ROSEMONT, Ill. – Indiana coach Tom Crean is trying to teach his players a new language.
That lingo, he said Thursday during the Big Ten basketball media day, is situational basketball. Last year’s Hoosiers were fluid in it, and they proved that many times, including a 72-71 win at Michigan that clinched the Big Ten regular-season title.
This group, though, is full of beginners.
Is that extra work consistent? Crean said. For us, it’s been. But it remains to be seen. It’ll show up when we’re down four with two minutes to go on the road somewhere, or when we’re on an 8-0 run and we’ve got a chance to build up a lead.
New NCAA rules that allowed teams to start practices earlier have helped the Hoosiers, Crean said, but many are still adjusting to the new pace and concepts of the college game.
All of the six incoming freshmen have missed time because of injuries. That has set them back some, and Crean said a practice Wednesday served as a perfect example of how much IU has yet to learn.
I mean, we’re doing situation work, what we do with a couple of seconds on the clock, side out. Couple seconds full court, couple seconds underneath.
And it’s just completely speaking a foreign language. I mean, completely. And that was something last year, we won the championship because we understood how to play situation basketball.
Class is in session for newcomers and old faces alike.
In their first exhibition game, some of the jitters and rough spots showed.
Freshman forward Noah Vonleh had nine points and 12 rebounds but was 0 for 5 on free throws. Troy Williams, another freshman, had 10 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks but was 4 for 12 from the field.
As a team, IU was just 58.1 percent from the free-throw line. Little things like that loom large against regular-season competition.
Crean, however, is not concerned. He said his players will study up and get up to speed.
The one thing that you hope doesn’t happen, with our fans or with any fan, is that they start making judgments on one instance, one situation, one game, he said. Noah Vonleh is 18 years old and two months. Troy Williams just got his right hand back (after an injury) and still doesn’t have full strength and mobility of it because he’s still wearing casting on it.
It’s going to take time.
And there’s never enough time, Crean said. This year in particular, despite the extended practice period, it seems that way. There’s just so much to teach, and there have been so many minor setbacks.
Ready or not, the first test is coming Nov. 8.
It’s great to have this kind of time with them, Crean said. We’re going to need every bit of it.