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October 29, 2009

Tom Crean


THE MODERATOR: Indiana head coach Tom Crean. Crean enters his second season with the Hoosiers and returns nine letter winners from last year's team.
Coach, if you'd like to start with an opening statement, and then we'll open it up for questions.
COACH CREAN: Hello, everyone. I think right now the best thing for all Indiana is that we're on the upswing. When we're in practice, when we're recruiting, when we're planning, we really feel good about the direction, and the team is getting better. The program's moving forward. The program has always been in great shape. It's just that our teams are going to take a little time to get back up to speed.
But we're really trying to be focused I think for the most part on three things right now as we start our season. And number one, the biggest thing for us right now is to sustain energy, effort, a level of competition. That's the stuff that you have to work so hard with, with a young team.
And they have great attitudes, but they just don't know how hard they have to work for how long they have to work and at the level they have to work. So that's definitely taken some time.
I think, number two, we're trying to focus on them trying to understand exactly what Indiana basketball means to us in the sense of how we want it to be on the court, the style of play that we want to have, the ability to be up-tempo, the ability to get the ball up the court after misses and makes on the break, the relentlessness that goes into being an excellent rebounding team and a steadfast defensive team and the ball movement that has to go on the offensive end. So we're working hard on that.
I think another big thing we never want to lose sight of, and this was the one thing that became very apparent last year to our guys, is that it's a constant quest and desire for improvement. And irregardless if it's practice, individual instruction sessions right now that we're using with them and during the mornings or at night, that they are constantly being monitored and measured and pushed and prodded to get better.
And not only improve as a team on the practice court, and hopefully in the games, but improve as individual players throughout the season.
So those are the three biggest things that we're focused on. We see competition at every position right now. And unfortunately Jeremiah Rivers is not on this trip. I'm sure J.D. might have made that clear. He sustained an injury yesterday in his face in a pick-and-roll situation. He ran into an elbow and we decided to keep him back, let him fully recover.

Q. For a team on the upswing, how difficult is it to move up in this league, given the state of it right now?
COACH CREAN: Well, I think upswing in relevance to us is that we feel like every part of it is better. But that really may not be relevant to where the rest of the league is. When you look at this morning there's five teams in the U.S.A. Today top 25 that are in the top 20, and then we look at the teams we're playing in the nonconference, there's no question it's going to be a challenge to move forward.
Everybody is well coached. Everybody has players back or teams back that are incredibly balanced or have that style power.
So there's no question that it's going to be hard to move up. But that's not our focus right now. The focus is how much better we can improve and let's see where that takes us.

Q. Kind of following up on that, you were in the Big East for a while. Does it feel somewhat similar to that in the ability to move up and kind of the struggle there?
COACH CREAN: They're two different leagues, and really I haven't been in this league long enough to compare the two. So it wouldn't be relevant from where I sit.
But the Big East was outstanding, is outstanding, with a lot of excellent basketball teams and certainly the big ten. This year especially on paper as we go into the season looks to be as good as any league with what you look at in the form of coaches, returners, pass successes, things of that nature.

Q. Would you be in favor of a 20-game Big Ten schedule so everyone just plays each other twice and no one gets an advantage of having to play one person once?
COACH CREAN: I never really thought of that. So I really couldn't answer that at this point.

Q. Can you describe the relationship you have now with the high school coaches, how have you been received and how do you feel your recruiting in the state of Indiana is coming along?
COACH CREAN: I think it's really growing. I think it goes without saying that over a period of time we might have lost a generation not only of fans but of recruits. And I think we were products of this at Marquette in our recruiting of Dominic James. Good, bad or indifferent, a lot of very good players have left the state. And that's still happening to a degree.
There were a few players in the 10 class that we really never had an opportunity to recruit for one reason or another. There were some others that chose to go other places, some that we chose not to recruit. But what we're trying to do in the classes of 11, 12, 13, moving forward, is really be factors in their recruiting and their lives and getting them on campus and being in to see them.
I mean, there were numerous ninth and tenth graders last year that we maxed out our seven looks on. And a lot of those cases I personally made those seven looks. So we're trying to really get it established between myself as the head coach, outstanding staff that I have, that we really want to be -- we want it to be the Indiana that their coaches and the high school coaches that you referenced to have grown up on, that their parents are used to seeing.
And it's going to take some time to get that because some other programs have come into the state and done an outstanding job. Purdue's done an outstanding job. Notre Dame's done an outstanding job. Look at what Butler and some of the other schools in the state have done, and then you've got people all across the country that have come into the state.
So we're certainly not going to get them all, but I think as time goes on I have no doubt that we'll be a major factor again in the state and people will want to have their players at Indiana.

Q. Bruce Weber talked about the league being a little bit better this year, and it seems like a lot of that strength is at the guard position. So what do you expect to see?
COACH CREAN: Bruce Weber said what about the league?

Q. He's talking about the league getting a little bit better this year and it seems like a lot of that strength is at the guard position. What do you expect to see from that?
COACH CREAN: I think again it's a balanced league. I think it's balanced with teams. I think it's balanced with front line and guard play, and certainly when you look at some of the guards in this league, you know, and he's got one and certainly Michigan State with Kalin Lucas and Manny Harris, we can go down the line.
I don't have enough time to go down every guard with the next coach coming on. But there's no question there's great guard play. You've got as good a swing man in the country as there is in Evan Turner, and the front lines get a lot of credit probably in the Midwest from year to year in the Big Ten, but they probably don't get enough credit nationally.
So I think from top to bottom this league is full of star power. It's full of the balance that we're talking about, and it's hard to look on the schedule and see any team that doesn't have a guard that can't carry their team.

Q. How bad is Jeremiah's injury? And is this another one you can blame on Tijan or --
COACH CREAN: No, this just happened in practice. Actually it's the other part, Bawa Muniru got hit himself, so he's learning from Tijan. They're buddies, but, no, it was -- he was on his own team. He was setting a pick and roll in the corner and it just was a very tightly contested play and it was just an accident.
But Tijan's made enormous strides. He really has. He's challenging for a spot in the rotation and that will surprise those of you that saw us play last year. But once you see him play some more this year, it may not surprise you as well. And Bawa continues to learn a great deal. And, again, it's all part of the competition of the team. And it's part of that tough play in practice. But this was totally an accident.

Q. The fact that all the First Team members were all sophomores last year and they all came back for their junior season, are we starting to see a change in the tide as far as kids staying in school longer instead of going pro early?
COACH CREAN: No, I think every case is different. I think as soon as you start to think that it's going to be one way or it's going to be -- it's going to be status quo, it will change in a heartbeat.
Every case is different. And I'm sure that every player that stayed in college, whether it's the Big Ten or other places, that were considering going pro, you can certainly say that academics probably played a part in some of it.
But I'm sure draft status and opportunity to move up and that probably had something to do with it as well.

Q. In terms of Devan Dumes, how does he look and what are you looking for from him?
COACH CREAN: He's banged up. We had five guards out at one point in time yesterday in practice, including Verdell who rolled his ankle but is still here today.
Devan tweaked his leg the other day. Maybe the practices are more physical than I realized. But he's made improvements. His ball handling is not what I hoped it would be at this point. But he missed some time in the summer when he had knee surgery.
But it's a great learning experience for our players right now that it's a 365-day-a-year improvement task. And if you're not up to it, somebody is.
And with that being said, Devan has made strides. He's made strides in trying to understand what we want. But it's really a matter of everybody really being on the same page, knowing that we're going to move the basketball. We're going to share the basketball. We're not going to overdribble.
We had a situation Sunday night at the end of practice, and then all through Monday -- you know, some coaches take the practice jerseys away, some coaches take the locker room away when they're not playing well, we took the dribble a way because we were a dribbling-abusive team at that point, and not just Devan but numerous guys.
And we just have to learn how to play. And Devan's in the same position. But he's capable. He can defend at a high level. He's proven that he can get points in this league. He can make shots. And we just need our entire team to stay really focused on how the team gets better.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.

End of FastScripts

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