Indiana eager to get to work with tough schedule ahead

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) The new rule in college basketball allowing teams to begin practice two weeks earlier is one that is being embraced by Indiana coach Tom Crean.

Indiana opens practice for the season on Friday with a pair of workouts and they will be back at work Saturday.

Crean said October will be an important month for his team, which he believes could be facing its most challenging November schedule in his eight seasons in Bloomington. The Hoosiers host Creighton Nov. 19 and then play in the Maui Invitational along with teams including Kansas, UCLA, St. Johns, UNLV, Vanderbilt and Wake Forest. On Dec. 2, Indiana will play at Duke in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

In addition, getting into an earlier practice routine should also benefit a team that went through another tumultuous offseason with three players dismissed for ''not living up to their responsibilities to the program.'' Devin Davis and Hanner Mosquera-Perea were dismissed in May and Emmitt Holt in August.

Crean said his hope is that his team has learned some lessons in shared responsibility.

''Poor choices don't necessarily mean poor character,'' Crean said. ''Poor choices sometimes just mean poor choices. Any parent should be able to attest to that. But I think the bottom line is that they have to understand that there has to be a shared responsibility 24/7 with each of them and that's asking an awful lot. Most people have a hard time with that because you're asking people to really look out for one another in a lot of different ways. And yet, that's where it becomes a family.''

Crean said practice in October will be more about focusing on individual skills rather than planning for specific opponents.

''We really want to make this a great month of training, of building their skills and building their endurance but at the same time try to get them ready for the myriad of things they're going to see as we get into the season,'' he said.

Indiana returns its top five scorers from a team that finished 20-14 overall, 9-9 in the Big Ten and lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to Wichita State.

Crean said the Hoosiers are healthy. He did say that sophomore guard James Blackmon Jr., who averaged 15.7 points last season, is still building back up following surgery in July to repair torn meniscus cartilage in his left knee.

After the departures, Crean said that his three freshmen (Thomas Bryant, Juwan Howard and O.G. Anunoby) as well as fifth-year senior transfer Max Bielfeldt will all be counted on right away. Crean said the newcomers have had a great summer and preseason in terms of strength and conditioning.

''Thomas Bryant raising his vertical nine inches in seven weeks is unlike anything I've ever seen,'' Crean said. ''We've had guys who were here four years and got a lot better and didn't get nine inches in a four-year period.''

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