Tag Archives: IU

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Grace Berger | High School Spotlight

screen-shot-2017-12-28-at-4-32-54-pmSacred Heart starter excelling early, excited about IU

By Daniel Karell

With Jaelynn Penn and Lindsey Duvall graduated, the baton for the best Louisville Metro-area girls basketball player has been passed to Grace Berger.

A four-year starter for Sacred Heart, Berger has raised her game to new levels in 2017. After leading the Valkyries to the Kentucky Sweet 16 in 2016, the 6 foot senior guard signed her Letter of Intent to play for Indiana University next fall (where she’ll team up with Penn) and has begun dominating the local circuit.

Through six games this season, Berger is averaging 16.3 points and eight rebounds per game, leading the Valkyries to a 5-1 record ahead of the team’s annual Christmas basketball road trip. Once again, Sacred Heart is heading to Phoenix, Arizona, for the Nike Tournament of Champions.

Ahead of the trip to Arizona, Daniel Karell of Extol Sports had a chance to talk to Berger about her career, how her season is going and what she’s looking forward to at Indiana. (Editor’s Note: The following has been edited solely for length and clarity.)

Extol Sports: Grace, thanks so much for speaking with us. What are your thoughts on the way Sacred Heart’s season is going so far?

Grace Berger: I think it’s going pretty well for being pretty early in the season. Obviously, we have stuff to work on as a team, but we can be beating teams pretty well. I think we’ve started off strong.

ES: How long have you been playing basketball?

GB: I’ve pretty much been around basketball all my life. Some of my earliest memories are playing basketball, just watching my older siblings (Abby and Jack) and my dad (Todd) outside shooting hoops, so I was always out there with them from the time I could walk. I think I pretty much played it to be like them when I first started, and then I fell in love with it.

ES: When did you realize you were good enough to play college basketball?

GB: I think probably when I started getting recruited, so like eighth grade, around there. The first coaching staff that I ever talked to was from Clemson in eighth grade. I didn’t even know what high school I was going to (at the time). I didn’t really think much of it, I didn’t think about college then. My parents and my coaches did a really good job (controlling the recruiting process) too.

ES: What did IU do to convince you to become a Hoosier?

GB: From the first time I stepped foot on campus I fell in love and felt really comfortable there. I fell in love with the school and just surrounding myself with great people, the coaches and other players too.

ES: Which coach has had the most influence on your career?

GB: I would have to say my dad (Todd, a St. Xavier High School graduate who played college basketball at Transylvania University). He’s had the biggest impact on me. He always coached me growing up and he’s always taking me outside and working on my dribbling and shooting one-on-one, too. He’s definitely been very influential.

ES: Every year you lead or are near the team-lead in rebounding for Sacred Heart, even though you’re a guard. How are you able to pull down so many rebounds?

GB: My dad has always really been on me about rebounds. He doesn’t really care about anything else but rebounding. I’m just really aggressive and if you try harder than the other team, you can get it, especially in high school.

ES: How influential has (Sacred Heart coach) Donna Moir been for your career?

GB: She obviously has a lot of experience and she’s taught me a lot for sure. She’s definitely developed me mentally in the way I think of the game and helped me with my skills and basketball IQ as well.

ES: After a frustrating sophomore season, the Valkyries turned the corner last season to become Seventh Region champions and make the Kentucky Sweet 16. What was that experience like?

GB: It was great but we lost the first round of state (Sacred Heart fell to fellow Louisville power Butler, 50-36), so that put a damper on things. But it was definitely a good experience and I think we’re excited to carry that momentum into this season and take what we could have done differently last season to a state champ this year.

ES: What part of your game did you work on the most this offseason?

GB: I’d say catch and shoot, especially 3-pointers, because I didn’t do a very good job last season, I had a low percentage. That was the area of my game where I felt I had to improve and it’s working so far.

ES: Has Indiana women’s basketball coach Teri Moren and her staff been in touch about what they want you to improve on as well?

GB: Definitely, three pointers was something they pointed out to me, too, and just getting stronger and better overall.

ES: With Sacred Heart another year older and one of the most experienced teams in the state, do you feel the Valkyries are strong enough to make a deep run at the Kentucky Sweet 16?

GB: I think we’re the best team in the state, I think we have the most experience and when we’re playing together, I don’t think there’s many teams that can beat us. So, I think we have a good chance.

ES: Looking ahead, what are your plans for when you’ll finally head to Bloomington, and what are you most looking forward to?

GB: I think I’ll leave in June and do summer workouts for a couple of weeks. I’m just looking forward to being surrounded by great people every day. I think they’re going to make me better on and off the court, and it’s just going to be a lot of fun to be around them.

ES: Last thing. Is it motivating to see Penn starting and playing so well at Indiana as a freshman (Penn has started all 10 of Indiana’s games, averaging 10 points, six rebounds and two assists per game)?

GB: Yeah, I hope to have as good a start as Jaelynn has. I’m just really looking forward to learning from her and playing with her.


screen-shot-2017-12-28-at-4-34-40-pm“FROM THE FIRST TIME I STEPPED FOOT ON INDIANA UNIVERSITY’S CAMPUS, I FELL IN LOVE AND FELT REALLY COMFORTABLE THERE. I FELL IN LOVE WITH THE SCHOOL AND JUST SURROUNDING MYSELF WITH GREAT PEOPLE, THE COACHES AND OTHER PLAYERS TOO.” – GRACE BERGER


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Inspire | June 2017

“Persevere, one of my favorite verbs in the English  language (of Latin origin),  means to continue on  steadfastly, persist. A theme of mine is to persevere  through life with intention  – not merely get by, walk, limp, or be led through a life of decisions made for me by someone else or as a result of my indecision.” – Hannah Cobine

Hannah Cobine is a Southern Indiana born, Louisville living, forever Hoosier with a degree from IU-Bloomington in Public Affairs. Project management consultant by day, fitness enthusiast, champion of women, community, and the concept of self-love by night, this occasional runway model, short-middle distance runner and terrible yet persistent golfer also is a former basketball player (who occasionally still laces up her Js) and has an ear for Jazz, R&B and Neo Soul music, and a taste for Bordeaux-style wines (specifically Carmenere…just in case you were wondering). Follow her on Instagram @hannie_b_

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As Crean Departs, Let’s Be Excited and Grateful

By Zach McCrite

Indiana University basketball is back on the map.

Of course, it’s not quite the map Hoosiers fans we’re looking to find their team on. It’s the “hey, we’re back in the news” map, except it has nothing to do with winning. Tom Crean is no longer the men’s basketball coach at Indiana University.

And it’s very odd what it’s done to some of the fan base. It’s not very often you see a coach stay at a blueblood program for almost a decade, missing the NCAA Tournament more than they made it under that coach’s tenure, and not see almost universal acceptance of an athletic director’s decision to go in a different direction with their program’s leader.

But, such is the state of the program. There are plenty of good reasons that IU and Crean should have parted ways like they did. There are also, much to the dismay of the most staunch Crean detractors, reasons that Crean deserved to stick around in Bloomington.

Let’s lay out the facts.

Reasons Crean Deserves Support to stay at Indiana

Crean was just a year removed from bringing the Big ten regular season championship to Bloomington, the second time he’s done that. Obviously, the devil is in the details when it comes to the relationship IU fans had with their old head coach, but if you were armed with just this detail and nothing else, it would seem rather silly to call for the job of a coach who brought you a conference championship just one year prior.

Crean is a top-notch recruiter of talent. Sure, fans would love to see more Indiana-born players don the candy stripes. Nevertheless, Crean finished first (2013), third (2014), fourth (2015) and third (2016) in the Big Ten in recruiting, according to 247sports.com. No other team in the Big Ten has been in the top four in each of the last four recruiting cycles.

Crean’s IU teams were consistently unlucky. According to KenPom.com, the foremost authority in college basketball analytics, eight of Tom Crean’s nine IU team’s have finished in the top half of college basketball’s unluckiest teams, including being ranked 12th-unluckiest team this season (as of the end of the first round of the NCAA Tournament). That’s out of 351 Division I teams.

The injuries were gut-punching. You certainly can’t blame a coach for freak injuries that were downright debilitating, like the way OG Anunoby tore up his knee in a non-contact injury at Penn State this season. Collin Hartmann, a regular starter in 2016, had his own knee injury that’s kept him off the floor (save for senior night when he proposed to his girlfriend, which was pretty cool) this entire year, as well.

Crean revived the program. It’s the kind of sentence that Crean detractors hate to hear or read – that Crean had to wipe the slate clean and rebuild a historically successful program from ground zero. Crean will always hold a soft spot in the hearts of many of IU’s most loyal fans because of what he did to make the Hoosiers relevant again.

Reasons Crean Deserves to be Fired 

2017 is the third season with at least 14 losses in the last four seasons. Those are the kind of numbers reserved for the first four seasons of a coach’s tenure while trying to rebuild a program, not the last four seasons.

no true point guard. Of all the praise Crean deserves for his recruiting, the one place he’s whiffed recently is at point guard. Now, it’s a monumentally tough task to replace someone like Yogi Ferrell, perhaps the most beloved player of the Tom Crean era at Indiana. But, we all knew the Hoosiers were going to have to replace Ferrell eventually. And if not for Josh Newkirk deciding to transfer from Pittsburgh, who knows where the Hoosiers would be in this department. Either way, there is no excuse for the way this position has underperformed in 2017.

The turnovers. This is the one that bothered me the most as an Indiana fan. Indiana turned the ball over to their opponent on 21.4 percent of their possessions this season. Among major conference teams, only one team was worse in the entire country (Oregon State). If it were isolated to just one season, that’d be one thing, but this is an epidemic in Bloomington under Crean. The Hoosiers have turned the ball over on at least 19 percent of their possessions in eight of Crean’s nine seasons, consistently finishing in the top ten most turnover-proned major-conference teams in the country.

rebuilding…again. In many different occupations, when you are helping to improve the company you work for, many businesses will give you some leeway time – a learning curve, if you will – to get things going. You may even be given a reprieve if things start to crumble around you. But it’s tough to be given a reprieve from the same boss twice. This is where we were with Crean. He had escaped the firing line more than once. It was tough to keep escaping.

In other words: once on the hot seat, always on the hot seat.

So, there you have it, a quick snapshot of the pros and cons of Tom Crean. Do with them what you wish.

However, there is just one thing I truly hope for out of the IU fanbase, of which I am a part.

I hope IU fans are thankful. You know, there are now kids in high school that have never seen an Indiana team play in the Final Four. That’s a bummer for IU fans, but Crean made that possibility legit (some seasons) and brought the program back to a spot where Kentucky fans, Kansas fans, North Carolina fans, Duke fans and many others had to pay attention to the Hoosiers again. His success also ignited boosters to get out their checkbooks and make major upgrades to Indiana’s previously-antiquated basketball setup. Let us be grateful.

Because Indiana University basketball, in one way or another, is back on the map.

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Four Fans Weigh In On March Madness

By Jim Biery

With multiple legendary college basketball programs in close proximity of each other, it should come as no surprise that the Louisville area has been number one on ESPN’s list of markets for college basketball ratings 14 years in a row. That is almost double the rating of the second-place city, Raleigh-Durham.

Selection Sunday is March 12; first round games start the 16. There will be buzzer beaters, unlikely heroes and heartbreaking upsets. There will also be the so-called experts from Dan Dakich to Jay Bilas to Dick Vitale spewing their knowledge of every team and who they think will be going to Phoenix, the site of this years Final Four.

The local programs in these parts are followed religiously by each team’s loyal-until-death-don’t-even-think-about-calling-or-texting-me-during-the-game type of fans. If this sounds farfetched or overblown to you, I invite you to any local sports bar or family living room to watch and listen to the knowledge and passion each fan has for his or her favorite university.

With all of this knowledge and local support surrounding us, I feel like it would be a refreshing point of view to get the thoughts and expectations of each team from those who follow their beloved universities year in and year out, not just at tournament time.

I asked the same four questions of the following fans about their respective favorite team’s chances in March:

Daniel Franklin, a bleed blue Kentucky fan and avid recreational league player; Greg Deuser, a 1982 Louisville graduate who played on UofL’s 1980 chapionship men’s basketball team; Dan Himmelhaver, 1973 Purdue graduate, who has been a member of the John Purdue Club for 34 years; and 1999 Indiana University graduate Ryan Gobert, a life-long Hoosier fan.

What one player could your team ill afford to lose and why?

Daniel Franklin: Bam Adebayo. He is our only down-low threat. Without him we have no rim protector or legitimate scorer.

Greg Deuser: Donavan Mitchell. The team struggles to score at times. It is hard to compete if Mitchell is having a poor game.

Dan Himmelhaver: Caleb Swanigan. All around player for a big man, has ability to always be where the ball is coming of the boards.

Ryan Gobert: Blackmon and OG Anuoby. Blackmon creates his own shots; Anuoby can be a shut-down defender.

If everyone is healthy, how far could your team go in the tournament?  

Franklin: Cut down the nets. The tools are there, just hasn’t clicked yet.

Deuser: Final Four. Defense will keep them in most games. Consistent scoring and execution in tight games could be the key.

Himmelhaver: Looking to make it to Elite 8.

Gobert: In early December, I would have said Final Four; now, we will need some luck to make the tourney.

What type of team gives your team the most trouble? 

Franklin: Teams that slow tempo and play zone, don’t move the ball quick enough to attack zone.

Deuser: They struggle with teams that mirror them. Teams that defend, like the Cards, and have enough patience to wait for good shots.

Himmelhaver: Quick teams and teams long underneath.

Gobert: Teams that play zone and make in-game adjustments.

Grade your coach on job done up to this point of year.

Franklin: C-. Calipari can get the best talent but struggles getting them to buy into system.

Deuser: B+. Don’t always look like a top team because of style of play. Pitino coaxes a lot of wins out of his teams. He puts their long and athletic players in best position to win games.

Himmelhaver: B. Struggles getting right lineup in against opponents after they substitute players. Poor execution under one minute to go in games.

Gobert: Last year was an A. This year is a D. Talent has regressed and team looks lost at times and not to care at others.

So, there you have it. Honest and direct opinions from people that love and follow their teams year in and year out. As Selection Sunday draws near, you have many decisions to make while you spend countless hours (on company time) filling out your brackets. You can listen to and watch all the breakdowns from an endless supply of ex players and coaches that think they know the game better than others. You can give some serious consideration to your local dedicated fan, or the surprisingly effective strategy of picking the winner by choosing a team based on the color of their uniforms.

No matter how you pick ‘em, I wish you good luck in your office pool. For me, I will stay close to my trusted pundits and listen carefully when they speak about their team’s chances in the Big Dance.

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This Old Soul Wants His Rivalry Back

By Zach McCrite

I used to laugh at old people.

I mean, seriously, how many times can we be told about you old people walking uphill to school, both ways? Barefoot in the snow, of course.

But then, a funny thing happened in 2012. I became old. As a native Hoosier doing a sports radio talk show in St. Louis for a living at the time, I was livid from afar as a man that possesses an Indiana University degree.

The Indiana-Kentucky basketball rivalry had come to an end for the foreseeable future. And we are now in that foreseeable future. And I’m still mad. Like old, crotchety, bingo-playing mad.

Bring back my rivalry!

As a new writer to this new magazine fresh off watching Louisville play both Indiana and Kentucky in awesome, college basketball-rich states and cities, I thought the best place to start to let you know about me is to see me at my sports-loving core. And this is it. This is me, complaining about how the “good ol’ days” used to be better, breathtaking, exciting. In future issues, I promise, I’ll become less senile.

But until then…

This series needs to resume – and now – if only to make me as young as my 1980 birth year makes me.

The real reason is this: as an Indiana fan, I am proud to be from a state that worships college basketball. I like all sports, don’t get me wrong. In fact, on Sundays in the fall, you’ll find me on my couch with a beer glued to one hand and a remote glued to the other as I watch NFL nonstop (sorry, wife and kid and future kid coming in July).

But I love college basketball, especially in the 90s. And there was nothing, from a sports standpoint, that made me prouder to be from Indiana than to know that we were a Top Ten college basketball program.

Part of that narrative included the Hoosiers playing the Wildcats. Two of the most storied programs in college basketball history – separated by a couple hundred wins and the Ohio River– played every year despite never sharing a conference.

Indiana vs. Kentucky: The best regular season college hoops rivalry. Born 1924. Died 2011.

Everyone remembers the Watford shot in 2011, the final game (and shot) of the regular season series. A moment that made IU fans feel like IU was starting to creep up on the ghosts of its once-successful past. Both teams have split NCAA Tournament contests since, including the Hoosiers’ upset victory over the Cats in the NCAA Tournament this past March, which rekindled this once-eternal flame like a Bangles reunion!

But even though I bleed Cream and Crimson, I’m mad at all sides. I’m mad at the “red” state and the “blue” state.

I’m mad at John Calipari. The man is as apathetic about this rivalry as he is a magnificent college basketball coach.

The story goes, according to the Bloomington Herald-Times, that Calipari would refuse anything more than a two-year series. The common thinking there was, with the way the Kentucky coach recruits, he doesn’t really know how good his team will be in two years with two more crops of players already having come and gone through his seemingly-streaming door of NBA talent. What if he had a down recruiting year? This was the worry, by many accounts.

Furthermore, Calipari reportedly wouldn’t budge on games being only at neutral sites, although he and the University of Kentucky administration had agreed to both games in the two-year series being played at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

I’m also mad at Tom Crean. He, along with Indiana athletic director Fred Glass, wanted games to be played on the campuses of the two schools, alternating each year and, even more frustrating, blamed it on the students’ lack of being able to travel (ahem, 45 minutes) and pay to go to Indianapolis to attend. Weak.

Eventually, according to the same Herald-Times article, the Indiana University brass tried to compromise with a four-year deal: one game in Bloomington, one game in Lexington and two games at Lucas Oil Stadium.

So here we are, standing over the grave of this unforgettable rivalry and reminiscing.

And honestly, the 16-year-old in me wants it the Calipari way. I want the game at a neutral site every year like it was from 1989 to 2005. Why can’t we have this rivalry the way it used to be?

My childhood consists of my dad and my friends watching Jamal Mashburn at the Hoosier Dome, drooling over fellow-Hoosier Damon Bailey at Freedom Hall, staring during timeouts at the two aisles across from each other that served as the de facto borders between red and blue.

And who can forget then-Indiana coach Mike Davis going absolutely bonkers on a ref in the middle of the court at the end of the 2002 game in Louisville?

You see, I’m a firm believer that 90 percent of the most memorable college basketball games happen at neutral sites. We all have games we remember from the Maui Invitational, or a Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden or elsewhere. Not to mention all the NCAA Tournament and Final Four games.

Sure, there are plenty of memorable games on campuses everywhere around the country. But, they’re just a little tougher to remember, unless, of course you hit a buzzer beater (thanks Watford and Kirk Haston).

The same notion applies outside of sports as well. I’m sure your wife will enjoy it if you took her to see “Hamilton” at the Kentucky Center. But, she’ll have a story forever if you took her to see it in NYC.

Things of this nature – off-Broadway plays, college basketball games and many things in between – are less memorable when they’re less of an “event” because they’re “just down the (proverbial) street.” When you get basketball games off your favorite team’s home floor and onto a neutral site, it’s almost always less of a game and more of an event. It’s something you tell your kids about when you’re older. And their kids, too.

I love Bloomington. I love Assembly Hall. But, the same holds true for college basketball’s most-storied rivalry. It deserves not only to be revived, but to be different. It should be played off-campus. It should be an event.

This is the guy I have become at my sports-loving core. I have become the guy who not only wants my rivalry back, but wants it at neutral sites, too.

I have become old.

Want to find Zach on Twitter? Just follow @BigEZ.