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Indiana Basketball Notebook: Key quotes, notes and more from media day

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Indiana basketball head coach Mike Woodson
Indiana head coach Mike Woodson walks to the podium during the Indiana University basketball media day at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023. © Bobby Goddin/Herald-Times / USA TODAY NETWORK

Indiana Basketball hosted its annual institutional media day at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall for the men’s and women’s teams.

Both head coaches Mike Woodson and Teri Moren spoke to the media while select players joined them at the podium. For the men’s team, guards Xavier Johnson and Trey Galloway spoke at the podium while Sydney Parrish and Sara Scalia spoke for the women’s team. The rest of the team was available individually after the pressers.

Hoosier Hysteria is scheduled for October 20th, with the men’s team playing their first game on November 7th against Florida Gulf Coast. The women’s team opens their season on November 1st against Northwood.

Here are some of the key talking points from Media Day 2023.

‘Old man’ Xavier Johnson will play big role for Men’s team in 6th year

The 2022-23 season was a disappointing one for Xavier Johnson. He came into the season with high expectations but broke his foot against Kansas, which ended his season.

Johnson joined the program in Woodson’s first year and made an immediate impact, helping Indiana reach the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2016.

WATCH: Player Q&A: Xavier Johnson, Trey Galloway at Indiana Basketball Media Day

“Well, I thought two years ago, make no mistake about it, we got in the tournament because of Xavier Johnson and his play coming down the home stretch,” Woodson said about Johnson. “Last year was a setback year for him. We didn’t come into last season thinking that we would lose our starting point guard, and that was a blow for us in the stretch where we struggled to win games.”

Johnson was averaging 9.9 PTS and 4.9 AST before the injury. After Johnson went down against Kansas, Indiana lost their next 3 Big Ten games.

“This year, X has played more basketball games in college than anybody on our ball club, so I expect him to lead, be a point guard and be a leader on and off the floor and put us in position to win basketball games. That’s what it’s all about.”

In year six, the point guard will have a huge role on and off the court. With Trayce Jackson-Davis and other veterans gone, Johnson has moved into a leadership role with the team.

“I’m not the loudest guy, but I like to set everything by example. I like to lead by example,” Johnson said about his leadership style. “One thing, I am one of the most experienced guys on the team this year, so they’re expecting me to lead by example and by my voice, honestly.”

The 9.9 points-per-game was his lowest scoring season in college, but with the loss of the team’s leading scorers from the 2022-23 team, Indiana will rely on Johnson to score the ball more.

“Hell, he’s an old man. Hell, he can’t come back for seven,” Woodson said Wednesday. “So he’s got to give us all he can give us this year to make it right.”

Women’s team using pain of last year as fuel

After starting the year 26-1, the Indiana women’s basketball won the Big Ten regular season title but losses in three of the team’s final five games soured what was a special season for Teri Moren and her squad. Senior guard Sydney Parrish is using last year’s disappointing ending as motivation for the upcoming season.

“I don’t think we’re over it, and I think that’s kind of going to put us on a good first step into the season, because I don’t think you can get over it after the great season we had during the regular season and the postseason,” Parrish said. “I really, for me at least, I’m not over it. People still mention it a lot and it kind of hurts. I think that’ll just be another thing that drives us through the season.”

After an amazing start and record-breaking season, losing in the Big Ten Tournament and in the round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament was not the end to the season Indiana women’s basketball was envisioning. Teri Moren understands that but also recognizes the success and good that came from last season.

“Yeah, I think [Parrish] answered it for all of us, for all of those players especially,” Teri Moren said about last season’s end. ” … So that’s okay, for them to — it can’t be all of their motivation, because like I said, I don’t want it to take away from all the other great things that we accomplished a year ago, but certainly if they want to use it for fuel, I’m okay with that.”

Moren knows there is still some scar tissue from the end of last season, but with so much returning talent, she hopes they can redeem themselves and take that next step in her 10th year in Bloomington.

The Mackenzie’s

Mackenzie is a name you have probably heard often if you follow the men’s and women’s teams, as both Mackenzie Holmes and Mackenzie Mgbako are expected to have big roles for their respective teams. Despite sharing a name, the two Mackenzies are in different situations.

Holmes is coming off an incredible season where she became the first First Team All-American in Indiana women’s basketball history. Holmes averaged 22.3 PPG and 7.3 REB and helped lead her team to a one seed in the NCAA tournament and Big Ten regular season title.

Had she not gotten hurt against Michigan State, the result of the 2022-23 season could have been very different for the Indiana women’s basketball team.

“Mack gets dinged up in the first round against Michigan State and she’s not the same Mackenzie against Ohio State,” Moren said about the end of the season. “Then we go into the NCAA Tournament with Mackenzie not practicing for 12 days before we play. Even though she doesn’t play in the first round against Tennessee Tech, she plays, starts in the first half, a little bit rusty, had to get her feet, which we knew was going to be the case, but we didn’t get off to a very good start there, either.”

With Holmes back for her fifth season in Bloomington, expectations for the team are sky high and her teammates are excited about having her around for one more year.

“I mean, she is an All-American, so it’s pretty fun to play with an All-American, and she’s just one of the hardest workers I’ve ever played with and been around. She’s always in the gym, whether that’s extra conditioning, extra lifting, extra workouts, making sure her body is healthy, being in the training room,” Sydney Parrish said about Holmes. “She definitely is a very, very special player, and I’m just really excited to see how she plays this year with us. We couldn’t be more grateful to have her on the court with us for another year, so thank you, Mackenzie, for coming back.”

The other Mackenzie, is in a different boat than Holmes, as Mgbako is in his freshman year of college, but the expectations surrounding him are still sky high. The 5-star freshman committed to Indiana basketball after decommitting from Duke in April.

“He’s capable of putting the basketball in the hole. He’s shown that this summer. We’ve got to help him as coaches and put him in the best position possible to be successful and help us,” Woodson said about the freshman. “I’m expecting big things from him, but I’m not putting a lot of pressure on him. He’s a freshman.”

Woodson is trying to manage the expectations around him, but with Indiana losing 4 of the 5 leading scorers from last year, many expect Mgbako to step into a key role early into his college career.

“My expectations is to play free,” Mgbako said when I asked about his individual expectations. “Play within what coach gives me and be who I am as a player.”

With high expectations, the former top 10 recruit is trying to play within himself and the system as he adjusts to the college game.

2023-24 Outlook for the Men’s team

Mike Woodson was adamant that he wanted to win now, especially since he doesn’t seem to know how much longer he’ll be coaching. The 65 year old coach is in his 3rd season with Indiana but recognizes that his “clock is ticking.”

“I took this job to win Big Ten titles and national titles and I’ve fallen short the first two years,” Woodson said. “I’m always optimistic as a coach when I go into a season. This season is no different. We’ve got to go and win a Big Ten title, and then once we’re fortunate to get into tournament play, then we figure it out there.”

WATCH: Coach Q&A: Mike Woodson at Indiana Basketball Media Day

Indiana basketball lost four of the team’s five leading scorers from a year ago, including Trayce Jackson-Davis and Jalen Hood-Schifino, who were both selected in this past year’s NBA Draft. While they lost a ton of talent, Woodson made it a point of emphasis to reload and rebuild this team.

“This summer, I recruited more. I had to. We lost four seniors. We lost three guys that left with — basically we lost 10 guys last year with the two walk-ons, as well,” Woodson said about the offseason. “So we had to go out and build our team back. I’m pleased with the players that we’ve brought in, knowing that when you add a lot of pieces to your team, there’s a lot of work that comes with that.”

Woodson brought in a ton of talent through recruiting and the transfer portal and he hopes it’s enough. Former 5-star Kel’el Ware was one of the highlights in the transfer portal after coming to Bloomington after transferring from Oregon. While Ware has all the tools to be a special player, there are a lot of question marks surrounding his motor.

“Well, when I recruited that young man I told him, you cannot go back and get what happened the year before. You can’t,” Woodson said about Ware. “The word is out; they knocked you and said, hey, you’re lazy, you don’t work hard, and if you make a commitment to me, that’s got to change.”

Ware will be an X-factor on the team this year and if Woodson is able to unlock the loads of potential he has, Indiana basketball could be in for a very good year. Woodson knows that it is still September but he emphasized that the team still has a lot to work on.

“I’m not pleased and happy right now where we are as a ball club because there is a lot of work that’s still left on the table that we’ve got to get these guys to understand who we are and what we’re about and how we want to play on both ends of the floor,” Woodson said Wednesday. “Only time will tell. We start official practice on the 26th where I can get them a little longer now.”

2023-24 Outlook for the Women’s team

The 2022-23 season was a historic year for Indiana Women’s basketball as they won 28 games and the Big Ten regular season championship. While there was so much good, the disappointing finish to the season left a bitter taste for both players and fans alike.

Despite the poor ending, there are high expectations for this team in 2023-24 as they returned five of their six leading scorers. Teri Moren is excited about her squad and the upcoming season.

“Got a really good look at our squad for this upcoming season. Got a lot of very interesting, talented pieces,” Moren said Wednesday. “Got some big shoes to fill with the departure of Grace Berger, but very, very confident that we have added some really great pieces in Lenee and Jules and Sharnecce, and so we are just really excited about what’s ahead of us.”

Grace Berger is an incredible loss and it won’t be easy to replace her production on the floor, but Moren believes her team is capable of winning a national championship.

“There’s no question that we have everything we need in order to be able to do that, to win a National Championship. I think everybody is excited,” Moren said about her team’s title chances. “I think maybe pundits on the outside — Grace Berger, those are some huge shoes to fill, but I still really, really like our pieces. I’ll bet on these guys, knowing what I’ve — by seeing what I’ve been able to see with them inside of practice, I do think we have a chance.”

When Moren took over the program, 10 years ago, she only won 15 games in her first season, but she has continued to build the program and bring it into the national spotlight.

“When Coach Rhet and I arrived here nine years ago … the tradition had always been on the men’s side, and we wanted to build our own tradition,” Moren said about the program. “… One of the goals here was for us to create this excitement in Bloomington, in Indianapolis, in the surrounding areas  that people wanted to come and watch Indiana women’s basketball. So to sit here and be able to say, now that the state of Indiana has two teams that they can be really proud of, it means a lot.”

SEE ALSO: ‘I want to win now’: Mike Woodson is done accepting mediocracy. He’s ready to take Indiana basketball to new heights.

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