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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Indiana opens practice with plenty of questions

Friday, October 17, 2008

By MICHAEL MAROT

AP Sports Writer

BLOOMINGTON -- Tom Crean gave fans an inside glimpse into Indiana basketball Friday night.

There was the practice in front of about 8,000 fans and a lengthy video that revved up the crowd with some unusual antics -- flipping tires over and over on a football field, running while tied together on a rope, throwing heavy balls and performing karate moves.

It was meet-the-new Hoosiers night in Bloomington.

"It's an honor, it's a privilege to give our team to you tonight," Indiana's first-year coach said before practice started. "It's been an interesting last 6 1/2 months, and we've been looking forward to this day for a long time without knowing whether it would come. But here it is!"

For Crean, the fifth man to hold the title of Indiana coach this decade, it marked the first time he saw Assembly Hall in all its glory. He walked onto the court clapping and waving to the crowd, and eventually fans started chanting his name.

The symbolism wasn't lost on Crean. He can, finally, concentrate on basketball.

After enduring months of a major housecleaning project, questions and uncertainty, most of the Hoosiers made their home-court debut in front of the fans. And, for the first time, Indiana's passionate fans started putting names with faces.

"It's so exciting because we've grown up with Indiana basketball," said freshman Natalie Warner, who went to high school in Indianapolis. "I think it's just something we have to get past. It's a fresh start, and I don't know any of the players. But we just got our season tickets and we're so excited."

Some of the festivities were similar to what fans had seen in the past.

The pep band played its most popular tunes, fans chanted with the cheerleaders, there was plenty of flag-waving and cheering, and ESPNU and the Big Ten Network both televised the workout. Like last year, the men's and women's practices also were preceded by a volleyball match.

But usually at Hoosier Hysteria, Indiana's version of midnight madness, fans talk about winning Big Ten titles and making deep NCAA tournament runs. On Friday, they were talking about being scrappy and simply winning games.

That's the plight of Indiana's rebuilding program following a phone-call scandal that brought an end to Kelvin Sampson's brief tenure and forced major changes throughout the athletic department.

The school is still awaiting an NCAA ruling on the case.

The most noticeable difference, however, is Indiana's roster. Only two players return from last season.

Indiana has only one senior and five walk-ons, and many came just to see all these newcomers.

"I've always known the players," said 54-year-old Bill Pfrommer, a Bloomington resident and Hoosiers fan since 1960. "Tonight, I don't know any of them. I want to see the excitement, coach Crean and I'm ready for a resurgence."

Crean is ready, too, although he's pleaded with fans for patience -- a point he reiterated Friday night before the practice.

Fans understand.

"I don't expect us to go to a championship," freshman Alexis Burke said. "But I want to see them win some games and play well."

The lower expectations did not dampen spirits.

Many wore T-shirts bearing the words Crean and Crimson, a play on the school colors -- cream and crimson -- and some wore the Hoosiers trademark candy-striped red-and-white pants. They even started doing the wave.

But the connections to Indiana basketball ran through every event, including the volleyball match, Friday.

The daughters of Kent Benson, starting center on Indiana's unbeaten team in 1976, and Mike Woodson, who still ranks among the school's career scoring leaders, helped the Hoosiers win in four sets over Ohio State.

Woodson, who now coaches the Atlanta Hawks, offered advice to Crean and the Hoosiers.

"The only way you can go is up," Woodson said. "They've got a great guy in Tom and, I think once he gets the players here -- and no disrespect to the players who are here -- but there's a learning process you go through, and I went through it in Atlanta. They'll get better."



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