Bloomington - Tom Crean got his wish Friday night.
An estimated crowd of 10,000 fans, basketball alums, and recruits greeted Crean and his inaugural Hoosier basketball team at IU’s nationally-televised Hoosier Hysteria. The turnout was a positive sign of support for a team that figures to have some difficult days ahead during the season.
Crean knows with a roster virtually devoid of experience and size there will be challenging times to navigate during the next five months. But his hope is the “Hoosier Nation” will continue to show its support throughout the season, much like it did Friday night.
To illustrate that point, Crean turned to a familiar quote from a movie that many IU basketball fans hold near and dear to their heart.
“We're going to do everything we can to make you proud,” Crean said. “Like Norman Dale said, ‘our team is on the floor.’”
That team spent approximately 75 minutes on the floor, culminating in a 12-minute scrimmage. The event began with introductions of not only the current Hoosier team, but also a slew of former IU greats who were in attendance. Among the 20-plus former Hoosiers who made the trip were Mike Woodson, Ted Kitchel, Steve Green, Kyle Hornsby and Todd Lindeman among others.
“It meant a ton (to have the former players back),” Crean said. “For some it might be the first time they’ve been back to Assembly Hall in a long time. I thought it was awesome.”
The alums did more than simply take their courtside seats, though. A handful participated in a tandem 3-point shooting contest, where they were paired with a current Hoosier player. Chris Reynolds, Todd Lindeman and Adam Ahlfeld all competed as alums, but the best alumni effort was turned in by Todd Leary. The IU radio network color commentator teamed with Matt Roth to beat Ahlfeld and Kyle Taber in the final, with Leary relying on an ability to intentionally bank in his 3-pointers from the wing.
“Impressive, wasn’t it?” Crean said of Leary’s performance. “But I was a little more jacked up about Kyle Taber. I haven’t seen him take a shot since April. To see him make a couple was exciting. I want to see him get back out there so bad for him.”
Taber is now within a couple of weeks of returning to the practice floor after off-season knee surgery, and he watched the scrimmage from the sidelines. The Red team defeated the White 33-23 in the scrimmage, paced by 11 points from Devan Dumes and 10 from Verdell Jones. The White team, meanwhile, was led by Malk Story with eight and Nick Williams with seven.
While the evening’s activities were designed more for the enjoyment of the players and the fans, it did provide a valuable opportunity for the young squad to perform in front of a raucous crowd. Dumes is one of the few players with Division I experience, but even he said it was a new experience.
“It was everything I expected and more,” said Dumes, who had approximately 70 family members in attendance for the event. “I’ve never played in front of this many people on a daily basis. They told me it was going to be ridiculous, but I really couldn’t get a feel for it because I hadn’t been around it. As I was around it today, we have true fans.”
Jones, who figures to get plenty of time at point guard this season, echoed Dumes’ thoughts.
“All these fans yelling and screaming, it sent a chill down my spine,” Jones said.
The turnout of fans was also big since IU welcomed a handful of recruits to town as well. Among those who were in attendance were 2009 commits Jordan Hulls, Bobby Capobianco, Christian Watford and Derek Elston, along with younger players such as 2011 commit Matt Carlino, Cody Zeller, Spencer Turner, Brandon Mobley and Aaron Cosby.
“It’s huge,” Crean said. “We had a ton of recruits here. Whether they’re committed or not, looking into the future, that’s big. They get a chance to see what we’re talking about which is this crowd and this tradition is second to none.”
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