INDIANA UNIVERSITY BASKETBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 5, 2018
Q. Talk about the opening with Chicago State and Montana State and how it's going to help you bridge -- this is some really difficult scheduling the rest of this month.
COACH MILLER: It's here. I think college basketball getting ready to tip off, clearly a little bit earlier than ever before, and to open on a Tuesday night instead of normally weekend game is probably a little different. But we'll get into it fast. We have Chicago State on Tuesday, Montana State on Friday. Both teams a little bit unknown as we get into the early part of the season.
And we'll have to be ready to attack, I would say some changing defenses for the first time. And then from a defensive perspective we're really going to have to -- just nuts and bolts here, getting back in transition better, rebounding better and finding a way to play with maybe some unique lineups as well, depending on who is available for the first week health-wise.
So we're excited and I think at the end of the day we're looking forward to another opportunity.
Q. Follow up on your point about maybe some players not being available. Can you give us an idea who's --
COACH MILLER: I think most of them will be game-time decisions. Right now I don't think Race Thompson nor Al Durham will be available for at least this week, maybe both games, due to their lingering issues.
We've got some other guys with some knicky-knack stuff that are going to have to either push through or we'll have to find ways of getting a little bit more rest, because I think once these games start they're not going to stop. And it's just one day after another. We'll have to be ready.
So it's a concern of ours right now. Clearly you don't want to go into the season banged up, but we've sort of hit a little speed bump here in the last seven days with some stuff that's pretty much -- it's knocked some guys out of practice, which has hurt us.
Q. What about you mentioned different defenses. What kinds of things are you expecting there?
COACH MILLER: I would say zone, number one. And then maybe some pressing to zone. Montana State in particular has a philosophy whether they're playing matchup, which is a lot of trading cutters and switching cutters, and that's always problematic at the beginning of the season, especially with young players who haven't seen, so to speak, the changing defenses -- going from one to another and having to be aggressive without thinking.
So we're going to spend some time here the rest of the week here just really spending some time offensively in terms of trying to do a good job, the best we can here early with zone offense and some things that we're not seeing as regular here in the first 20 practices or whatever.
Q. You talk about the nagging injuries and the guys you don't have. Has that prevented you from really paring down what the rotation you think you're going to be able to get to, or is it a manage game by game basis?
COACH MILLER: It's become a little bit problematic because the practice reps and things that we're getting our guys that really haven't been in the games before or our younger players that are being forced into immediate roles. Hopefully we'll get a couple guys back here sooner rather than later and that will help. But it's prevented us from playing, I would say, our top 10.
Q. A double-barrel question a little bit on about health, just where Devonte is. And on Thursday you talked about Rob is a guy who was seizing the opportunity, I think was maybe the term you used with Devonte, a little bit sidelined, how did you see him grow? And as you were able to evaluate his performance on Thursday what did you come away with?
COACH MILLER: Devonte, he's moved back into full go for the first time here. He was involved in some non-contact stuff the last two days. He's been cleared to practice today which hopefully will go well, and knock on wood, he'll be available for the game. That will be a big help for us, especially last game not only having Rob and Romeo, basically having to play as many minutes as they played. They played too many.
And Rob's done a nice job. I think he's well ahead of probably any point guard as a freshman that I've coached just in terms of his demeanor, his smarts and it's on both ends.
He's got to get better clearly, but he's definitely made the most of his time. He's earned trust right away from the staff. And I think that's always a big thing as a young guy.
Q. Looking at that Chicago State roster, looks like their leading scorer is gone from last year. They lose four or five seniors as well. Not only with an unknown going into opening night, how much more difficult does it make it knowing that maybe you don't know what to expect from the opponent, in particular Chicago State?
COACH MILLER: Yeah, without question, new coaching staff. Tons of new players. We're going to have to be really, concentration-wise, just good at what we do in our base stuff. And then as the game goes along we'll try to adjust and make some adjustments based on what they're trying to do.
We'll probably not see a ton of footage on them. And it is a new staff and a new team. So it will be some -- we're going to have to be good at what we do. For the most part, kind of concentrate and execute our system. And we'll go from there.
Q. The first game, just looking at your roster, any couple of themes that makes you look at it, make you tough to deal with for other teams this year?
COACH MILLER: You know, I think we have a lot of different types of combinations that we can play when we're at full strength. And I think just defensively we have some versatility that we don't have to be one-dimensional. I think just being able to play a different style, game in, game out, depending on who we're playing.
And clearly you have a couple guys that you can get in spots where you feel like offensively they can get a play; they can make a play for you. I'm not sure we had a ton of that last year. Obviously J-Mo played right through him primarily. But we've got to be able to play De'Ron more minutes and get him involved because he's good down there. And we have to get Romeo his seams and his opportunities to get to the basket as well. And our guys have to really value the pass.
I think if we're really playing at top speed and really playing well, we're an aggressive team that's delivering the ball to the paint. But it's also being kicked and passed and moved, and we have a lot of different guys touching it. And to me the more guys you have that can impact your team on a given night, the better chance you have of winning when somebody's not playing well. My hope is depth and versatility on both ends.
Q. I know you can only play within the rules, obviously. But when you have a young team like this, how many practices would be enough at this point? Do you wish you had another month to be ready, or what's your thought process there?
COACH MILLER: I guess every coach probably wants a little bit more time to practice. I think practice is something we take a lot of pride in. Obviously you get better as you practice, especially if you're not playing as many minutes in a game. But in all reality, the games teach you what you can and can't do right now. And then you've got to go back to work.
But it's here. Every team in the country is going to start playing. They all start at some level of optimism, and then it becomes reality really where you are and where you gotta go. So for us, we'll find out a little bit more about ourselves tomorrow night.
Q. Thursday, 32 points off 19 turnovers, and I know transition offense is important to you. But is there something about this team that you think maybe can make that something of a theme being able not just to turn opponents over but quickly turn it into points, or is that maybe just kind of what you getting out of Southern Indiana Thursday night?
COACH MILLER: No, really I feel that defense to offense is a priority for us. Not that we're on a hunt to gamble and steal balls, but I think defense to offense is the hardest thing to guard. The better you are on defense, the better your offense can tend to be, especially if a team is turning it over.
And we have a long team. We have a quick team. And I think you have a lot of activity with the way that we try to play. So I think if we're dialed in, defensive stops, certainly we want to take advantage of the numbers game from defense to offense. That's a big theme for us, conversion.
Q. Last week, how much did those guys embrace the roles that they could have this year, the expectations, the load that could be on their shoulders?
COACH MILLER: It's hard. You want those guys to all have their opportunities. Every guy is at a different stage in terms of where they're at, in terms of learning what we want and how we want to do it. And none of them are perfect. But the only way they get better is to have their opportunities to do it under fire.
And I thought it was really important moving forward to, at least Damezi made a couple of shots. I think that made him feel a little better. Obviously he's not perfect. But he's a big, strong kid who can really run, that can stretch the floor for us. He's just got to keep learning the game, not turning it over, and defensively trying to do exactly what we're asking him to do because without question right now we're planning on having to play him a little bit, especially as Jerome is going through some of his health stuff.
So Damezi is a guy that has to step up and be ready. Obviously Rob and Romeo, they've played a ton of minutes early in the season. They've got to get better. It is what little. Everyone's got to get better. But I do think that those guys, as long as they keep improving, all of them can have a chance to help us.
Q. Going off the success you had in transition in the exhibition game, what do you need to do better to get better in the half court? Is it better screening, better cuts --
COACH MILLER: It's just execution. It's execution and don't turn the ball over. That's the big thing for us, it will be execution and screening, just making sure that we get the ball where we want to get to. And if it doesn't work, at that point in time, can we flow and play the game together.
That's where we're struggling the most right now. We're a hodgepodge when things break down and we've got to get organized. Once we get organized I think we have a chance to take a next step offensively. Like I said, our team has to execute, we've got to do things and not turn it over. And if it doesn't work, we have to play out of the post and we have to be able to play off the drive. And I think from there we can get good looks.
Q. On the other side of the coin, talking about the younger guys, what are you looking for from some of your (indiscernible) leadership right now, not only helping out the younger guys during these the opening days of the season but just helping you guys get through these early games?
COACH MILLER: This is the hope, that some of those guys who returned from a year ago are much more prepared to play. I think if you just watch us, unfortunately we had two veteran guards not in either game for the most part. So we haven't got a chance to even get that depth going a little bit.
But I think with Juwan and Justin, they're much more comfortable. Zach, much more comfortable playing. So, I think those guys doing their job, they know it starts defensively with us. We've got to be ready to go. That's that sense of pride, is being able to start the game off and show the way in terms of how hard we have to play. And then from an offensive perspective we've just got to keep working to get chemistry.
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