I’m sure everyone out there is all fired up about the bowl game in a few days, but there are some important notes I thought I’d share with you coming from the basketball front.
IU duo still wowing Hoosier fans
Former IU players Earl Calloway and Rod Wilmont are continuing to enjoy success for the NBDL’s Ft. Wayne Mad Ants.
Entering tonight’s game against the Rio Grand Valley Vipers, Calloway was leading the team in scoring with 16.5 a contest. Wilmont was nipping at his heals, second on the team, with an even 15 points a game.
Kelvin Sampson said he talked with the two over the holidays and added he was happy to see them continuing their basketball careers just a few hours north of where they played their college ball.
“I think it’s great that they’re in Indiana,” he said. “Hoosier fans are everywhere and I’m sure that’s helped ticket sales for that franchise having those kids in Fort Wayne. They’re still chasing their dream, as well they should.”Apparently, Calloway’s run-and-gun style is working just fine for the 4-7 Ants.
From the Recruiting Trail
IU signee Matt Roth continues to inch closer and closer to the Illinois state record for three-pointers.Â According to a story by the Peoria Journal-Star, Roth is only 13 three-pointers away from the mark. He should have plenty of chances this weekend, as he plays four games in the Pelkin Holiday Tournament.
For those of you who haven’t seen a video of Roth yet, he’s quite a shooter. It will be interesting to see how he fits into things next year for Indiana. Here’s a highlight video of him by MidStateHoops.com of a game last month. Remind anyone else of a right-handed Kyle Hornsby?
Also, Tom Pritchard finished with 14 points and six rebounds in the first game of the Beach Ball Classic in Myrtle Beach. His Lakewood St. Edward team walloped Evangelical ChristianÂ 71-47.
That’s about it for now. We’ll keep you updated on the Devin Ebanks situation and any other hoops news.
Bob Otolski and Morris Watts traded stories on the sideline with Varsity Club Assistant Director Mark Deal, who played for IU in the 70s when Otolski and Watts were assistant coaches for Lee Corso.
Otolski, head coach at Illinois State after eight years in Bloomington, retired in Phoenix seven years ago.
Safety Nick Polkâ€™s family, including parents Rick and Laura, was also at practice. They live in Milwaukee, but have been in Arizona since Christmas Day, making a somewhat expensive vacation out of IUâ€™s bowl trip.
â€œItâ€™s worth it,â€ Rick Polk said. â€œFor IU, itâ€™s been a long time coming and we couldnâ€™t miss it.â€
Optimism reigned among the Hoosier supporters.
â€œThis reminds me of when we were big underdogs going against BYU in the Holiday Bowl,â€ Otolski said. â€œPeople were saying, â€œâ€™Why is Indiana coming out here?â€™â€ Our kids were juiced up â€“ which I sense here. I think Indiana has an excellent chance.â€
Well, the Hoosiers have completed their first practice here in Arizona. They traveled out to Desert Mountain High School, a mountain of a school located between several towering mountain, and worked out for almost two hours.
Indiana quarterback Kellen Lewis thought the team wasn’t very sharp, but expected as much. Though Lewis didn’t travel on the late-arriving charter flight Thursday his commercial flight out of Florida went awry and he didn’t arrive until after his teammates.
“It won’t hurt us in the long run,” he said of the long travel day. “Maybe today. Guys might be a little sidetracked. You saw that a little, with the balls sailing high and what not.”
The Indiana football team began practicing at 10:30 a.m. local time today. So far the session has been geared toward getting the team’s rhythm back and working off the sluggishness caused by the long day yesterday. Lots of skeleton drills so far. We’ll have more later on today.
We did have a question earlier today about the total number of tickets Indiana sold out of its 10,500 allotment. The final number, according to spokesman Jeff Keag, was 8,500.
The Indiana football team finally landed in Phoenix at 8:49 p.m.
With a couple of hundred people cheering their arrival, players filed off the plane and walked to a bus that took them the short drive from Phoenix to Tempe.
Coach Bill Lynch hung around for a few minutes for a press conference in a tent next to the runway. Here are a few quotes from Lynch:
We are thrilled to be in Tempe and to represent Indiana University.
Weâ€™ve had, I think, a really good month of preparation for this game…I do think weâ€™ve got a football team thatâ€™s ready to play.
I think you kind of overwhelmed our guys when we pulled in and they saw all of you on the runway. They said look at all the people out there. I think they felt like with us getting here late, the crowd wouldnâ€™t be here so we certainly appreciate it and know the kind of hospitality that weâ€™re in for over the next several days.
I canâ€™t tell you how thrilled we are â€“ not only our football team, but the entire Indiana University nation because thereâ€™s going to be a lot of them here, from the Midwest and from out here that are looking forward to meeting you.
Weâ€™re just thankful to be here. We sat on some buses in the Bloomington airport for four or five hours when we couldnâ€™t get the plane to move……Itâ€™s been a long day, but the kids are resilient. I think itâ€™s been a little bit a part of the whole story of this group and this football team, that theyâ€™ve been through a lot.
At long last, it seems that A.J. Ratliff will finally be dressing and playing for the Hoosiers this season.
In his weekly press conference Thursday, Kelvin Sampson said Ratliff’s injured ankle is doing a lot better and he’ll most likely play Saturday when the Hoosiers host Chicago State.
“If he can play, he’ll play,” Sampson said. “He’s a lot better. If we had a game tonight, he’d play.”
Ratliff’s return, combined with the end of Armon Bassett’s suspension, means the Hoosiers will have all seven guards available for the first time all season.
Sampson added that Eli Holman’s injured left wrist will keep him out of Saturday’s game.
“It would be one thing if it was his right (and non-shooting) wrist,” he said. “But it’s his left, and he’s still in a lot of pain.”
A reporter also asked Sampson if he thought he was team was ready for Big Ten play.
“Absolutely,” he replied.
He said he thought IU has gone through a tough non-conference schedule, citing games against Southern Illinois, Kentucky, Xavier and Georgia Tech. He also said the Connecticut matchup on Jan. 26 will be another stiff test.