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BOZICH | Indiana's Tom Crean talks injuries, expectations and Bellarmine at Big Ten media day

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Tom Crean spoke at Big Ten media day Thursday. Tom Crean spoke at Big Ten media day Thursday.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Big Ten basketball coaches as well as the top players in the league gathered in Chicago Thursday for the league’s annual media day.

Two Indiana players – guards Yogi Ferrell and James Blackmon Jr. – were named to the Big Ten’s 10-player pre-season all-conference team. Indiana was also ranked 15th in the USA Today college coaches pre-season poll.

Courtesy of the Big Ten and Caption Northwest Inc., here is a transcript of the comments that Indiana coach Tom Crean made at the event.

TOM CREAN: We’re excited. And we're excited to be in practice. Although right now we're the product of injuries, and we've got a long way to go to get our depth where it needs to be to be considered an upper echelon team in this league, from my estimation.

“With Thomas Bryant who has had a great summer for us. I've never had anybody that made the jumps he made athletically. He went up nine inches in his vertical jump in seven weeks and got guys that have not gone nine inches in four years. And need him to get a lot stronger.

“He's only practiced one day for us so far, full practice, because he had a sore arch in his foot. So we, basically, kept him out. And he's just starting to come back now in a little bit of noncontact work. Collin Hartman is our really only returning guy on the front line at 6'6". And he took a charge the other day on Troy Williams.

“First off, I'd never seen Troy jump higher. And I'd never seen a guy be more valiant in taking a charge. He took a knee right inside of his chest. Troy, who could charge -- and I wish he wouldn't have, because he's going to be out for a little bit, because he took some shots to the ribs that are sore for him. So we're really dealing with our old dog team.

“We're trying to get our young freshmen adjusted. Max Bielfeldt has been a tremendous addition to our team. But we've got a long way to go when it comes to getting that durability and that resiliency that we're going to need to be successful. But I'm excited to work with them. They have a great attitude. Their work ethic is outstanding. Our spring, summer, and fall of training and conditioning has been excellent.

“And here we go. So we're -- we knew this was going to be a great league from top to bottom. And we've just got a long ways to go before we can get into that group where we feel good about it.”

QUESTION: When you mentioned wanting to get to the depth where you wanted, Coach McCaffery talked about maybe needing 10 players at least in this league. Where would you like to see your depth? COACH

CREAN: “We would want to have a true two deep. We're two deep at every position. We want two deep not where the coaches see it two deep, but one where the players know it is. And, based on the fact that they've got to bring their very best in and it's very competitive.

“We're not there right now. And, hopefully, we'll be able to get to that. That's why improvement for our team, especially with our freshmen and sophomores, is going to be imperative that we can get to that point.

QUESTION: Coach, the last two years you've been right around the middle of the pack in the Big Ten. I just wonder what the challenge is like in this league to take your program from that position to upper third. What does it take to get from the middle to the top?

CREAN: “That's a great question. It all comes down to consistency. The consistency has got to come through injuries and it's got to come through some losses, especially in this league. And it's being able to rebound quickly, figuratively, in the sense of being able to withstand all the different challenges that come inside.

“But, to me, the big characteristics are going to be the mental toughness you've just got to be able to play with. And you've got to be able to control the paint, which means you've got to get layups and you've got to get to the free throw line. At the same time you've got to be able to challenge the rim and keep on the teams from having a real high field goal percentage inside that paint area.

“If you look at the history of this league, especially the last few years, it's high shooting percentages. It's low turnovers. It's very good defensive fields goal percentages. And the top teams are always right there at the rebound percentage or rebound margin areas. Those are the things. Those are the toughest things to deal with and the consistent things that have to be done. I think that's what it is.

QUESTION: Coach, when what do you have to say about the comparisons being made between Yogi and Melo Trimble?

CREAN: “I haven't heard those. So I don't have much to say about those comparisons. Melo is a tremendous player in his own right, and I wouldn't trade Yogi for any other guy in the country.”

QUESTION: I know you've had great freshmen before. But have you ever had a freshman who was relied upon to sort of change the dynamic of the team as much as Thomas?

CREAN: “Yeah. Cody Zeller. That was a big one. He was going to be -- he just made everybody around him better. He had great confidence and was highly skilled. And he just made a difference in the older guys. Derek Elston, Jordan Hulls. It was at the time when Victor Oladipo was really taking off.

“Thomas Bryant is a different player. He's got a tremendous athleticism. The one thing he does -- we could see it yesterday a little bit in the 5 on 0. The greatest compliment I can give him is he practiced the first day. We went twice the first day. We held him up second day on, and we missed him every day.

“We could tell he wasn't out there. Not just because of the way what he scores in rebounds but because his energy is so infectious. I think he brings -- the players have a high level of confidence in him. He's got a tremendous work ethic. And he knew he had to get better. And that energy that he brings his teammates is at another place. I think that's where he'll impact our team in a great way. Hopefully, in a great way as soon as we get him healthy.”

QUESTION: You have a very unique, challenging non-conference schedule. Can you talk about that and how a schedule like that prepares you for what you're going to face?

CREAN: “I think it starts with our exhibitions with Ottawa. They put 13 3s on us a year ago in our Montreal trip. That may not mean much to many, but it means something to us because it's the one game we lost. And we knew that they would challenge us big time on the perimeter.

“And the fact that Bellarmine will probably be one of the season ranked number 1 in the country Division II. And they can beat you half court. They can beat you in physicality. I think it's a great microcosm of what our season is going to be like, we're going to play tremendous teams with great speed and quickness.

“And we're going to play teams that battle you and make it a half-court game. And I think that's what we'll see whether we're in Maui opening up with Wake Forest or we go to Duke. We play Creighton before we go to Maui, which will be a wide open game with the way they shoot the ball and space the floor. We have Notre Dame later on. I think this is -- I don't remember us having a tougher one in my eight years on paper.

“But, at the same time, I don't know if the league has been this good from top to bottom and by years, just looking at it. Again, it's on paper a lot of things have to play out. But the Big Ten is far and away -- when you look at the teams coming back, the coaches coaching the teams, star power of the young guys, the versatility of the teams and the experience of the teams, this is as good as it's been. I can't imagine there's a better one in the country.”

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