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October 28, 2019

Archie Miller

Bloomington, Indiana

ARCHIE MILLER: Some bumps along the way, and we're no different in that. Here early in the part of the season we've been battling the injury bug a little bit. We're knocking on wood hopefully not too serious as we continue to pursue our nonconference.

It's given some guys an opportunity to get a lot of reps, and I think some guys stepped up a little bit. So hopefully today we can put a good practice together, keep building. Tomorrow we have an opportunity against Gannon, and that'll be our last opportunity to sort of really evaluate ourselves without a win or a loss in the record books.

So all things being said, we're sort of ready to get going.

Q. Talking about injuries we didn't see Rob or Devonte do the (regarding Hysteria). Do you expect them tomorrow night? Will they play on any kind of limit?
ARCHIE MILLER: I don't think we'll see either Rob or Devonte here tomorrow. We're hopeful that those guys can keep progressing. Devonte has been on a wave of out then back a little bit, now out again. He's dealing with a hamstring. Hamstrings are delicate. We want to make sure we're putting him in a situation where he's confident.

Rob really hasn't been a part of anything that we've done here in October. To ask him to play tomorrow night would be sort of I would think unfair a little bit. Hopefully he's getting closer to getting back to work with us full go.

Both guys are very, very important to what we're doing. Erring on the side of caution here in October is the smart thing to do. We'll have some other guys hopefully that will have the ability to step in and get some minutes. That's always important as well.

Q. What is Rob dealing with exactly, No. 1? And 2, how have you guys made the back court work?
ARCHIE MILLER: Yeah, Rob has been dealing with a lower abdominal injury. It's a delicate thing. It's something that is not very common. He's been uncomfortable with that. It would be something that he has to deal with here for some time; it's just managing it.

So like I said, we're erring on the side of caution. We want him to be in the best position he can when it does start to get back that he feel as good as he can.

Hopefully today will be a step in the right direction. But both guys, like I said before, very, very important. They log a ton of minutes. They handle the ball quite a bit for us and they're experienced in big games, so I think it goes without saying that they're both vital to what we're doing.

But haven't really had them in practice; not together at all. Haven't had them here in October very much, so like I said, we been kind of rolling with what we have. We have some guys playing at I would say multiple positions right out of necessity, so we are getting chance to kind of tinker with some things.

But as going into tomorrow night, and we'll have another week after that before we get kicked off, so we'll hopefully get more information as we keep going.

Q. To go off that, even if Rob and Devonte aren't playing or if they are playing the back court, depth might be a little scarce. Armaan Franklin, what have you liked from him lately and how much do you think he'll be able to help the team in the back court this year?
ARCHIE MILLER: Well, Armaan is really important in what we're doing. He's had to handle a significant amount of repetitions in practice. He's dealt with his own ankle and some illness here early, but he is doing a good job. He's ahead of schedule in terms of his learning curve. He's a smart guy; he's very coachable.

Him having to learn and bounce back and forth with some multiple positions here in the last week or so has been a little bit difficult for him, to say the least. You want to keep your young guys focusing on the same things every day so they can continue to get better.

Armaan is going to play a big role for us all season long. He's earning it right now. He's doing a good job.

Q. Building off that more, Al Durham is a guy that can run point. How much has he picked up in terms of ball handling and what have you seen in the pre-season?
ARCHIE MILLER: Al has done a good job. Done a good job leading into the Marquette scrimmage. He was primarily taking all of our repetitions at point guard. Doing a really good job with that. In his 25 plus minutes against Marquette I thought he played a really good -- for the most part, a really good floor game for us. Pushed the tempo for us in that scrimmage.

He's dealing with a little bit of a ticky-tack. Thankfully nothing too serious. He got bang up in the scrimmage and didn't finish it in the last ten minutes of the Marquette game, so he wasn't a part of last ten minutes of that.

We've been slow this last week since then with him just kind of getting him with some added rest for his legs. Al is going to play multiple positions for us. He's a junior now. He knows exactly what he's doing. He's a leader on our team. He's a great teammate. As coaching staff, I think we look at him and depend on him every single day for great attitude more than anything. He's kind of lead by example.

But I'm hopeful that he gets back going full speed, because he was doing such a good job for us first two to three weeks leading into the scrimmage game, and then did a nice job with the scrimmage.

Al is the fastest I would say of the three guards that can play the point with what we're tying to do right now. He's got great conditioning level and he's got a motor. He's got to learn to slow it down a little bit and not play at one speed, but he definitely gave us a change of pace I thought in our one opportunity against Marquette where he pushed the tempo for our team and made guys better. That was good to see.

So I think Al is going to obviously handle the ball for us a lot and he's going to do what we ask him to do. Again, I can't say enough about how important those three guys are to our overall team.

Q. How is Jerome Hunter progressing and how much will we see of him tomorrow?
ARCHIE MILLER: You know, Jerome has done a good job. Practiced ever single day. He's bouncing back and forth playing a couple different positions, learning different positions on both ends of the floor. Sort of retraining his brain on how to do things. At this point last year he was pretty much removed from our team. This is sort of the time when he stepped away.

But he's doing a good job. He's an unbelievable kid. He's a great worker. He is very coachable. He does some really good things for us. Honing him in on making sort of less ball handling and less passing mistakes. Sometimes he's trying to do a little bit too much with that. I think those turnovers can set him back in terms of the rhythm that he can get in.

So we need to just slow that down for him. Part of it is, again, he's really like a true freshman. He's back all there doing it all over again. As he keeps going he'll get better and better because that's what he does. He works at it.

He's a big part of sort of I would say an X factor in our depth. The more he can handle the better we'll be. He makes us deeper. He gives us a bigger wing on the floor. Obviously his shooting ability is something that was greatly missed. You know, as he's sort of the gotten back into the flow of things with our team, he's another guy that can make some shots for us and score. He's wired to do that a little bit.

But early only here as we head into tomorrow, we're hopeful he can get as many repetitions as he can here today and set himself up for an opportunity to play tomorrow and get that first taste of Simon Skjodt officials, crowd. He really hasn't done that.

It will be an important day for him. Hopefully he gets out there a little bit.

Q. You mentioned Armaan and his true freshman learning curb. What about with Trayce? What have you seen so far and what are you expecting?
ARCHIE MILLER: Well, Trayce has done a good job. He's worked very, very hard here. Here lately he's really picked it up in terms of the rebounding. That's been something we've been on him very, very -- very, very hard on him on the rebounding. You know, as he's learning to play at a faster pace, taking less breaks on some of the things that are necessity, and rebounding is one of those things he's got to bring to the table.

He's won our gold jersey I think two out of the first three opportunities that we've handed it out. Extremely talented. Just a young kid. Man, he's out there learning for first time. To him he's got a great demeanor right now in terms of how he's learning, what he wants to do. He's very coachable.

You know, I think playing against college players for the first time the other day, got to see the good and got to see the bad. Like all of our players, got to see the good and the bad early in the season. Trayce is a guy that if he stays with it he'll be one of the more talented players to come through here. He's got a lot of ability and a great mindset right now. We just got to keep him honed in.

Trayce, he's going to play a big role for this group early in his career. It's a lot to handle, but we got to throw him to the fire. I think that's what he wants. We got to put lots of the pressure on him to produce. There are going to be some things he's get exposed on, whether it be scouting or drawing -- you know, fouling, things like that early in your career that you're going to deal with, especially as a young front court player. So I think you'll see some ups and downs with him, but can't say enough about his work ethic and his approach right now. He's done a great job.

Q. What were your biggest takeaways from that close scrimmage from Marquette?
ARCHIE MILLER: If healthy, could be very, very deep; have up to 11 players that as a coaching staff we would feel good putting in the game without reservation right now. Can get in and play with anybody. That's an exciting thing to have at your disposal, especially every day in practice. If you ever get to experience the total group, then you can really start to put them up against one another and have them earn it.

In the game, you have that confidence that the next man up continues to keep us at a high level. That's what we've stressed with our team is the strength of the numbers. Could be anybody's night on a given night, but let's be one of those teams where there is very little drop off with regard to who is the floor. If you can establish that, that's good.

Defensively we could be a very good defensive team. We have size, we have length, and we have depth. For a hard playing team and we're disciplined, we could be a very good defensive team.

Some concerns. Free throw shooting, taking care of the basketball, and just the overall mentality that you need to rebound the ball at our level. Those are three things coming out the scrimmage that they just weren't good enough. We didn't take care of it well enough from a number of guys, not just one.

We're a team that obviously aspires to get to the foul line with how we're trying to play with tempo and aggressiveness and paint touches and whatnot. You can get to the line at much as you want, but if you're not making them, to me, that's like a turnover.

So that was something. And then rebounding the ball, especially offensively, didn't get it done on the glass. And then defensively, especially in the last eight minutes of the scrimmage, to watch us be able to rebound the ball in crunch time was really just a downer. Probably the most disappointing thing of the entire thing was just the ability of our group to rebound.

When you look at our size and depth, that's something that hopefully is a controllable. If we can get that corrected, that can be a positive for us.

So all that being said, we've worked on that pretty good since the scrimmage. In practice the emphasis has been on some of those things. Obviously there are some great concerns for us as we take the floor here, especially from some of our back court guys aren't available taking care of the ball, taking care the ball with different players in there for the first time.

Some of those things are obviously -- they make you a little bit nervous. So those will be huge things for our team. I think it's the rebounding, taking care of the ball, and free throw shooting could be really X factors for this team.

Q. You touched at free throw shooting. Obviously the percentage wasn't there, but the 43 attempts, that felt like an outlier. How much of a point of emphasis is that for you this year to get this team to the line, and do you feel like the team can improve over the course of the year?
ARCHIE MILLER: Nothing is more important for this group than getting to the foul line. Nothing. With what we do and how we establish an identity offensively, you want to put extreme pressure at all times on the basket.

For us with our depth, hopefully the pace of the game and the way we're running and how hard we're pushing the ball, I would think that's a positive in that regard. From the half court we have multiple people that can play in and out and do some things. Being able to get different guys a lot of touches in that area around the basket, and with our movement and having the ability to move the ball, hopefully you're creating opportunities for guys to attack.

We talk about it pretty regularly right now from the beginning of the season. Nothing has been more important offensively than getting fouled. Getting 43 free throws against Marquette was a great positive. With that being said, clearly a downer on that in terms of the ability of make them.

I am very confident that some of the guys that missed free throws in the scrimmage over the course of the summer and the fall and the amount of free throws we've taken here in our off-season, the percentages hopefully will balance out and you'll get some better production from certain guys.

But offensively, you know, I can't think of a bigger attribute to our team that being a team that aspires to be one of the best teams in the country hopefully in terms of drawing fouls.

Q. Talking about depth, just kind of how advanced do you feel like the front court rotations are just because of deep you are there, the different kinds of skillsets you have there, and how important not just tomorrow night, but maybe in the next month or so will in your mind will it be to let guys work through how they can play off each other down low?
ARCHIE MILLER: We have to make that a great strength of our team. Our front court depth, we're by committee. Make no mistake I do think we're capable of having some guys have some really good nights, you know, and another guy having another really good night the next night.

By committee, with that group, you know, having as many as six players that can maybe rotate in and out of playing the forward spot or center spot, however you want to look at it, is hopefully one of the great advantages that we're able to tweak.

Now, you got to get chemistry. Who can play together. From a defensive standpoint early in the season learning our system and doing things the right way, that's a big part. That's where I felt like a guy like Race Thompson really stepped in nicely in the last week or so and has really shown that although hasn't taken the floor a ton in his first couple years here due to the redshirt and injuries, has learned our system and has learned what to do.

Very integral part of that scrimmage defensively was Race's ability to be a great team defender. Physicality around the basket, where you're supposed to be. So some little things going into that rotation and stuff as well, you know, being real accountable.

Certain guys when they're in there together, doing things we're asking them to do and doing them really well. Not everyone obviously getting a ton of shots up there. Could be as easy as defensive coverages that we're in at a certain time of the game, being able to execute it or just absorbing foul trouble.

But that's been the one consistent thing throughout the course is we've been able to tinker with our lineup and some things that got a lot of different options that hopefully you can play together.

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