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Everything Indiana basketball said previewing Kent State



Trayce Jackson-Davis, Miller Kopp and Race Thompson discuss Kent State. (

Indiana head coach Mike Woodson and players Trayce Jackson-Davis, Race Thompson and Miller Kopp previewed IU’s matchup against Kent State.

Tip is set for 9:55 pm ET on Friday night.

Below is the full transcript.

Q. Sort of win one, lose one, win one, lose one for the last month or so. I know that’s the nature of the Big Ten schedule and such. Now that you’re here in the NCAA Tournament where it’s one-and-done, what changes in regard to the laser focus and such when you get out on the floor where every possession is going to matter even more now?

TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: I think the biggest thing for us is just preparation. We’ve had a lot of time to prepare, and you’ve just got to take it one game at a time. Obviously it’s a win or go home, so we’ve just got to play as hard as we can each and every game.

It starts with Kent State, and that’s all we’re worried about right now.

Q. Trayce, for you, how do you balance that? Do you think at all about wherever — the reality that wherever this journey ends in the next three weeks, this is the end for you? All you’ve talked about wanting to grow into being a leader, a captain, all the things you’ve accomplished at Indiana, ultimately there’s a time limit on them no matter what. Do you think about it at all? Do you process that? Or do you sort of lock that away?

TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: I really don’t think about it that much honestly. I always just think about being there for my teammates, just taking it all in, and just taking it one game at a time.

Right now we have to focus on Kent State, and if we lose, yes, it is our last game. So that’s all we’ve got to focus on. We can’t focus on anything else past that. They’re a great team, and we’re ready to get to work.

Q. Jay Bilas has picked Kent State to beat you guys. A lot of people doing the brackets have picked against you. Are you guys aware of that, and what’s your response to it?

RACE THOMPSON: It doesn’t really matter. We’ve still got to go out there and play the game. People make brackets for fun, so it’s all fun. But we’re going out there to win the game. That’s the goal at the end of the day.

It doesn’t matter whether people pick us or not. We think we can win any game.

MILLER KOPP: I agree. Like Race said, everybody makes a bracket and picks whatever team they think is going to win, whatever it is. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. All that goes out the window when the ball goes up to start the game.

So for us, it’s about handling what we can control and going from there.

Q. What challenges will Kent State present for you guys?

MILLER KOPP: Kent State is obviously a really good team. They’re obviously in the tournament for a reason. They’ve got some guards that are really good off the bounce and can dribble and score, and our threat, kind of three levels.

Defensively they’re good as well. They junk it up. They run around. They trap. A lot of it seems a little chaotic at times, but it looks like they have a sense of how they’re rotating and stuff.

They’re a good overall team, but at the end of the day, it’s about our principles, and if we stick to our principles, we think we’re going to be in a good spot.

Q. Miller, guard oriented teams that shoot a lot of threes and try to do a lot of kick-outs and such have bothered you guys at times this year. But you’ve seen enough of that now to know. Has the preparation of what all you’ve been through to prepare for this game, is there a lot that you can build on from what you’ve already experienced this year?

MILLER KOPP: I think one of our best attributes as a team and staff is learning from our losses, taking them as lessons, and applying them all to now, I think is the biggest thing.

We’ve played and put ourselves in a position right now to be in this spot, and so we’re going to take every lesson, every loss, and use it now and hopefully use it as a culminated type deal to where that other stuff doesn’t hurt us like it did before.

Q. Trayce, you’ve seen every trick defense there is. What do you expect Kent State to do? Do you expect to be doubled, or do you expect them to mix it up, zone? What do you expect?

TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: I expect it all honestly. I think that just depends on where I catch the ball at. They do heavy digs a lot. They might double from the weak side, but I feel like my passing has gotten so good that they really just can’t come out and just double me and send a guy up because I see it coming, I already know where the ball’s going to go.

So I just think that they’ll mix it up, try to do different things, and hopefully they’ll try to find something that works for them. I’m going to do the same thing. I’m going to try to be aggressive and attack whenever I can. So that’s basically what I think.

Q. Race, looking at Sincere Carry for them, what does he bring to the game? How does it translate on the court? And how important is it to make sure you don’t let that guy go off?

RACE THOMPSON: I think he’s a very good player. Their team goes as he goes a little bit. We know that. We know he’s an aggressive guard and he can get down and score from all three levels, like Miller said earlier.

I think that one of our best attributes is playing team defense, and if we can get our team defense clicking, I think we’ll be in a good spot.

Q. All three of you guys played in that First Four game last year in March and then had to fly across the country to play in that next game. How different has this experience been just in the last couple of days? Do you feel more confident than you did last year?

TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: Absolutely. I think last year was just kind of just a cluster. It was like very, very rushed, as in a sense we were in the Big Ten Tournament and then we just had to get on the road, drive to Dayton, play a game the next day, then fly out that night at 4:00 a.m., get there at 9:00 a.m., do what we’re doing right now, then play a game.

It was just kind of everything was so on top of each other. We didn’t even get a chance to enjoy what being in this tournament and what it’s truly about. So I think just getting here four days early, having preparation, having rest, I think it’s huge for us and our team. I think it will help us for this game.

MILLER KOPP: Obviously we’re in a different spot physically and mentally. We’ve had some time off from the Big Ten Tournament. It hasn’t been such a quick turnaround. Mentally also, there wasn’t the question marks of if we would get in at all, so that’s kind of given us a boost of energy in terms of our preparation too. So it’s definitely a better spot to be in.

Q. For any of you three guys, for a team that doesn’t press a lot, Kent State forces a lot of turnovers, and they’re really good offensively when they do. What makes them tough in terms of just getting up into the ball and forcing those kinds of mistakes?

MILLER KOPP: They’re just super active. They fly around. They usually switch one through four. So in the half-court, I think that’s when they’re at their best defensively when all five guys are kind of connected and moving on a string and flying around.

So they create a lot of turnovers because they come and attack the ball and are kind of unrelenting in terms of how they trap and rotate and defend.

Q. For any of you guys, I wonder what it’s like to play in a program where standards are very high, maybe they haven’t been met in the relatively recent past, you’re bringing that back. Do you embrace trying to be the guys who bring Indiana back to greatness? Is there a special pressure that comes with that? What has that been like?

TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: I wouldn’t necessarily think of it as a pressure, but I do take great pride in what I’ve accomplished here and what I’ve been able to do and just the growth of this program in the last four years from where I started as a freshman to where I am now.

I think I can speak for the two next to me as well. It’s been a long time coming and a long time to get to this moment, but just being here, making the tournament for the second straight time, second time in four or five years, we’ve accomplished a lot. But our story’s not finished yet, so we’ve just got to take it game by game, and it starts with Kent State.

Like we said, they’re a great team, and it’s going to be a battle Friday.

RACE THOMPSON: I would say just pretty much the same thing. We take pride in it. I wouldn’t say there’s pressure. I mean, we love playing basketball, and it’s what we love to do. So we go out there, we just try to give it all we’ve got. This year’s been on our side. So I think we just take great pride in it.

THE MODERATOR: Thanks again for joining us. We have Head Coach Mike Woodson here.

Q. Mike, you’ve referenced those early meetings with Trayce a lot in the last few months. Just how much it meant to you and how much that bond sort of grew in those first days when Trayce first committed to coming back after you got the job. Do you think about that more recognizing that wherever this journey ends ultimately, the finish line is in sight, whether it’s here, next weekend, the weekend after that?

MIKE WOODSON: All I can say to you, it’s been everything to our program. Had he left, to me it would have been just like starting all over again, being a first time coach. For him to make the commitment to come back, it really set the stage for where we are today because he didn’t have to do that. He could have left and went and did his own thing.

But it put us in a better position from a program standpoint, and he and I have been able to develop this relationship and help each other. Yes, it hasn’t been pretty all the time, but that’s a part of coaching.

I would be stupid to sit here and say that I don’t want the best for my players because I don’t think there’s a coach in the world that doesn’t want the best for his players. I only coach one way, and it’s hard for me to change. I push players to play at a high level. That’s important to me.

In doing that, you learn how to be a better basketball player. I have a track record for that. So I thought last season was a great season for him, and this season he’s kind of knocked it out of the park because we’ve rode him all the way to this point.

Q. Kent State ranks among the Top 20, Top 25 teams in the country in forcing turnovers. What’s the secret to you guys not letting them get going on that way and creating easy offense off their defense?

MIKE WOODSON: Well, every night that we play, even when we step on the practice floor, I’m always stressing take care of the basketball. The key to winning and beating any team, you have to defend and rebound the ball, and you can’t turn it over. If you do those three things, you’re going to put yourself in position to win. I don’t care who you play.

Kent State is a great team. They’re well coached. They’ve had a great season up until this point, just like we have. I don’t want to go home, and I’m sure his coach is saying the same thing, he doesn’t want to go home. I want to extend this season as long as we can for Trayce Jackson-Davis and the surrounding pieces because I think that they deserve that.

So in order to get that done, we’ve got to commit for 40 minutes when we step out on that floor tomorrow night and see what happens.

Q. Mike, all those years in the NBA, basically Friday night is another Game 7. The one-and-done aspect of this tournament, what changes for you this week in regards to preparation or what you might do during those 40 minutes knowing that it’s basically another Game 7?

MIKE WOODSON: It’s like do or die. You can’t get around it. And it’s the little things. I put on the board every game, “simple plays win basketball games”, and they do. You can’t over complicate things. You can’t change who you are.

We’ve won a lot of games with our defense this year, and when we’ve added some good offense with our defense, we’ve really, really been good. So tomorrow night, it’s not going to change. We’re playing a damn good basketball team, and we’ve got to come ready and committed, you know what I mean? Because you win, you go on, you lose, you go home, and have to deal with it over the summer and think about all the things you probably should have done to extend your season.

I’m not ready to go home, and I hope the players feel the same way.

Q. You understood the challenges of this job when you took it, but what are the challenges of building a program at a place where the expectations are so high and they really haven’t been met lately. How do you go about sort of incremental growth when everybody is sort of dying for a championship?

MIKE WOODSON: Again, this is not my first go-around. I built a couple of teams — the Hawks, the Knicks — and it’s no different here. Yes, expectations are high, and I knew that coming in. Hell, I played here. They should be high, and it’s okay.

I’m not a coach that’s ever run from a challenge. Yeah, there are always naysayers around you, but if I listen to that, man, I can’t do my job.

Indiana is a big time program. It’s been that way for years. I’m just trying to get them back on top, man. That’s all I care about. It’s not about Mike Woodson. It’s about the players that I coach and this program. That’s what means more to me than anything.

I don’t know how long I’m going to do this, but while I’m doing it, I’ve got to try to put my best foot forward to make sure that we can get back on top.

Q. We’re talking about Kent State’s defense a lot, but look at Sincere Carry, the kid can score. What is it about his game that translates so much, and how important is it to make sure you know where he is at all times on the court?

MIKE WOODSON: Again, it’s Carry, it’s Jacobs, it’s Thomas. They’ve got weapons all over the court. We’ve just got to be solid in what we do. Carry is kind of the guy that drives this team, and he does a lot of good things offensively in terms of getting the ball where it’s got to go, and he can score the basketball.

I don’t think you go into this game saying, hey, you’re just going to stop Carry — I mean, they’ve got some pieces that everybody’s got to be aware of, key match-ups all over the floor that we’ve got to commit for 40 minutes to defend. And then we’ve got to make them play us.

Q. Trayce has given you Player of the Year performance all year long, and Jalen Hood-Schifino has been very good. How important is it for you to get a third or fourth piece offensively that sort of gets up to the next level?

MIKE WOODSON: It’s very important. I think, as we continue this journey tomorrow, and Bates and Miller Kopp and Gallo and Geronimo, the guys that play, Malik, they’ve got to give us more. This tournament over the years has been driven by teams that three and four scorers, two or three guys that can make the long ball consistently.

We’ve been good at times in those areas because when Tamar Bates and Gallo and Geronimo and Malik are playing well and scoring the ball, it’s a deadly combination with our defense, and we’ve been damn good when we’ve been doing that.

So that’s how we’ve got to think going into this tournament. Everybody’s got to do their part. That’s how you advance. Only time will tell.

Q. To expound on Ralph’s question from before, how challenging has NIL made your job over the last two years? Did you ever envision it creating such a sea change throughout college basketball?

MIKE WOODSON: Again, we didn’t have this when I was in school. So for me, me being new at this, there’s a lot of moving pieces that I’m still trying to figure out as a coach.

But the NIL is what it is. It’s very challenging. I don’t deal with the NIL. We have outside people that run our NIL. And I like to think we’re sitting at the top when it comes to the NIL. Based on our support from our Indiana base, which is pretty damn good.

So by me saying we’re sitting at the top, it puts a lot of athletes in a good position when making a decision to come to Indiana University to play basketball or football or whatever sport it may be.

But that’s not what’s driving me. These players understand how I feel about the NIL. You’re going to come play for Mike Woodson, you’re going to have to come to school and get an education and play basketball, and NIL takes care of itself.

Follow Hoosier Illustrated on Twitter @Indiana_FRN to stay up to date on all of the news, updates and coverage of University of Indiana athletics. 


Mike Woodson ‘always looking to better’ Indiana basketball with final available scholarship



The Indiana basketball program has one available scholarship for next season and Mike Woodson is 'always looking to better' the roster. (Rich Janzaruk/Herald-Times-USA TODAY NETWORK)

As Mike Woodson and the Indiana basketball program approach the first segment of summer workouts, its roster is still not full.

Currently, the Hoosiers have one open scholarship for the upcoming season.

On Wednesday, Woodson made it clear — in order to compete at the top of the Big Ten and around the country, he’s ‘always looking to better’ Indiana basketball.

“We’re always looking,” Woodson said of his final scholarship spot. “Based on a lot of the players tonight that might pull out (of the NBA draft), there might be a player that falls through the cracks. I’m watching it closely and I’m always looking to better our team and if we can pick up someone, based on who falls through the cracks, then we will.”

The NBA Draft withdrawal deadline was May 31 at 11:59 pm and while there were some big names announcing their intentions on returning to college, Woodson isn’t going to go for just anybody.

With six new players coming in next season as of now, including three transfers, chemistry, role and fit are incredibly important.

“I mean I got really seven new players and I gotta figure it out in terms of how we gonna play, who can do what,” Woodson said. “So I’m kinda anxious to see this next week. A lot of the guys are coming back this weekend and getting them in the gym and see who can do what.”

The role that Indiana needs to fill is on the perimeter. The Hoosiers are lacking the consistent knockdown shooting it needs in order to raise their ceiling this year. As of now, a lot is being put on the untapped potential of the roster … mainly the young pieces.

Indiana has five-star newcomers in Mackenzie Mgbako and Kel’el Ware. It also has core pieces returning in Xavier Johnson, Trey Galloway and Malik Reneau.

But, Reneau, Mgbako and Ware have combined to start just seven games at the college level.

The talent level is there, as is the versatility — something Indiana hasn’t had from top to bottom on its roster since Woodson took the program over.

When it came down to assembling the roster that is currently constructed, while the Indiana basketball staff had full control of the players incoming, there will be a taste of what Xavier Johnson wanted as well.

“Yeah, he asked me who I was interested in and I told him and we got a couple of the guys that I actually liked,” Johnson said. “We built a solid, solid team coming in.

“I would say from my watch, I think we have a pretty — a pretty unique, unique team. We’ll be more athletic than last year.”

So, as Woodson and the rest of the Indiana basketball staff look at its final scholarship spot, it’s one that is 100 percent open for use, but not one that will just be tossed around unless the specific skillset arises.

SEE ALSO: ‘It’s going to be my job to bridge the gap’: Mike Woodson’s vision for Indiana basketball is coming to life

Make sure to follow Hoosier Illustrated on Twitter @Indiana_FRN and YouTube to stay up to date on all of the news, updates and coverage of Indiana University athletics. 

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Indiana basketball senior guard Xavier Johnson gives update on his health: ‘I’m 100 (percent)’



Dec 10, 2022; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Indiana Hoosiers guard Xavier Johnson (0) reacts after a three point score against the Arizona Wildcats during the second half at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports

Besides the additions of Oregon transfer center Kel’el Ware and the commitment of 2023 five-star forward Mackenzie Mgbako, the biggest offseason win for Indiana basketball was the return of senior guard Xavier Johnson.

Last season, Johnson played and started in just 11 games before he suffered a broken foot on Dec. 17 after playing only nine minutes against Kanas. He would go on to miss the reminder of the season.

Towards the end of last season however, there were rumblings that Johnson and Indiana would seek a medical hardship waiver, which they opted to do, with the senior guard running out of chances to realistically get back into the rotation and contribute.

Going into the offseason, the potential return of Xavier Johnson quickly became one of the bigger storylines for the Indiana basketball program and on April 26th, it was announced that Johnson’s medical hardship waiver was approved by the NCAA. 

Mike Woodson and Indiana basketball had their starting point guard back.

“It’s been a long process, honestly,” said Xavier Johnson when speaking to the media on Wednesday night. “I had to see it all through, talked to my coach (Woodson) and my family. The best option was to come back to school just for the benefit of my health. I would say I thought I was gonna come back in February, late February, but I think it was best for the team just to keep competing (last year) without me and I’ll just be there to support.”

During the process of the medical hardship waiver application, there is not much that a college athlete can do but just wait and see what the NCAA decides based on the facts.

Waiting is exactly what Xavier Johnson did.

“I really just had to wait, honestly, I mean there’s nothing right to the process, but waiting,” Johnson added.

As a senior and the elite competitor that Xavier Johnson is, it certainly was hard for him to have to sit on the sidelines and watch his teammates at Indiana play without him for the second half of last season. When Johnson went down, the keys were given to freshman guard Jalen Hood-Schifino as the primary ball handler for the Hoosiers, who used that opportunity to play his way into a potential lottery pick in the NBA Draft.

Even though there was a chance that Xavier Johnson could have returned late last year, the best thing for Johnson in the long term was to sit out and have a better chance at coming back this season and playing a full senior campaign.

When Johnson got the word that his wavier was approved by the NCAA, you can say the wait was well worth it.

“It was a long process of getting my waiver, but once I got it, that weight was off my shoulders.” said Johnson.

“Coach (Woodson) called me and asked me if I wanted to transfer. I was like ‘what you mean do I want to transfer? Did I not get my waiver?’ He was like ‘yeah you got your waiver. Do you want to come back and play for me?’ I was like ‘yeah!’ (laughter).”

Besides Johnson, there might not be a happier and more excited person on this earth to know that his starting point guard, his senior leader, is returning to help captain the 2023-24 Indiana Hoosiers than Mike Woodson.

The coach-player relationship that Mike Woodson and Xavier Johnson have built these past few seasons is truly special. Woodson has a special connection with his point guards and really understands the value of having a great one like Johnson.

And as far as Xavier Johnson’s health heading into the summer portion of the Indiana offseason?

“I’m 100 (percent),” Johnson simply and confidently said.

SEE ALSO: ‘I think we are getting into more of what coach Woodson wants’: Former IU basketball player Christian Watford discusses Hoosiers offseason

Make sure to follow Hoosier Illustrated on Twitter @Indiana_FRN and YouTube to stay up to date on all of the news, updates and coverage of Indiana University athletics. 

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Indiana basketball: Kel’el Ware among thirty-five athletes to participate in USA U19 Men’s National Team Training Camp



Indiana’s Kel’el Ware Among Thirty-Five Athletes to Participate in USA U19 Men’s National Team Training Camp - 5/31/2023 12:00:00 PM - Photo Credit: Indiana Men's Basketball

As announced per an Indiana basketball release, sophomore center Kel’el Ware was among thirty-five athletes selected to participate in USA U19 Men’s National Team Training Camp.

In April, Ware announced he was transferring to Indiana after spending one season at Oregon. Ware averaged 6.6 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game in one season at Oregon.

Below is the full release.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado – USA Basketball today announced the 35 athletes expected to participate in the 2023 USA U19 Men’s National Team Training Camp at the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Camp begins June 11 with the 12-member team to be announced before departing for the 2023 FIBA U19 Men’s World Cup Championship, scheduled for June 24-July 2 in Debrecen, Hungary.

Included in that list is IU sophomore center Kel’el Ware who is joining the Hoosiers after spending his freshman season at Oregon.  He represented USA Basketball winning a gold medal at the 2022 FIBA U18 Americas Championship in Tijuana, Mexico.  In six games, he averaged 15.7 points and 6.8 rebounds while shooting 67.2% from the field in 19.4 minutes per game.  He also had 11 blocked shots.

He played for the 2022 USA Nike Hoop Summit Team that defeated the World Select Team 102-80 in the 23rd Nike Hoop Summit and came off the bench to score 11 points on four-of-five shooting from the field and also grabbed five rebounds.

At Oregon, the North Little Rock, Arkansas native played 35 games and started four as a freshman for the Ducks.  He averaged 6.6 points and 4.1 rebounds in 15.8 minutes of action per game and led the team in blocked shots with 45.  His best game of the year was an 18-point, nine-board effort against eventual national champion, UConn.  He also had nine rebounds against Michigan State.

Athletes attending training camp were selected by the USA Basketball Men’s Junior National Team Committee.  Athletes eligible for this team must be U.S. citizens, born on or after January 1, 2004.  Nearly half of the athletes have prior USA Basketball experience. Ten invitees have won a gold medal as a member of a USA Basketball junior national team.

Supporting as court coaches during trials will be Jonas Hayes (Georgia State University), Kevin Kruger (UNLV), TJ Otzelberger (Iowa State University) and Micah Shrewsberry (Notre Dame).

The United States will square off with Lebanon, Madagascar and Slovenia in pool play.

The U.S. will face off against Lebanon and Madagascar for the first time at a 2023 FIBA Men’s U19 World Cup. The U.S. own a 2-0 record against Slovenia at the U19 World Cup.

The United States has won the competition eight times, including three of the last four competitions—in 2015, 2019 and 2021.

SEE ALSO: Kel’el Ware ready to make big impact for Indiana basketball: ‘(I’m ready) to prove everybody wrong’

Make sure to follow Hoosier Illustrated on Twitter @Indiana_FRN and YouTube to stay up to date on all of the news, updates and coverage of Indiana University athletics. 

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