Every season Miller Kopp was at Northwestern, he relished the games the Wildcats played at Indiana. The Hoosiers might not have been at the level they were in their heyday, but that didn’t take away from the atmosphere when he got to play in Bloomington.
He frequently did well against Indiana as well. In this season’s game in Bloomington, Kopp scored 13 points, hitting 3 of 4 3-pointers and 5 of 6 field goals. He also scored 12 points at Indiana in the 2020 meeting.
“It was just the culture,” Kopp said. “The energy around the program and the support and the fans. I’ve always loved playing there. That’s my favorite arena to play at in college basketball. I was always looking forward, when we had to play there, I always had that marked on my calendar just because those games were so fun.”
Still, when he entered the transfer portal at the end of March, he didn’t expect Indiana to be his destination simply because he didn’t want to transfer in conference to have to play his old school. But when the Hoosiers reached out, he thought the fit was too good to pass up and he committed on Tuesday. He becomes the second transfer and third player to commit to Indiana since Mike Woodson was hired as the new head coach, joining Xavier Johnson coming in from Pittsburgh and high school recruit Tamar Bates from IMG Academy in Florida.
With his commitment, the Hoosiers are at the limit of 13 scholarship players.
“At first I was hesitant to transfer within the conference,” Kopp said. “My parents just urged me, just hear them out, just listen to them. What’s the worst that can happen? We hopped on a Zoom and instantly I could kind of see what type of guy coach was, how he operates. Over time I just got more comfortable with them. I saw their plan for me and for the team and I just decided to do it.”
Kopp liked Woodson’s straightforward nature and confidence, and the basketball bit was obvious. Woodson intends to play a wide-open style of offense with four of the five players operating mostly on the perimeter. To make that work, he needs at least a couple of players with size who can make 3-point shots to force defenders to honor that and defend them out to the 3-point line.
Kopp fits that bill perfectly. The 6-foot-7, 215-pounder with two seasons of eligibility remaining has made 122 3-pointers on 339 career attempts in his three seasons at Northwestern, a 36.0 percent clip. He can play the small or power forward spot, positions where the Hoosiers didn’t frequently get much in the way of 3-point production during coach Archie Miller’s time at the helm.
“I wanted to come to a place that wants to space the floor, values shooting, values the 3-ball,” Kopp said. “He wants to play an NBA-style offense, get up and down with the best of them, really focus on floor spacing and having 1-4 be able to initiate offense, initiate the break and get some quick scores, some easy buckets in transition.”
Kopp said that as Woodson explained it, the offense would also create some quick-hit opportunities that would create shot opportunities for him out of movement.
“They don’t view him as a shooter standing in the corner who catches and shoots 3s,” said Ron Crandall, who coached Kopp at Houston Christian High School in Texas. “I think they’ll move him in more movement, coming off of screens, coming off of pin-downs, just creating more action for him. I think that’s a great fit for him.”
Kopp can create for himself off the bounce as well. He generally drives in straight lines and isn’t going to be asked to try to cross up defenders from the top of the key, but he can get downhill and finish and he will have those opportunities. According to hoop-math.com, he made 22 of his 34 shots at the rim last season, and just seven of those were assisted. He shot 43.1 percent from 2-point range. He’s also a career 85 percent free throw shooter, making 130 of 153 career attempts.
“I feel like I’m a super versatile player,” Kopp said.
Kopp said Woodson is also pushing him to do more on defense and on the glass. He said he feels comfortable defending any position 2-4, but knows he needs to get more rebounds than he has. In three seasons, he’s averaging 2.9 rebounds per game and has never averaged more than 3.5 in a season.
“I have great size and strength and one thing he is really challenging me to do is really rebound the ball and be a really aggressive rebounder,” Kopp said. “Attack the glass, use my height and my strength to my advantage. That’s the big thing he’s talking about is being a better rebounder and use my IQ on the defensive end.”
Kopp said Woodson wasn’t specific about position. There is opportunity for him at both the 3 and the 4. The Hoosiers bring back freshmen Trey Galloway, Anthony Leal and transfer Parker Stewart as wings who can play the 2 and the 3 and just added incoming freshman Tamar Bates who can play those spots. At the 4, he enters a mix that also includes returning starter Race Thompson, redshirt sophomore Jerome Hunter and freshman Jordan Geronimo.
“We talked about it a little, but really it’s just basketball,” Kopp said. “I feel like whatever is the best group out there, that’s what’s going to be out there the most. I don’t feel more comfortable at the 3 or the 4. I just view them as numbers at the end of the day.”
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