TERRE HAUTE —
Greg Lansing isn’t bothered by the fact that Indiana State University basketball fans weren’t crazy about the way last season ended, even though it did so with the Sycamores’ third consecutive postseason appearance.
“That’s how we want our fans to think,” he said Monday afternoon, after the first official practice for the 2013-2014 season.
A couple of the senior players want this year to end even better, however.
“Us seniors don’t want to leave on a year like we had last year,” point guard Jake Odum — a Terre Haute South graduate — said. “Especially us local guys. We don’t want to be hearing about [a bad season] for the next 30 years.”
“There are definitely lessons to be learned [from last season],” added Lucas Eitel, also a “local guy” from Marshall. “We had the pieces. We finished games early in the season, we didn’t finish them late in the season.”
“Finish” is apparently one of the key words this season, according to the players. “Accountability” is another.
“This is a new year. We’re more experienced and we’ll be doing some new things,” Odum noted. “The coaches are holding us [players] accountable, and we’re holding ourselves accountable.”
Monday’s first practice was fast-paced, tough and physical. “We want to impose our pace on people this year,” Lansing said, noting that such a strategy would enable him to use more players from his balanced 13-man roster.
As far as last season is concerned, Odum said, “You keep it in the back of your mind, but you can’t think too much about it.”
The good things about last year should not be forgotten, however, Lansing indicated. Some big victories over eventual NCAA tournament teams had the Sycamores very much in tournament discussion themselves.
“Going into the last week of the year we had a chance [for a second NCAA berth in three seasons],” the coach pointed out. “We just didn’t finish like we needed to.”
Lansing said he’s giving the returnees from last year’s team — which didn’t have a senior on it, although R.J. Mahurin left for an opportunity to play a season with his younger brother — an excuse. The summer tournament in the Bahamas and the exhausting return from the Christmas tournament in Hawaii may have contributed to fatigue down the stretch, the coach indicated.
“We did a lot of great things last year,” he emphasized. “We just didn’t at the end of the year.”
Left unsaid was the fact that those excuses won’t apply this year.
“We just need to build [on those great things],” he said. “Our depth and our athleticism are as good as they’ve been since I’ve been here. We have a lot of versatile parts. If we improve in all areas, we can be pretty good.”
That’s a plan Eitel is following, after tweeting earlier Monday that he was ready for his “last first day of practice.”
“This is my last year to go at it,” he said after practice Monday. “I’ve put four hard years into [ISU basketball], and I’ve had some success. Now I want to take advantage of the last opportunity I get.”
“I’m holding myself more accountable too,” Odum said. “[This year] I’m going to go out there and play my game, do what I can to make my teammates better … I need to be a better leader too.
“If I do that, we can really roll.”
That’s one of the coach’s expectations.
“We need to have good leadership from good players,” Lansing concluded.
“We know what team we can be,” said Eitel. “We just want to finish the season.”