You didn’t need to hear it from Archie Miller himself to notice the trend.
Just look at his recruiting class of 2020.
Jordan Geronimo, 3.98 grade point average. Anthony Leal, well north of 4.0. Trey Galloway, a high level student at the rigorous Culver Academies. Khristian Lander? Far enough along academically to just go ahead and skip a year of high school.
Their commitments? No countdowns, no events, no fanfare. Just a quick Tweet.
It was the same “commitment ceremony” approach used by 2019 commits Trayce Jackson-Davis and Armaan Franklin the year prior.
None of it is a coincidence.
Everything about them is business-like.
No nonsense. Let’s get to work.
Head coach Archie Miller recruited 10 of the 11 scholarship players on the 2020-21 team.
With that in mind, it should come as no surprise to hear Miller talk about what is standing out about his fourth Hoosier squad.
“We have a natural chemistry with our team. I feel like we have a together group. I feel like we have a very workmanlike group,” Miller told Andy Katz on the March Madness 365 podcast this week.
Those are attributes that any coach would want on his team going into a season. But in an era of roster turnover and recruiting hype, it isn’t always easy to achieve.
Miller seems to put a premium on team over individuals, and assembling a group of guys all on the same page has been a challenge since he inherited the program in 2017.
Now in midst of a pandemic more than three years later, a no-nonsense and cohesive group seems more important than ever — and Miller thinks he has that in year four.
“You are going to need a tough-mind group that is business-like and together (in 2020), and I think that’s one quality that we have,” Miller told Katz.
So with a roster made up almost exclusively now of his guys, what has Miller been prioritizing on the recruiting trail over the last three-plus years that has delivered this tough-minded, together group?
The simplistic recruitments and academic success provide some clues.
Miller distilled it down to one word.
“The biggest thing is competitiveness,” Miller said in a conversation with former IU star A.J. Guyton last week. “I don’t think you can put a value on how a kid competes and how a kid wins.”
A competitive nature is generally not confined to the basketball court. A true competitor wants to win in the classroom, and knows that glorified recruitments and hype don’t win games or help reach goals.
Behind the scenes you will generally find another commonality in the players that Miller is bringing in — a strong support system at home, and a connection to high quality high school and AAU basketball programs.
These are the adults in the room that help ensure that proper priorities are in place from a young age.
“The fabric of where he’s coming from in terms of the basketball fabric that’s around him,” Miller continued, expanding on what he values in a potential recruit.
Without the competitiveness, without the strong background, Miller has learned that you can run into problems. A player needs to be “about the right things” as Miller often phrases it.
And there has to be a personality fit. Fitting with Miller means you are the same no-nonsense competitor that he was as a player and continues to be as a coach.
“You have to be able to coach a guy your way,” Miller said. “If you can’t coach a player it’s not going to work.”
Of course talent is a given.
Miller can’t just go pluck any kid off a high school team that works hard. A player has to do something at an elite level that translates to high major college basketball.
Miller attempts to project whether the talent he sees can flourish in the specific system he has established at IU, both on and off the court.
“The second thing we’re trying to find is that transcendent talent that you can see,” Miller said. “If you know that you can bring the best out of them, whether that’s the weight room, your individual (training), or your style of play.
“If he can fit what we do and get better, if I can believe in him because I know that the way we shoot the ball everyday, or the way that we train in the weight room everyday, that this guy is really going to be able to max out.”
Miller likes his team this year, and he should — they are his guys, and he has a talented, balanced roster.
Now we get to find out if it all translates.
The tough-mindedness. The togetherness. The competitiveness.
Oh, and the talent.
Does it all “max out” and lead to the ultimate goal — winning?
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