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My Two Cents: Confident Miller Kopp Off to Much-Needed Good Start For Hoosiers

Miller Kopp is shooting 53 percent from three-point range through four games, and he's playing well during Indiana's 4-0 start. He may not be Indiana's most important player, but he is when the ball is in his hands. He's Indiana's best perimeter shooter, and they need him to play well to win titles this year.
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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — The gripes about Miller Kopp come from every corner of Hoosier Nation, from the sports bars in Fishers, to the frat houses in Bloomington to the mom's basements in Batesville and a lot of spots in between.

The senior transfer from Northwestern who's playing his fifth season of college basketball this year at Indiana probably gets criticized more than any player on the Hoosiers' roster. There is some merit to it, because the last half of his 2022 season wasn't very good, especially in Indiana losses where they could have used a little more help from him.

But the criticism that's been sent Kopp's way so far this season has been unwarranted. Through four games — all wins that Kopp has played a key role in — he's actually been very good.

And the Hoosiers are a better team for it. 

And your criticism? Well, it really doesn't matter. It has no value. Mike Woodson's opinion? That matters. And Trayce Jackson-Davis' opinion? That matters a lot more, too.

And they are very happy with Miller Kopp right now. With good reason.

Through four games, he is 9-for-17 from three-point range, an impressive 52.9 percent clip that is tops in the Big Ten through the first two weeks. The eight long balls he's missed have all been good looks, too, with nothing being forced. 

"He has been solid. He has had good looks. He has made some shots here and there. I'm comfortable based on where he is,'' Woodson said. "I expect him to make shots when he has them. He put the ball on the floor a couple of times tonight and made a couple of plays at the rim. So, hey, that's progress based on where he started when we first got him and where he is today.

"It's very nice because he's put in the work. He's put in a lot of time this summer shooting the basketball. When we all got together, he makes them in practice. So I'm not shocked that he's making them now in the game. He's in a good space mentally-wise, and it's kind of nice to see him knocking them down because it helps us.''

Miller Kopp scores on a drive to the basket on Sunday against Miami of Ohio. (Photo courtesy of IU Athletics)

Miller Kopp scores on a drive to the basket on Sunday against Miami of Ohio. (Photo courtesy of IU Athletics)

There's no denying that quality play from Kopp makes this a very dangerous team. This team is built around getting the ball inside, to Jackson-Davis for sure and also to an emerging Malik Reneau.

But it's also important to knock down shots when the double teams come, and that's where Kopp comes in. Jackson-Davis has unwavering faith in him, and there was no better proof of that on Friday night in the big road win over Xavier. Despite being just 1-for-7 from the field at the time and lots of people wondering why he was still out of the court, Jackson-Davis hit him out of a double-team and Kopp nailed a three from the left corner, giving the Hoosiers an eight-point lead that turned out to be enough.

"I told Miller to keep shooting, keep firing, because I knew he was going to hit a big one,'' Jackson-Davis said. "I knew he was going to stick it. I was running back on defense before he even caught the ball.''

Kopp had 10 points on Sunday in the Hoosiers' 86-56 win over Miami of Ohio. He had two threes, and a pair of floaters in the lane. You saw lots of smiles on the court, and lots of clowning afterward. He looks happy, and he's playing loose.

Indiana needs that, desperately. He is a better player this year, in many ways. A second year in the system certainly helps with the comfort level, but so does a crazy-good work ethic.

"I think for me, this summer was a big focus. Obviously you always want to shoot better. You can always dribble better. You can always just be better,'' Kopp said. "Going into the offseason, it was big for me just focusing on getting reps and mentally being cognitive of how big mentally shooting is and shooting is mentally, I guess.''

Miller Kopp wags his tongue while running upcourt after hitting a three-pointer on Sunday at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. (Photo courtesy of IU Athletics)

Miller Kopp wags his tongue while running upcourt after hitting a three-pointer on Sunday at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. (Photo courtesy of IU Athletics)

He's also having fun, which is a good thing, too. Playing with less stress is a big thing, something that any pure shooter will tell you is true. Having postgame fun with the media is a thing now, too. 

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Some days it's golf ... some days it's cooking chicken.

Yeah, it's all OK.

"I did a lot of work on my golf swing this summer and tried to get outside and get tan a lot,'' he said with a straight face after hitting four threes against Bethune-Cookman. "So mentally, I think that helped, and I think, if you look at the best basketball players — Michael Jordan, Steph Curry — they all are great golfers too. So I think that helped.''

On Sunday night, he found a way to work chicken into his postgame interview. It came up when asked about freshman Jalen Hood-Schifino learning the ropes and pushing through shooting struggles.

"You know, he puts the work in. It's one of those things where we've all been through it as players,'' Kopp said. "But, you know, you put the work in, and sometimes it doesn't show right when you want it to.

"It's like marinating chicken. You know, you need to let it sit maybe six, eight hours in the fridge maybe and then put it on the grill. It tastes a lot better like that. It's going to come, and the dude works his butt off, so I'm not worried about that.''

Kopp is averaging 9.3 points a game, and just one turnover per game. Granted, the Hoosiers have had three much-expected blowout wins and the huge road win at Xavier, and it's very early. There's a lot of huge challenges to come.

But he's doing what's necessary now, and the Hoosiers are doing good things. The freshmen are coming along nicely, and this entire roster is melding well as a team. Winning Friday night and then turning around less than 48 hours later and winning again was also a good learning experience.

"it's good because the preparation is huge in terms of short turnaround,'' he said. "You see it in the NCAA Tournament and the Big Ten Tournament, so it's good to have it now kind of early in the season even for the young guys to experience that and understand the importance of locking in and washing. You know, having a go-ahead game like against Xavier and then coming back, learning from it, moving on, and then coming to a new game is big.''

There are two more games in the Hoosier Classic, and Indiana should have no problem with Little Rock on Wednesday night, or Jackson State on Friday afternoon, though the quick turnaround will once again be great for postseason prep.

Then it gets serious.

Starting a week from Wednesday, it's No. 1 North Carolina, two Big Ten games — on the road at Rutgers, and home to Nebraska , then No. 14 Arizona in Las Vegas and No. 6 Kansas on the road in Lawrence. 

For Indiana to navigate that hard road, they need Kopp to be a factor every night. Sure, he's never going to be a go-to guy, and that's fine. But keep this in mind, When Jackson-Davis gets double teamed and Kopp is wide open in the corner — he is the go-to guy.

He might be the fifth-most important starter for Indiana, but when the ball is in his hands, that changes.

Mike Woodson says it often about his long and deep roster. When you're out there, you need to perform. Minutes are valuable, and they are earned. 

That's so true of Kopp as well, maybe as much as anyone on this roster. So far so good.

Now, keep it up.

  • INDIANA BEATS MIAMI: Indiana forward Trayce Jackson-Davis had 17 points and 16 rebounds and eight other Hoosiers scored six points or more as the No. 12 Hoosiers claimed their fourth straight win with an 86-56 win over Miami of Ohio on Sunday in Indianapolis. CLICK HERE
  • MIAMI GETS WORN DOWN: Miami of Ohio hung with Indiana for the majority of the first half, but Redhawks coach Travis Steele thought the Hoosiers' size, strength and athleticism wore his team down as the game went on. Here's Jack's opposing locker room story. CLICK HERE 
  • HOLMES, HULLS REUNITED: Jonathan Holmes and Jordan Hulls were two of Indiana's top high school basketball players at Bloomington South, and they'll be on opposing sidelines as coaches when Miami of Ohio and No. 12 Indiana play at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Ind. on Sunday. CLICK HERE
  • TRAVIS STEELE'S INDIANA ROOTS: Miami of Ohio basketball coach Travis Steele grew up in Danville, Ind. rooting for the Indiana Hoosiers, and later worked on Kelvin Sampson's staff at Indiana. On Sunday at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, he'll coach his Redhawks against Mike Woodson and the No. 12 Hoosiers. CLICK HERE
  • INDIANA ALL-TIME SCORING LIST: Trayce Jackson-Davis was already No. 15 on Indiana's all-time scoring list before he decided to come back for his senior year. Now he's on the move up the scoring list again in 2022-23, and we'll update the scoring list after every game. CLICK HERE
  • INDIANA 2022-23 SCHEDULE: The 2022-2023 Indiana Hoosiers men's basketball schedule is set. Here is the full schedule, with dates, gametimes and TV information, plus links to the stories on the games already played. CLICK HERE