Bloomington, Indiana – Wednesday, September 20, 2023
Indiana University’s head basketball coach, Mike Woodson, addressed the media today in a press conference on Media Day to discuss the upcoming 2023-24 basketball season. Coach Woodson provided insights into the team’s preparations, expectations for both returning and new players, and his outlook on the Big Ten competition.
Woodson began the conference by acknowledging the challenges he and his staff faced during the summer, particularly his own knee surgery. Despite these hurdles, the coaching team managed to recruit six newcomers and four walk-ons, bringing a total of ten new faces to the team.
When asked about the impact of freshman Mackenzie Mgbako on the team’s offense, Woodson emphasized the need for time to determine his contribution. He praised Mgbako’s scoring ability but underlined the importance of not putting too much pressure on a freshman.
“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. I’m expecting big things from him, but I’m not putting a lot of pressure on him. He’s a freshman,” said Woodson.
Woodson stressed the importance of all players stepping up, including sophomores who should transition into more significant roles. He mentioned the need for junior players to provide leadership, particularly Xavier Johnson, emphasizing the key role he played in the team’s success two seasons ago.
Regarding Xavier Johnson’s journey from potentially leaving due to eligibility to becoming a captain, Woodson highlighted Johnson’s adaptability and leadership qualities, which he believes will be crucial for the team’s success this year. Trey Galloway is a co-captain with Johnson.
“I’m hard on captains. I’ve always been that way. Bob Knight was hard on me as a captain when I was here. You’re not given that title just to be given it. You’ve got to earn it, and you’ve got to be held accountable in terms of not only putting yourself in position to help us win, but getting guys to play at a high level around you. That’s important,” said Woodson.
Woodson’s experience in the NBA, where roster turnover is more frequent, has prepared him for handling the challenges of recruiting in the transfer portal era. He expressed optimism about recruiting top players and mentioned that the coaching staff’s hard work allowed them to sit at the table with these players.
“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. 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,” said Woodson.
Addressing the tough non-conference schedule, Woodson emphasized that it’s not about who they play but how they play. He welcomed the competition and expressed his desire to win despite the daunting schedule.
“My clock is ticking. I want everything this year. But in New York, I did it in one year where we brought in nine players and surrounded Carmelo Anthony with nine different players and was able to go and win the division and get to the second round of the Playoffs. That was a good run for our ballclub. But I had veteran guys when I did that. I’m dealing with young players now. You have to be patient with a lot of these young guys,” said Woodson.
“Yeah, losing Jalen and Trayce, that’s huge. But hell, it gives other guys an opportunity to step up and play and be noticed and make a difference and help your team win basketball games, because that’s what it’s all about. I mean, I like our players that we’ve landed. It’s on me; I’ve got to coach them up and get them ready to play basketball. That’s what it’s all about,” said Woodson.
As for the urgency of winning with a team that includes a sixth-year point guard, Woodson acknowledged the short window and stressed the importance of making the most of this opportunity.
In terms of Big Ten competition, Woodson admitted falling short in the past two years and expressed his determination to lead the team to victory this season. He highlighted the need to get over the hump in tournament play.
“Somehow I’ve got to get them over the hump. I’m the coach, and I’ve got to get them over the hump where we can hang another banner in here. I mean, that’s all I think about, man. I don’t think about any — it’s not about me. It’s about these student-athletes that I’ve fielded this year for our ballclub, and I’ve got to try to put them in the best position possible to be successful,” said Woodson.