Fans celebrate “team that brought the fun back”


The line for autographs stretched from a landing on the Assembly Hall concourse ramp, down to the lobby, out the door and around Cook Hall and was constantly moving for about an hour and a half. Not everyone who came for a signature stayed for the awards ceremony, but there were still several hundred fans in the Assembly Hall stands just to watch speeches and videos.

It was just one more microcosm of the relationship the Hoosier fanbase had with this 2011-12 Indiana men’s basketball team, one that will maintain a special place in IU lore despite the fact that it not hang a sixth banner or even reach its ninth Final Four.

Indiana play-by-play broadcaster Don Fischer said during the ceremony that this team “brought the fun back to Indiana basketball,” by reaching the Sweet 16 and knocking off three top five teams just four years after the program imploded amidst the Kelvin Sampson recruiting scandal. Thursday night’s event — which came more than a month after the Hoosiers were eliminated from the NCAA Tournament but just before the end of the semester — was the fans’ last chance to thank this team, and this Hoosier squad’s last chance to return the favor as a unit.

“Tonight, this is probably, in all honesty, the last time we’ll ever all be together in this setting, like this,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said to the crowd before turning to his players. “… I hope you guys take it in. I really do. Take it in. This isn’t the last time you’re going to see each other, but it’s the last time we’re all going to be together like this. (He turned back to the crowd) There’s no way we wanted to do this without all of you. So thank you for being here.”

By the time it was over, every player, every coach and just about every support staff member had the microphone in his hands, trying in some way to express what made this team special and unique. Athletic trainer Tim Garl, who just finished up his 31st season with the staff, had the most blunt assessment of that, but perhaps the most apt.

“What pleases me the most — and the parents should be credited with this — is you don’t come to work in the morning and wonder what knucklehead did something stupid last night and you’ve gotta read it in the paper,” Garl said. “You don’t take kids and say, ‘Hey, there’s a drug test today,’ or something like that and worry about are they going to pass it or not? And if they don’t pass it, what are we going to have to put up with? … Winning is not the only thing. It’s awfully important, but another factor is we have great kids. We have something we can be really proud of.”

Now that this team is off to take its place in Indiana history, the Hoosiers that remain will try to again create something they can have pride in for the 2012-13 campaign. The group will stay just about as in tact as it possibly can. It loses four seniors — possibly five, depending on whether or not Matt Roth uses his fifth year of eligibility — but both IU players who considered leaving the program early for the NBA will return.

Junior forward Christian Watford refused to say where he heard he was projected to be taken in the draft had he left early, but said he felt compelled to stay to help next year’s squad go further.

“I just wanted to come back and be a part of this team,” Watford said. “That’s the main thing why I wanted to come back. I feel like we can do some great things next year. I’ll come back and help build on where we left off from.”

Freshman center Cody Zeller also had the opportunity to play professionally with projections saying he could be a lottery pick. However, the Big Ten’s Co-Freshman Player of the Year and the player voted by the Hoosiers as the team’s Most Outstanding Player wasn’t ready to leave.

“It’s a tough process,” Zeller said. “It’s a lot of money. That’s why a lot of people, a lot of the guys, the Kentucky guys, all those guys left. I’m just not ready to grow up yet. Paying rent or getting a house. Doing all that stuff. Becoming an adult, I’m not ready for all that. I’m enjoying my college career on and off the court. I’m definitely happy to be here.”

The returning Hoosiers have already learned that with those two back, next season will take on a much different dynamic than the one that just passed. The official preseason rankings won’t be out until deep into the fall, but the day after Kentucky won the national championship, numerous publications proclaimed that Indiana should be the favorite for the 2013 national title with its top five scorers returning and a top five recruiting class coming in.

For now, they’re trying to act like that won’t change anything.

“It’s pretty cool,” junior guard Jordan Hulls said. “We’re going to have a bigger target on our back this year, but we can just use that and it doesn’t change our approach one bit. We’re going to work hard every single day. … We’re just going to approach it the same way that we always do.”

But things will change, if for no other reason than that the Hoosiers will lose the players who were part of Crean’s first recruiting class at Indiana, the ones who suffered through a 6-25 season as freshmen. Roth may or may not stay, but Verdell Jones, Tom Pritchard, Daniel Moore and Kory Barnett were a big part of what drove the Hoosiers to end three seasons of losing and what made the team as beloved as it was.

They are the ones who felt it when Crean said the group would never be together again.

“That hit real close to home,” said Jones, who is recovering from his ACL tear in the Big Ten tournament and hoping to hire an agent to play professionally overseas. “These guys have been my brothers for the past four years. Every single day I’ve seen these guys. These are my best friends. We hang out, eat together, do everything together. That’s a big change for me now. I won’t be able to see these guys every single day. It’s real sad, but hopefully I’ll be visiting them soon.”

 
Awards-Voted on by players
Most Outstanding Player — Cody Zeller
Most Improved Player — Will Sheehey, Victor Oladipo, Christian Watford
Leadership Award — Jordan Hulls
Landon Turner Inspiration Award — Verdell Jones III
Toughness And Tenacity Award — Cody Zeller
Mr. Hustle — Will Sheehey
Best Defender — Victor Oladipo
Hoosier Award — Cody Zeller
Student Athlete Award — Remy Abell

AUDIO: Verdell Jones, Cody Zeller, Jordan Hulls, Christian Watford

AUDIO: Awards Ceremony Speeches, Part 1

AUDIO: Part 2

AUDIO: Part 3

AUDIO: Part 4

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56 comments:

  • Chet says:

    That’s so cool. Wish I could have been there. The awards look right about what I would have expected from watching the team, though I had no idea who might win the student-athlete award. Pretty neat that it was a freshman.

  • Rantool says:

    I saw a video of Coach Crean and his coaching staff right there at the head of the table signing autographs, and it really touched me. Selfless acts such as this are why Coach Tom Crean has won me over as a big fan. He leads by example, he is a class act who cares. You know basketball is great, but there are some things even more important. Tom’s leadership in his Christian walk, and his example of selflessness speaks volumes about his charecter and integrity. And that is something that we don’t see much of in college sports today. Kudos to Coach Crean, his staff, and our Indiana Hoosiers. A team we can all be proud of!

  • Cookie says:

    Yes, Tom Crean is an amazing christian man. He is truly a good guy and it is an honor to be an IU fan.

  • Hoosier Clarion says:

    …and because a high energy man owns all those fine traits the program responds positively…hard to defeat leadership through good citizenship…

  • Chet says:

    Here’s what I really like. To put it in context, in the many discussions about Mike Davis one thing was undeniable. He saw IU as a stepping stone and he said so. Indiana didn’t mean anything special to him. CTC speaks and behaves as though he is truly honored to have the opportunity to coach the Hoosiers and he has often stated that he feels he is at the pinnacle of the profession (the polls tend to agree).

    When you stack that on top of the fact that he has produced what’s not to like?

  • Chet says:

    …in all fairness, it probably didn’t mean anything special to Kelvin Sampson, either.

  • Laffy says:

    Seeing as how Davis was CRUCIFIED the SECOND he took the job, why in the WORLD would he think IU was “special”?

  • Oldguy says:

    I didn’t know Laffy was Mike Davis’s mother.

  • who? says:

    Laffy, your martyr complex regarding Davis is getting old. You haven’t provided one iota of proof regarding your claims as to how the fans treated Davis poorly. Were there detractors? Yes. Were some racially motivated? Maybe. Overall I saw a lot of support for Davis and the program after Knight’s termination. The players loved him. They wanted him to be their coach and that is mainly why he got the job if you remember. He may have been ready to be a head coach but he was not ready for the pressure cooker that was IU basketball after Coach Knight’s untimely (although timely) departure. I doubt you will find many situations where anyone has ever replaced a legend and was treated much differently by the fans or the press. That is a tough position to be in.

    To Chet and some others’ points, I clearly remember the interviews and articles where Davis made it plain that he was looking to move to the NBA. Give the whining a rest.

  • Laffy says:

    Yeah, and the constant crying, “Davis didn’t think IU was special” isn’t old at all.

    (rolleyes)

    As far as “proof Davis was treated like crap”, sorry I didn’t archive Peegs or the Star for you.

  • Yoi…
    Why, Dear God why did this have to turn into a Mike Davis discussion?
    I present to you again, my Mike Davis story. Please read it and shaddup about Mike Davis.

    http://www.heraldtimesonline.com/stories/2010/11/10/iusports.qp-6326124.sto

  • who? says:

    Dustin, you invoked God’s name. Now it will turn into either a discussion about ‘forcing religion on us’ or blasphemy… 🙂

  • Chet says:

    who? Now you’ve done it. While I didn’t actually see it, somewhere in your post I’m sure you called him a name, used obscenities, all in the course of a vicious attack on him (the threshold is pretty low).

    (roll ears)

  • Hoosier Clarion says:

    …and much(cracking of knuckles)…

  • BeatPurdue says:

    This will be the most important team in the history of Indiana basketball since the 1987 team hung Banner #5! Indiana is now a top 5 program, a totally clean program, a program of absolutely great kids, excellent coaches and support staff, all of which makes us proud to be part of the Hoosier Nation-“It’s Indiana” (and in four years!)!

  • Chet says:

    You know Indiana is back when the fans are going to be disappointed with anything less than the title (which, unfortunately, I believe is the case).

  • who? says:

    Chet, I have felt that way about IU’s chances every year since 1971! The media and even Vegas have served notice as to what they think of IU. I think CTC has set an ongoing trend of getting good kids who study hard, train hard and play hard. The results are now showing up on as well as off of the court. A well-played and deep tourney run will satisfy me as a fan although I feel the pieces could be in place to contend for a title. How sweet it is to again be thinking of the Hoosiers in those terms.

    I think Dustin hurt Laffy’s feelings. C’mon Laffy, you are a big boy. Set your jaw, grab those pull-ups and yank them high while shouting “Carpe Diem!” or some such.

  • Harvard for Hillbillies says:

    There’s a lot of people that don’t fail drug tests that go home to beat their wives.

    And if you want to be totally honest, probably 50% of the students on the IU campus could fail a drug test on any given weekend(If not a drug test, then most certainly, a sobriety test).

    Be humble in your success instead of using it to remind of others weaker that came before you.

    The topic of Mike Davis: I think Davis though IU was special…maybe more so than Tom Crean. Was it not his first head coaching gig? Is it not possible that the public persona, the using of a rather nonchalant demeanor regarding the pressures of living up to “it’s Indiana,” was a form of deflecting a propensity to get overly consumed with just how important it was to him to prove he could succeed at Indiana?

    Whether he was a capable enough coach to ever take the program to the level an inherently unrealistic fan base at IU would expect of a man thrown into turmoil is up for argument. If Davis would have been given 50% the reinforcing vote of confidence exemplified by the time frame Crean was contractually allowed when he arrived in Bloomington, maybe he has less the “whiner” label many have wanted to attach. Were potential recruits going to be more secure coming to a program that has a short leash on their head coach or with a guy that has been handed a 10-yr. contract? Davis was really never given that fair vote of confidence and it’s very possible it scared away some commitments he could have landed.

    Just because a guy wants to someday coach in the NBA doesn’t mean his heart wasn’t in the task at hand. I never saw anything from Davis that spoke of a man not giving his all to succeed at the job. It’s only our own biases that stand in the way of any claims he was any more or any less invested in Indiana than the “good Christian” from Marquette.

    Let’s always remember Seth Davis is a far bigger whiner than Mike Davis, Kelvin Sampson, and Tom Crean put together. The source of Seth Davis’ hatred for IU is pretty easy to identify. His last NCAA tournament memory of his #1-ranked alma mater falling disappointingly short is rather tainted by a fine group of Hoosiers coached by man that had no business stealing the moment.

  • Laffy says:

    How did Dustin hurt my feelings?

  • Laffy says:

    “You know Indiana is back when the fans are going to be disappointed with anything less than the title (which, unfortunately, I believe is the case)”

    Why is that “unfortunate”? Ask ANY of the great teams of any sport over the last 100 years and they will ALL tell you if they didn’t win a Title, especially when having a GOOD team, they’d be disappointed.

    I hate Kaintuck more than anyone….but at least they don’t settle for mediocrity like some of you do.

  • Harvard for Hillbillies says:

    I simply adore Chet, but I think it should be reminded(at least as it pertains to this thread)that Chet wanted to set the record straight, “put into context” earlier discussions of Mike Davis, before Laffy made it a topic.

    Why throw fuel on a fire unless you want more flame? Are you sure you don’t own a Harley, Chet?

  • who? says:

    “How did Dustin hurt my feelings?” It was a joke!

  • who? says:

    Dustin, what is up with the three number equation for spam protection? Life was hard enough adding two numbers or a numeral and a written number making it kind of like a story problem. My spam protection calculation was 7 + 1 + 10. I figured on it a good while. I wasn’t sure where to place the parentheses or if I needed to add a letter to one of the numbers. Most folks use an ‘a’ or maybe a ‘b’ but I like to use an ‘x’ cause it makes you look smarter. Sometimes I even like to add one of them little bitty numbers above or below the main number just for effect. Man, the chicks dig that! Anyhow, your spam filter didn’t dig any of that and would not let me post. So I had to go ask one of my rotational engineers cause I figured they were up to date on this new math and all. She came up with ’18’ for an answer and it worked! Don’t tell me that today’s youth can’t compete in a modern economy.

    I figured that post made as much sense as some others I have read on here. Friday afternoon and who? is ready for the weekend.

  • Harvard for Hillbillies says:

    Dustin appears to be very concerned with Laffy’s feelings.

  • Harvard for Hillbillies says:

    I actually prefer the Shirley Bassey version(you may know her from Goldfinger).

Comments are closed.

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