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Yes, Indiana is not taking an exotic summer basketball trip, such as Kentucky is doing with the Bahamas this month.
Coach Tom Crean is fine with Montreal, and not just because it's one of the coolest (in all meanings of the word) major cities in North America.
He's looking to build a young team through strong competition. And the five games the Hoosiers have set up in Canada -- they open tonight against Laval University -- represent a formidable challenge. Ottawa University and Carleton University are two of the top college programs in Canada. Laval, McGill and the University of Quebec all feature older, more experienced players than IU's sophomore-freshman-dominated squad.
"The bottom line is how you impact winning," Crean said in an IU video.
“(This is an event) where we can really see where we're at, get a very strong evaluation of what our skills are, what our skills need to be better at to start the season, what our strengths are and what we're going to have to overcome.”
Crean emphasized that this was not a vacation, but a “business trip,” although he added he wants the Hoosiers to have fun and has some non-basketball things planned. Still, IU is building for major improvement after last season's 17-15 disappointment, and this six-day event will help.
“You're constantly starting at square one with your team and we've started at square one with the fundamentals,” Crean said. “At least 20 minutes (in Thursday's practice) was pivoting, passing, catching and layups. The bottom line for our program is improvement and the fundamentals are the core of improvement.”
IU figures to use a small, quick lineup this season. It could have as many as five guards on the floor, certainly three or four. Veteran guard Yogi Ferrell is the catalyst, with a lot of help coming from a strong freshman class led by James Blackmon, the former Bishop Luers standout who rates as one of the top freshman shooters in the country.
Crean has one fundamental message for this young team -- little things matter. Program standards are emphasized non-stop.
“We don't rest on our shorts when we're tired, we grab our hips," Crean said. "When a teammate goes to the ground, we sprint over to pick him up. When we come off the bench, we sprint off that bench. When we huddle, we rush into a huddle. We talk on defense.
“The details and the fundamentals are constant and ongoing. That's where success comes from.”