On his thoughts on this year’s team:
“First off I would like to start by saying that to be a part of anything that’s involving the Gazelle Group is a honor. Starting from my time back at Marquette all the way to this year, we start every tournament with an anticipation and an enthusiasm level that is high because we know we are going to be a part of a first-class event and we are going to be playing excellent teams, and we know it’s going to be at a big-time venue. Our team is excited for this tournament.
We have played four games at home and so far we’ve had a couple big wins and one nail-bitter that came down to a missed shot at the buzzer in the first round of this tournament. I think our guys are really excited to play this week. We are getting better. We can see results week by week and it’s showing game by game. This is going to be a whole different deal for us this week, however, because not only are some guys going on the road for the first time, but because we are going on the road with so many guys that have never been anywhere in college basketball other than Assembly Hall. We are bringing in 11 freshmen and sophomores and we need to look at that excitement and energy level and make sure that it doesn’t override the fact that we have to come in with great intelligence and discipline. We have to try and build an identity from the very beginning of the games.”
On the expectations for Noah Vonleh:
“We see everyday how determined he is to get better. He has a great humility and humbleness because he knows that he has to get a lot better. He wants to keep learning. He has been well coached coming into college and his mother, who is one of the hardest working people I’ve ever met, instilled that into how Noah works. I don’t think any of us are surprised on how he’s preformed so far. We know he has high capabilities and an excellent motor.
"There’s a lot of room for improvement with him. I think his numbers are really impressive, but I think his improvement rate is even more impressive. I think he’s getting more comfortable every day and a lot of that is because he works so hard and he’s learning how to prepare for the games just as he’s learning how to prepare for practice.”
On Vonleh’s game and practice preparation (follow up):
“For an 18 year old who should be a senior in high school, he’s got an uncommon work ethic and an uncommon maturity. He’s a young guy, but at the same time he’s got such a desire to improve. He’s watching film more intently and he’s trying to take away things by watching players he looks up to. At the same time, he’s already played in games where we’ve switched every position and he’s had to guard point guards. Whenever you are throwing a lot of things at a person like that, they have to stay locked-in, and his concentration skills are only going to grow. He continues to gain confidence by the way he’s shooting, by the way he’s working on his moves, and by the way he’s working on his positioning. In practice he’s really, really locked-in to becoming a better defender and becoming more of a range rebounder- a guy that can get out of his area and rebound balls- that’s the next big step for him.”
On what he can learn about his young team by watching them play on such a big stage for the first time:
“How quick they adjust is a big thing. How quickly they can adjust and realize that it’s just basketball. They have to be locked-in to all the details of the offense and defense and the time-out situations. They have to keep their focus. I think a game environment like that just helps build a stronger focus. They can not get caught up in all the trappings of the hype and all those things that go into it, and they have to realize that you can only control what you can control, which is being in the correct stance and getting up and down the court, talking on both offense and defense, being aggressive, and moving without the ball."
On how important the more experienced players will be in this tournament:
“I don’t know if you can rely on them to teach the younger players. The older guys, especially Yogi (Ferrell) and Will (Sheehey), are doing a great job of building their leadership off the court and I think there will be some value to that when we get to New York, but everyone just has to settle in. It doesn’t matter how many games we won on the road last year. Those things help, but when you go through it as a team for the first time it is different for everybody. The young guys will have to get comfortable in their leadership roles when they’re on the road as well.
"You have to give your players the tools they need and try to provide them with the confidence to prepare well. You can’t force it. You just have to let it happen. I think the most important thing for our older guys is how they talk to the young players off the court to keep guys locked-in to what we are there to do.”
On whether or not adding more teams to the Big Ten Conference changes recruiting for Indiana:
“I think it does, but I think it’s already happened, if that makes any sense. For us, we already were recruiting out East. We looked East the first year that I became coach at Indiana and when you look at our team, with the way we are recruiting in the Eastern Seaboard, there is no question that it enhances our efforts when we get to play out there. This isn’t just because Maryland and Rutgers are joining the conference, but because we have so many alums outside of Indiana. Other than the state of Indiana itself, the second largest alumni base for IU is the New York metropolitan area and the DC area is high up there as well. With us having that large base brings a lot of fan support. We love being in big-time events like this. We love the national television exposure and we love playing against great opponents. At Indiana you want to make sure that you have the best players with values that fit your program, and it can be with players who come from smaller towns in Indiana, or it can even be a player from another country. You recruit where you find players you want, but there is no question that being able to recruit in the East is great for us. Next year will be our third year in a row going to New York to play and I think that’s really important for us.”