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November 4, 2019

Archie Miller

Bloomington, Indiana

ARCHIE MILLER: We're excited. I think everyone from our staff to our players are really anxious to get back on the floor and play.

We had a lot of information coming out of our first exhibition game. We have worked hard as a group to go and try and clean some things up and figure some more things out about our team.

We've had good workouts; particularly our last three or four have really been good workouts. There is good balance about our guys. There is a good togetherness right now, which is good to see.

I think everybody understands sort of what we're trying to build with this group is the depth and the opportunity to have a lot of different type of playing impact this team as the season goes along.

Here early in November, get started tomorrow, and I think we're anxious to play. We're ready to go.

Q. Kind of two-part question. Where is the health of your back court? And Armaan, how much more have you put on him at least to be able to get you through this period where some guys are getting healthy?
ARCHIE MILLER: Well, you know, back court health has been the big concern here in the month of October. As we've really entered November here, entered our regular season start.

Robert and Devonte in particular have not been a part what we're doing. Although Rob got an opportunity to play a little bit the other day, I think it was widely described as his first real opportunity to play 5 on 5.

Post game we evaluated him again. He's taken some time and our medical team has done some things to try and make him more comfortable. I think he's as comfortable as he's been. As we enter today he's a part of our plan in terms of practice, which is good to see.

Devonte is still out, time to be determined with what hamstring. He's going to take it day by day. There is no rush. The big thing with him is to make sure when he does come back he's able to fully engage and we don't have any setbacks.

It's definitely been a challenge, the back court not being together. Our chemistry and that being -- reality is it's probably our most experienced group of people playing together that haven't been a part of it. So that's been a challenge.

It has given Armaan, Damezi, Justin, and Jerome to some extent, on the perimeter a lot more opportunities in repetition. Hopefully as the silver lining as those guys have gotten a lot more work.

Armaan, I've always said this from the beginning of I think him entering campus in June then entering back in here the fall, going through our fall pre-season, a month of practice and some change as with you enter our first game, I couldn't be more pleased with Armaan in terms of what he's been able to handle and what we've asked him to do.

Here early he's gotten a lot of extended minutes in reps because of the injuries. I think, again, silver lining looking back on it, would we know as much about him now? Probably not if things were good.

But Armaan will play a heavy role here in November. We have a lot of confidence in him. You know, Damezi, Jerome, Justin, moving into the perimeter; Al coming back and is now back engaged in practice after he had to sit last week with a ten-day period of time where we rested his knee contusion, bruise, whatever it may have been.

So getting Al back has been really, really nice surprise. I think Al plays a pivotal role for us in November and us getting started with his ball handling and experience being a third year player.

So me as a coach, I'm optimistic right now that a lot of these things hopefully can come back together, we're at full strength, but I think the other guys are prepared.

Q. In the exhibition in the first half Jerome Hunter set up for outside shots; second half it looked like there was a point of emphasis to post him up against some of the smaller guards. As you kind of ease him back in, where do you think he can be most effective offensively?
ARCHIE MILLER: Again, Jerome, first live action in over a year. Did not participate in any games and/or practices as a freshman. So as you watched him play the other day, you saw a guy that in all reality was the first time out in front of fans, first time it was 5 on 5.

You can always anticipate there to be some nerves, jitters, some anxiousness. I thought his shot selection and quickness about entering the game and what he kind of phased himself in was the outside shot. Be honest with you, he's making those shots. He can make those shots.

But probably more so than anything, he's going to have to get that under his belt. Second half you saw a much for physical Jerome. You saw a lot what we see in practice, which is him around the basket posting a little bit more, on the glass a little bit more.

So I think hopefully see a balance of that. He'll be more comfortable as we enter the fray here coming in to tomorrow night. He's done a pretty good job in practice. Just continue to do it. He's just got to continue to be sure with the ball. I think that's the big thing with our team, is to be sure with the ball.

Especially as you look at our back court and some of the combinations of players we have out there. They're all new. They're either first-year guys together or freshman, whatever it may be, sophomore playing for the first time. Being sure with the ball. I think as those guys get more comfortable they'll have more rope and more freedom and confidence.

Early here the one thing is to get in there and get a feel and not make mistakes. I think just being sure with the ball is something we've talked a lot with Jerome about here recently.

Q. You talked at the beginning about everything you learned from that exhibition game, things you wanted to clean up. If you could elaborate on that? After you got a second and third look at it, what were some of the things you liked and feel like you built off?
ARCHIE MILLER: Well, if you look at the first half we got off to a decent start defensively and then led to our offense. And then probably the back half, the last ten minutes of the first half, we were just not very efficient offensively.

Think this team has to set the tone with its ability to obviously push the ball, but has it set the tone with the ability to get the ball inside. Especially early in the game trying to draw fouls, getting our front court players anxious to run and get them the ball. We didn't do that in the first half, and you could kind of tell with the fouls drawn first half comparison versus second half comparison.

Second half multiple guys really did a great job taking of their time. We got the ball inside. We started the half by drawing falls. So that was a good thing, was establishing the physical dominance, the approach at the front of the basket, the paint was much better.

So I thought first half to second half, and now moving into what we're doing now, we have to be a team that really applies pressure at the rim. So that was good.

Defensively we weren't very good in a lot of areas. Sometimes you look out there as a coach and you want your system and you want your guys to know what they're doing, but in all reality, there are a lot first-year guys or first years to the program.

Our guys, like Jerome who has been here for a year, or Race who has been here but hasn't played a ton of minutes, so you see some inexperience defensively. I hope we're better as we approach the opener. We're going to be on a quest to become the best defensive team we can be.

I think this team knows if we hang our hat defensively with the numbers we have, that's our best chance of becoming a really good, consistent team. So defensively in all areas just getting better, and rebounding. Continuing to rebound the ball. It's got to be a great emphasis for this team on both sides of the board. We have to be able to do that from an execution standpoint, all the little tedious things you're going to go through each day and each week and get better at, which we've done. Hopefully we look sharper in terms of running our stuff and moving the ball.

I think Al and Rob both being back in again can really help that as well.

Q. So two questions. Just for clarity on the back court, who is out tomorrow and who can play?
ARCHIE MILLER: Right now as it stands today, Devonte is definitely out. He's to be determined. I don't necessarily know what that'll be. As of right now that stands.

That's pretty much what we're dealing with right now, Devonte being out. I think everyone else, as we approach practice today, is going to be in portions of it or be cleared to start to move forward, whether it be full go and whatnot.

As we head into the opener, anticipate seeing how Rob does today and feels. Most likely right now it's Devonte that is for sure 100% out.

Q. And then second question is on Al Durham, talked about him being the backup point guard. Probably going to have to do a little more at this point.
ARCHIE MILLER: Without question, yes, his role has really increased, and he's done a really good job with it. I think as a staff and just talking it out here this morning and watching, he's very comfortable in what we've asked him to do. He's got the most reps. As Rob and Devonte who have played point guard in their time here haven't been in, it's given him a good opportunity to hit the ground running.

He's done a good job of it, so I feel very confident in Al. I wouldn't even term him as the backup. I think Al's a very, very vital piece to what we're doing with the ball. We're playing with a guy like Rob or Devonte, doesn't matter to me, but Al is going to play a lot of point guard this season.

Q. With the health issues of the back court, front court is obviously expected probably to put more of a impact. Trayce Jackson-Davis Davis looked really good i the exhibition game. How much are you expecting out of him, and is he somebody you can see breaking into the starting lineup?
ARCHIE MILLER: Trayce through 25 practices right now is the No. 1 player on our team in practice points by over 100 points. That's not a slim margin. So he's doing some things really well for us every day. If he does those things well every day, he's going to continue to see success. Definitely see Trayce as being a vital part of what we're doing, an impact players. He's one of the best players, most talented guys on our team.

He's young, he's inexperienced, but he's got to get thrown into the fire. I see him playing as many minutes as he can handle. I think with young front court players, particular early in November, there are some up and downs that's he's going to go through. Without question we're putting a lot on him.

He's energy level, his motor, is the deal you watch with him. The harder he runs the more active he is the glass, the better off he's going to be, the more active he is and the smarter he is and defensively, the more beneficial he is for our team.

He's going to get a first taste coming up tomorrow where they're not all going to be 6'10" guys. He is going to be guarding smaller players, too. So now that whole element of can you cover the 3-point line, can you get back in transition and not run to the rim per se. You're dealing with more of a perimeter player.

So he's getting ready to get baptized by fire, but he very, very happy with where he is at. His production in practice is the thing we hang our hat on. He's been able to establish from a practice standpoint that he's able to really handle some of these areas at an elite level.

He can always get better and he's going to, but without question, his role in what we're asking him to do, what we expect to do, I think to me is very pivotal.

Q. As you prepare for year three, can you talk about what preparing for the season in October and such has been like this year compared to the first two?
ARCHIE MILLER: Each season presents different challenges. I feel like this group of staff that we have right now is very locked in arms and also very centered in on how this team has to play.

Each season you kind of go in with an expectation of kind of the known. We had a little bit of an unknown with this group of three new players. You have guys coming off injury a year ago, some freshman like Demezi, Jerome who didn't play as much. You're kind of hoping your older players, De'Ron, Devonte, Al, Justin. Though guys are your anchors so you're trying to mesh it. I think what we figured out is we have a group that hopefully there is very little dropoff, which is what we anticipated being from one through eight, through nine, through ten, and at a given time, nine, ten, eight, seven are going to play as big of a role as one, two, three on this team. That's what we've conveyed, and the plan has really been to allow that to grow.

Development, trusting your depth, putting it on them in practice where those guys have to do it every day has been the biggest thing that we've held our hat on as a staff. I think we've shown that the guys that earn the right to -- you know, do the right things every day and come to work, they're going to get an opportunity to help the team.

I think that's a big thing here in November, is how this team evolves chemistry-wise, development-wise. Is everybody on the page. Are you seeing good production even in little minutes or a lot of minutes. So that's been good.

I think from a preparation standpoint, we've very, very comfortable and confident that our system can be tweaked at times, and I think we've tweaked it. Offensively we've tweaked a bunch. We're very comfortable with what we are doing.

Defensively I think we're learning playing bigger lineups and whatnot, how we're going to struggle, and at times being able to maneuver into a smaller lineup. Those are things I think we're very comfortable.

So I think as we prepared for the season, as we prepared for this team, there has been a very few surprises. If they have been surprises, they've been on the positive. Each game each week will present something. I'm confident though in this group and in our plan that we're a 100% locked in.

I they our guys know that we have a ton of confidence in what we do that works.

Q. Coach, how have you evaluated kind of the different combinations and lineups, because you want to play with depth in. How much of that is going to be an ongoing process in terms of finding different guys to play together on the floor at different times?
ARCHIE MILLER: Yeah, that's going to be unique. It's going to be a key. As a staff going into this season more so than anything, there may be opportunities that each game employs a first half script, more of a rotation that we're sticking with regardless of the circumstances unless there are fouls or injuries where we bite the bullet at times and give guys certain chances or see certain rotations work together.

Second half we've always been of the philosophy all bets are off. Second half it's who is going is going to go, and what's working is going to work and we're going to stick with it.

In the first half to be able to develop your team and see certain things, you have to figure out and give them a chance to do that. So I could see us here early in the season maybe playing a lot guys early, maybe slimming that down as we go through the game, but early in the game seeing different rotations.

That could mean runs of good and bad, but I like going into a game knowing we have ten or eleven players that are capable of getting in there and helping you. That's a strength. We have to accept and our team has to accept that with that being said, there is going to be some sacrifice on that.

There is nothing more fun than winning with a group that is committed to it, and you have a lot of different guys impacting the feeling about themselves.

That's the positive, and that's what we have to be able to bring to the forefront is our team looks at different rotations and lineups and minutes in games.

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