Crean remains lighthearted amid Hoosier Hysteria
Tom Crean didn't want last season to end and now he can't wait to get season No. 2 started. The Indiana coach, who spent his first season in Bloomington working tirelessly on the biggest rebuilding project of his career, wants to open practice Friday night with a lighthearted touch. "My wife has been telling me for about 60 straight days, 'Don't try to get something out of it. Quit trying to run drills. Make it entertaining for the fans,"' Crean said. "So I'm trying to listen to her on that. We're excited for it to be here." Hoosier Hysteria will include some of the traditional opening night features, such as 3-point shooting and dunk contests, and may include a few new ones. But for Crean, this is still business. With some of Indiana's highly prized recruits expected to watch the opening practice Friday night, Crean thinks the Hoosiers need to fill every seat to make an impression. "It's a big day, because when you bring recruits in for this, they're not looking to come to a half- to three-quarter filled building that has moderate energy," he said. "They're looking at the people we are recruiting against right now. They can go to their environment and see something fantastic, too. We want this to be top of the line, a major-league event." What can fans, and recruits, expect? Well, another young team for starters - one that hopes to improve on last season's 6-25 record. This is a far different situation, though. A year ago, the Hoosiers were barely recognizable on opening night with only two returnees and eight scholarship players. This season, Indiana has 10 players back, including three seniors - Devan Dumes, Tijan Jobe and Steven Gambles. Still, it's a young group. Dumes is the only returning starter with more than one year of college experience. Sophomore Verdell Jones III is expected to play less at point guard and more at shooting guard or on the wing, and sophomore Tom Pritchard will have more help inside, thanks to an influx of six freshmen. Among those making their first appearances inside Assembly Hall will be 6-foot-9 forwards Derek Elston and Bobby Capobianco and 6-5 guard Maurice Creek. Players have embraced the changes and the competition. "We should be much more exciting to watch," Jones said. "We're going to be getting out, pushing it more. We're all fighting for spots and playing time, too." But the player everyone wants to see is new point guard Jeremiah Rivers, the son of Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who bruised his thigh during fall workouts. The younger Rivers transferred to Indiana from Georgetown last season but sat out the season because of NCAA rules. At 6-5, he gives the Hoosiers more size, better depth, Final Four experience and a penchant for smooth passes and nifty moves. "Leading the (pregame) dance last year was real fun, and it was great for the team," Rivers said. "It hyped them up and helped them forget about some of the negative things. But it's completely different this year with the running and jumping and reaction time. We're still learning, but I think we're much better." And, of course, that's all that really matters to Hoosiers fans. "I didn't want it (last season) to end for the fact that these guys were getting so much better," Crean said. "They were working so hard, they came to practice every day excited. We had our moments. We had games where the roof almost caved in on us and we might not have come back through it, but that never happened. ... With that being said and as much as I was excited to coach, I am anxious. I think all of us our anxious to get that totally behind us and to start this next year."