Friday, March 12, 2010

Hoosiers To Power Up in Off-Season

So what do you do, if you’re Indiana coach Tom Crean, and you’re coming off the two worst seasons in program history?

You lift weights, of course.

Prayer, by the way, is a nice second option.

The lifting refers to Hoosier players, although Crean could use some weight training to relieve stress and regain the weight he lost during this 10-21 season (16-46 in his two years in Bloomington).

All the Hoosiers need a heave dose of lifting that strength coach Jeff Watkinson will devise for them. It figures to start right after they return from spring break. Players need to get bigger and stronger

Why? If you have to ask, you’ll never understand.

Guard Jordan Hulls, Verdell Jones and Christian Watford, in particular, need big gains in this area, although no player is immune.

“They have to mature their bodies,” Crean said. “We’re not strong enough yet to hold people off, body up people on cuts and drives. Our bodies have to take a different look. That’s why, from Year 1 to Year 2, is such a big jump. Our ability to get stronger is very important.”

For the record, while Crean has just finished his second season, in so many ways it was his first season. Last year was just survival after Crean had to gut the program to get rid of all the Kelvin Sampson-era players who didn’t understand the concept of going to class and doing the right things all the time, or even half the time. This season was, in reality, the first year of his rebuilding.

Figure at least two more seasons are needed to get IU back to national relevance.

Anyway, there is another aspect that is more important than getting stronger.

“WILL is the biggest word in my mind,” Crean said. “We need to develop a bigger defensive and offensive will. We have to develop a toughness. We’ve made strides, but we don’t have close to the physical and mental toughness we need to have.”

Crean has pounded that theme all season. The problem -- you can’t force feed maturity. Well, you can try, but time and experience are the key ingredients. The Hoosiers got 31 games worth of experience and will have six months to build strength and develop their skills.

The importance of recruiting better, tougher players can’t be over stated. It is the No. 1 way to turn this around fast. Look for Crean to add some players to next year’s class of guards Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey. Right now IU is set to lose three seniors (Devan Dumes, Tijan Jobe and Steven Gambles). Don’t be surprised if others move on, either by their choice, or the coaches.

As far as recruiting, forward Abraham Moses is set to make a decision on Sunday, and IU is in the mix. Unfortunately for the Hoosiers, so are powers Georgetown (the favorite), Kentucky, Maryland, Tennessee, UCLA, Florida and Seton Hall.

Hey, nobody said this would be easy. But then, nothing worthwhile ever is.

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