BORDEN, Ind. (WDRB) – You know it was a rough basketball season in Bloomington when the Voice of the Hoosiers, Don Fischer, stands up at a gathering of Indiana University boosters a couple of months after the season is over and calls a lot of the negativity he heard the previous season "crap."
He told a group of Hoosier fans gathered at Huber's Orchard and Winery Wednesday night that they owed basketball coach Archie Miller and the IU program their support, which brought a few fans to their feet.
When he got up, Miller told the fans that if they didn’t like some of the things that happened last season, "The person standing before you is more pissed than anybody. Make sure we all understand that. He gets a stern talking to every morning in the mirror. So you don’t have to worry."
In some ways, many in the crowd are probably still trying to understand what happened a season ago, a season that started out in a promising way only to descend into an abysmal spiral of 12 losses in 13 games.
On Wednesday, Miller shifted the focus forward, talking about some newcomers and returnees with expanded roles after the loss of Juwan Morgan and freshman Romeo Langford.
"To me, you have to get old in college basketball," Miller said. "And right now, we’re getting younger."
That’s a natural difficulty when you take over a program. First you work with the players you inherited, then you work with the ones you recruited. Two years out, you can be younger still.
That's one reason Miller hopes Butler transfer Joey Brunk will have a position of influence on his team. With two seasons of eligibility remaining and some Big East experience under his belt, Miller hopes Brunk might bring his team out of its shell in some ways.
"I really feel like Joey Brunk is a really important figure for our team over the next couple of seasons," Miller said. "He’s got a great personality, he's older, he's competitive and has played in the Big East. I think he brings a very dominant and loud voice to the floor and the locker room, and off the floor, where I think he can really be a fire plug for us. We need more of an energy level, a personality. Sometimes when you get young, you get quiet, as you get older, you learn the ropes a little bit."
Miller also said he’s glad to have been able to have some roster flexibility. He’ll take 11 scholarship players into the next season, and he’s fine with that. He said he wouldn’t consider filling another scholarship for next season unless it’s an "impact guy."
"Guys fall out of the sky nowadays. It's nice to be able to catch them," he said. But he also added, "... I think the best chemistry is when everybody is enjoying it. And with 12 or 13 and nobody redshirting or injured, you have some real dynamics to deal with. To go into this season a little thinner on that, gives guys more of a light at the end of the tunnel and they feel a little more purpose and see a little more opportunity.”
For Miller, much of the summer will be looking at combinations of players, figuring out who can play in a big lineup and who might constitute a small one. He also wants his players in the gym working on shooting, and evolving defensively.
"We're going to have to prepare this team to be able to play a couple of different styles," he said. "With that being that one group of people probably won't be able to play one way, but a different group of people obviously will come in and play a different way. They have to have a different feel, especially offensively, when playing different combinations, and I think that will help with our chemistry on the floor. Defensively we are who we are, and we'll continue to grow that area of our game. . . . As we evolve, I think there are a couple of different looks we have to be prepared to play with, small, big, you never know. It's got to be different combinations . . . That'll be a big part of the summer, grouping these guys and figuring out what they can do with one another. . . . We're looking for a big summer of togetherness, continuity, our team just in general, chemistry is something you're always on a quest to deal with. We want our guys clearly heading into the season with a much higher confidence level.”
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