that we have as a group.
And we're going to have to get some roles identified quickly. We're going to have to get the new chemistry and how we're going to have to do things put forth, and we are going have to earn our way just like every other team.
But, no, I don't change anything. I mean, every day is a hard. Every practice is difficult. Every game that you prepare for is difficult. Never changes. And this team is going to be pushed. For us to have a great season we have with to be locked in, bought in. We have to play everybody that we have. There can't be a game or a day that we don't feel like, hey, we can use everybody. Every single guy in practice should expect to help this team.
I think that's a good thing that everybody has a chance to contribute and help. How much is up to them, but, no, I think right now we're on the ground zero. We're building our team. This team in general as we've talked, you know, there is some older people have been with us for an couple years. Those guys obviously hopefully are our strength, inside the locker room more so than on the court.
Inside the locker room is a huge thing for this group. Everyone has to understand the importance of every day. To max out everything that we have, every single guy has to really take care of one another. Got to be about the right thing and be about one another. That's from me all the way down. This team has to have unbelievable humility, it's got to have a great work ethic, and it's got to give more towards the other guys on the team to get the most out of them so we can be the best we can be.
Q. Coach, Al talked about getting reps at point guard yesterday, and he seems to be a player who has shown steady improvement throughout his career. What have you seen that may be different from him that might jump him to another level from the off-season?
ARCHIE MILLER: One, he's a great person. He's always been about the right things, and he continues to be the same way right now as he was when he got here. That's a credit to his family and credit to how he approaches things, not only in basketball perspective, but just in general. He's a great guy. He's a great person to have on your team. He's a great guy to go to class with. He's a great guy.
He takes a lot pride in his individual improvement and he works at it. He's a much better player. He's stronger now than he has been in the past. He's heavier now than he has been in the past. Now he's experienced a lot of minutes in a two-year period. We count on him to do a lot.
Definitely without question I see him playing a lot more point guard for us this year. I feel like that's going to be something that's going to help our team. It's going to put -- if it's not Rob or Devonte, it's going to put him on the floor as an older player with the ball in his hands. That's important.
I think second thing is he has a chance to maybe play some other guys off the ball. But he'll play off the ball as well. He's one of our more consistent shooters and he knows what we're doing for the most part. He's been a terrific teammate since day one. Right now really count on him being not only a terrific teammate, but terrific leader for us.
Q. Last year you were one of the top-rated defensive efficiency teams in college basketball. How do you assess and this group defensively this year, and what are your thoughts about how you'll be able to match up scheme-wise both team and individual?
ARCHIE MILLER: Well, you know from an identity perspective we always want to be a hard-playing, tough-minded team that speaks for itself and plays hard on both ends, but in particular defensively. From year one, gradually improving to year two. Obviously adding some new players, some young guys into the fold, and having a core group that came back from our second round. I think our defense was better against great competition at times.
Weren't as big as we needed to be. Obviously I think at times when we were able to play a little bigger last year it helped us. I think this year's team will start off in that mode of a bigger team in size. So hopefully with the added size it helps you on the glass, helps you around the basket a little bit more. You would hope that your returning players from a system perspective can really hit the ground running and help your new players.
Although Joey is a new player, he's a college player coming in and has competed at a high level. He knows what it's like in terms of effort level. We got to get everybody on the same speed in our scheme. Personnel groupings are everything in terms of the matchups, but our system is in place. If we embrace and buy-in on that end, good things happen. I know we'll teach it the same.
I think defensively this team has a chance to be pretty good. Has some size. Has some real size three through five where you could be 6'7", 6'8", 6'9", where you have that type of front line size around the basket and on the glass protecting the paint. That's sort of what the league is built on.
Back court you have Devonte in his third, Al in his third, Robert, who is a terrific defender, and you have Armaan who is a very intelligent freshman who will be able to pick some things up defending the back court. You need Damezi and Jerome to get more experience and find their way on the perimeter. Being able to defend on the perimeter is something those two guys are going to have an adjustment at, but they give us some versatility as well.
Justin Smith is an integral part of our defenses. He was able to go as a freshman to a sophomore and in our good moments, our best moments, some of our best wins, he was integral in what we did not only how we played offensively, but what he did for us defensively.
He's got versatility where hopefully we can move him back and forth from the perimeter to the small forward slot. To me, he's as capable a defender as there is in college. He's as good as it gets in terms of talent and athleticism. When his mind is right and he's really focused, to me he will be one of the better defenders in the Big 10.
Q. Obviously last year losing 12, 13, that was the big turning point of the season. What were your biggest takeaways from that, and what can you look at to do differently this year?
ARCHIE MILLER: Well, it was very odd to go through. I don't think a lot of people had been through that kind of streak before. When you hit adversity, whether it's one or two in a row, you're constantly on a quest to be able to get back on your feet and up off the mat. It takes great character to do that. Takes stay-with-it through tough times.
Part of it is you have to be mature as a player and understand that in this day and age winning is great and you're all good; losing one game doesn't didn't end your life. At the end of the day I think so many times you can compound a loss and make it a lot bigger or a lot harder to deal with with the way you approach things, the way you listen to things out in the general public, handle the adversity on your own.
I think that maturity will be a huge part of the development of this team, is to not get carried away with the outside noise, the negatively, the cluster that everyone deals with in athletics in this day and age. You have to be able to stay tight, stay calm, and be able to have great togetherness through those times.
That's something I think as you looked at our team towards the end of the year, being able to even find a way to get off the mat, what were the key things? Well, we never stopped working to progress. Certain individuals stayed with it and had their best moments toward the end of the season.
There are always some things you can learn with. I would say handling adversity, dealing with negatively when it's thrown at you, and rightfully so, you have to respond to those things in an unbelievably tough-minded manner. From me all the way down, you have to be really, really locked in and focused on the next step, the next day. You're not going to be able to do anything until you can get through those hard parts.
To me, that would be a great maturity lessen for our returning guys, to be able to understand that those things happen and the way you respond is the most important thing.
Q. We're 20 minutes into this and not much talk about Devonte yet. He is back as your leading scorer. He was terrific the last seven game of the season. What do you envision from him this year what will his role be?
ARCHIE MILLER: You know, Devonte did finish the season fantastic for us. I mean, if you look at the games that we were able to win towards the end of the season, some of the games that we were able to play, we've always had sort of another perimeter or two perimeter players really kind of play well.
When he's played well throughout his time with us we've had some great wins. Consistency is what we're looking for, but he's coming into his senior year. Mentally he is in the best place he's been since I've been here. His five-week pre-season and off-season has been very distractionless on the floor, and the off floor in the weight room and conditioning areas, he's hit all-time high marks. He's good there. Best he's been.
He's our most talented offensive player without question. To be able get the most out of him, you're going to have to live with him doing some things at times that probably you would like to take back. But for him to be able to be himself, for hmm to be able to do it at another level more consistently, he's got to have some more rope.
I think that's where guys like Al and playing the one more comes into a little bit more play. Devonte, when he needs to score, we have to have the ability to put him in situations where he's a more primary offensive weapon. Where he's not brining it up. He's more or a receiver than a facilitator.
I think the way this he scores, the way he can create, Devonte is going to have to play off the ball a little bit offensively for us. He's a talented, talented player. With those ranges, he's got to be solid. I think he's at place where that's mature, he's a smart guy. He understands this is his last go. Hopefully has the humility sort of to understand that how he finished last year is a by-product of him staying with it.
He didn't have a great start in November when he had back-to-back quad injuries that took him out of the starting lineup at the beginning. Then he sorted of worked his way through it, but he finished in a way that was really, really positive. So hopefully uses that as driving force to get started this year.
Q. I guess just a follow-up on that. You talked about sometimes with him having to take the good with the bad. With a player like him who can be so impactful, how as a coach do you strike that balance where you recognize that sometimes he is maybe going to do something that's frustrating, but you know that there is also that really impactful player in there?
ARCHIE MILLER: Yeah, I mean, I do think there is a delicate balance. He's the type of guy that obviously when he is playing free and confident he feels like he can beat the world. You need guys that like, with that type of confidence.
But there is a detriment when the plays are getting you beat. Where he can respond definitely and where he can understand a little bit easier this year is just because there is a few mistakes or maybe it's not working out well for him, that doesn't mean that it's not his day. He can just come right back on the next round when he gets his opportunity, because he knows he's going to get it, and he can get back to business, so to speak, of playing the game.
He doesn't have to play the game worrying about making mistakes. Just got to play the game and move on to the next play. I think he's a guy at times that's hard on himself and sometimes gets down. He let's a bad play or bad half steamroll the game, or maybe even two, rather than just moving forward to the next play, because he knows he's going to be out there because he's one of our best guys.
Yeah, he's got to understand he's going to have some rope. He's got to understand sometimes he's going to have to hit the single, so to speak, rather than the homerun every time. He's as impactful of a player on this year's team as there is. He is as talented as an offensive player as we have, and he's an older upperclass guy who has been through a lot of games. I think he can play with anybody and we're going to need him to.
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