“I probably wouldn’t put it in the Sharpie pen just yet, but I might use a fountain pen that we’re probably going to start a freshman,” Crean said. “That’s probably what’s going to happen ... The battles are on. The battles are on. All of our players realize that. You’ve got to bring it.”
If Crean’s premonitions prove true, it will be far from the only change in this year’s incarnation of IU basketball.
Crean, entering his fifth season as IU’s coach, touched on a variety of topics in his Thursday evening address of students and the public at the IU Auditorium. From family values of education instilled in his youth to his high hopes for IU football to the mysterious energy drink in his water bottle during games, any subject was ripe for discussion before the cheering crowd awash in red.
Eventually, though, talk turned to the upcoming season, Crean’s voice booming through the auditorium as he described his visions for the year, including a speedier offensive tempo.
“I see all this great Hoosier gear out there and these candy-striped pants they can’t keep in stores,” Crean said. “You want to start something? Go find a neck brace, put them in candy stripes and sell those. Some people are going to need them if we play as fast as we really hope we’re going to play.”
Running will be nothing new to the Hoosiers this season, especially after their offseason training work. Among that regimen was the VO2 Max treadmill test, an endurance challenge employed by Crean in his past coaching stops and by previous IU coaches for many years.
Crean said junior forward Will Sheehey shattered the previous school record, staying on the speeding belt for more than 14 minutes before jumping off emphatically.
“A couple guys that were in there, they were convinced he could go another 30, 45 seconds to a minute,” Crean said.
Crean said Sheehey and sophomore forward Cody Zeller, a frequent name in early national player of the year chatter, were neck-and-neck as the players who have made the greatest strides this offseason with junior guard Victor Oladipo not far behind.
“(Zeller) is so good in his fundamentals and so secure at reading and not predetermining what’s going to happen that he just takes his game to another level,” Crean said. “If your best player, a guy like Cody, can lead the way with that fundamental improvement, then everybody else has got no excuse. That’s exactly what’s happened.”
Crean touched several times on the team’s four freshmen, especially point guard Yogi Ferrell, a candidate to take over the starting spot vacated by the graduated Verdell Jones III.
“He’s had to come in here and now, all of a sudden, he has to guard people one-on-one full court in our drills, and man, it’s not even September yet when we’re starting that. He’s doing it,” Crean said.
The coach did not shy away from another notable difference for the coming season either.
The first question of the night asked for Crean’s thoughts on if and when the annual series against Kentucky might be revived. The two teams will not play this season for the first time since 1968. Crean was effusive in his belief that the series will eventually return in a home-and-home format.
“We’re just going to sit here and wait for them to come to their senses,” Crean said.
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