Mike Woodson, Trayce Jackson-Davis, Miller Kopp and Race Thompson addressed the media in advance of Indiana’s 2023 NCAA tournament round of 32 matchup against Miami (FL) at MVP Arena in Albany, New York.
Watch the full press conference below:
Transcript via ASAPSports:
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by the student-athletes from Indiana. To my far left, Race Thompson with Miller Kopp and Trayce Jackson-Davis. We’ll open it up for questions.
Q. Throughout the whole Big Ten season, you always had two nights, three nights, whatever between games even though it was a grind. This weekend is really just one. I was wondering if you could take me through last night, what time you got to sleep, what sort of treatment work you do on your body today, and treatment leading into a Sunday night game.
TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: I think most of it is resting our bodies. We got out of here at 3:00 a.m., so some of us didn’t get to sleep until 4:00 or 5:00.
We’re going to do a lot of resting today. Do a little shooting to keep our bodies active. And recovery, Timmy G, Dr. Rink do a good job helping us get ready for what we need to do. It’s not the first time. We did back to back before. We did last year in the Big Ten Tournament. We did it this year in the Big Ten Tournament. So we can still. We’ve just got to go out there and compete.
Q. Trayce, I think you may have played Nijel once or twice in high school. As you get ready for Miami, how have you seen him grow? How is he different as a player? How does he fit into a backcourt that has a lot of points between those three guys?
TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: Nijel is a great player. Their backcourt is really, really good. Just watching him just grow throughout high school and blossom into the player that he is now, just being able — the way he shoots the ball and then passing, his ability to attack the rim is huge keys and huge developments that he’s been able to work on.
So I’m excited. It’s not every day you get to play someone that you grew up really close to.
Q. If all three of you wouldn’t mind giving your scouting report on Miami, especially the game last night, what they did at the end of that game. Then for Trayce, Norchad Omier, what you think it will be like, what kind of player you think he is.
MILLER KOPP: Obviously they’re a really good team. Offensively they’re dangerous. Probably one of the best, if not the best, offense in the ACC, averaging over 80 points a game. They get out in transition. They shoot a lot of threes in transition. That’s really one of their strengths.
For us it’s going to be about taking care of the ball, making sure we have a good shot every possession.
RACE THOMPSON: Yeah, Miami is a really good team. Like Miller said, they’re really good in transition, try to get back in transition. Take them out of their stuff a little bit.
It really comes down to us. Our defense works really well when we’re keying in together. We’re really just focused on what we do, and again just kind of familiarize ourselves with what they do so we can kind of see some things coming.
TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: Yeah, I agree. They play a really fast, up-tempo offense. With Norchad Omier, he’s a great player. He plays a lot bigger than what his size is, and he’s very active. He plays with a lot of energy.
Yeah, it’s going to be a battle, and I can’t wait.
Q. Trayce, you’ve been playing a lot more of a face-up game lately, using a lot of crossover dribbles. Last night was the first time ever I might have seen you go through the legs to attack somebody. Take us through the back story of your ball-handling ability over the last year because it seems like it’s changed quite a bit.
TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: It’s really always been there. You can even ask Race. Eve always played open gyms and stuff of that nature, and I would take the ball up the court, and he would say, well, until I see it in an actual game, I won’t believe it. I said, all right, bet, this is the year it’s going to happen.
RACE THOMPSON: That is true. That is true.
TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: So just being able to have the freedom to do stuff like that, trying to set up my teammates, trying to put pressure on the rim, it’s been great for me and my development. Props to Coach Woodson for letting me do it.
Q. Guys, I want to ask you a little bit about Coach Woodson here. It’s Indiana University, so it’s obviously a huge thing in Indiana, but it’s also kind of a big thing Nationwide. What do you think it is about Coach Woodson that like, in such a fish bowl with so much scrutiny and so many people paying attention, that he like functions so well. What is it about his personality?
TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: Well, the first thing is he has zero social media. He’s old school. He doesn’t know what anyone says, nor does he care.
MILLER KOPP: Still has his flip phone.
TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: Yeah, he still has a flip phone. He is someone that is just — he’s a great guy. He would do anything for any of us, but at the same time, he’s all about business. He’s always locked in. He meets with the coaching every day for three to four hours just working on stuff to help our team.
But he bleeds Indiana basketball. I think that’s the reason why he came back because he wanted to help put this place back on the map, and he’s done a great job of that so far.
MILLER KOPP: Yeah, just going off Trayce, I think Coach Woody is at a point — and I’m not going to speak for him, but I think he’s just done so much in his career that at this point in his career, he’s seen it all, he’s seen so much basketball and experienced so much, that nothing gets to him now. And he understands the big picture of it all.
He knows it’s about the guys in the locker room and the guys in the staff, and everybody included in the everyday process. So he’s just focused on us and doesn’t care about really anything else.
RACE THOMPSON: Yeah, that pretty much covered it all. He’s seen it all. He’s been around the game longer than we’ve been alive, and he loves to say that. They pretty much covered it. That’s really all I can say.
Q. Miller, when the opposition is talking so much about shutting down Trayce, shutting down Jalen, is that going to get you excited going into a game knowing you will probably have more offensive opportunities from the three?
MILLER KOPP: Well, I mean, that’s every game. Start to finish, from our first game till now, that’s kind of — I know that’s the game plan.
Obviously some teams do a little — some things different, but I also — coming into every game I know that most of my shots are going to come from Trayce and in transition. I know where I’m getting most of my looks, and Trayce knows too because he’s the one passing them to me most of the time.
I’m excited every game really because I kind of know how teams are playing and the guy guarding me specifically as well.
Q. Trayce, you’ve become sort of on the short list of great Indiana players with all you’ve accomplished in your four years. You’ve been able to share that the last couple years with Coach Woodson, who’s on that list of great players too. How much have you enjoyed just that part of your relationship with him of sort of knowing the great things that both of you have accomplished at Indiana?
TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: It’s been great. I try not to dwell on it that much because we’re still in season, but me and him joke about it. We’re both very competitive. I remember when I was about to pass him, I was cracking jokes at him, and he was kind of mad about it.
But after it happened, he was very emotional, and he was very proud. So just being able to share moments like that with another outstanding player like himself is huge.
Q. Do you think getting a pretty comfortable win last night gives you any kind of advantage going into tomorrow’s game?
TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: Absolutely not. Every game in this tournament is a dogfight. Just because you play really well against one team doesn’t mean that you’re going to come out and it’s going to be the same.
So we’ve got to be prepared, we’ve got to be locked in, and we’ve got to be ready to play because I know Miami wants to get to that next round just as bad as we do. So it’s going to be a slugfest, and it’s going to be a brawl.
Q. Miller or Race, Miami has five guys shooting above 35 percent from three right now. Do you get a Penn State vibe when you watch them, or who do they remind you of on film of whom you’ve played this year?
RACE THOMPSON: I’m not sure who they remind me of. It’s definitely a threat. They have really good shooters, really good players on the perimeter, and really all around.
We watched some film this morning. We know we’ve got to find shooters in transition. We know we’ve got to be a little bit higher in our help-side defense.
But I mean, yeah, I can’t name a team they remind me of. Maybe they’re like Penn State. I don’t know. I haven’t watched enough yet, but I’ll watch more later.
Q. Just given that Miami, as you said, is an up-tempo team, what challenges does that sort of tempo present upon your defense?
TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: I just think the biggest thing of our defense is just sticking with our tendencies, limiting transition, transition runs, and just not letting them speed us up. I think that’s the biggest thing.
Games in the 60s for us is a lot better than games in the 70s and 80s. So that’s what we’re going to try to do, and we’ve got to stick to our game plan.
Q. Race, you’ve been at Indiana — this is, what, your sixth year? You’ve had knees and groins and concussions. I mean, are you just thankful you’re here now? Because when you were speaking last night, it sounded like you’d been playing hurt.
RACE THOMPSON: Yeah, I’m truly just grateful to be here in the moment. When I got hurt with my knee earlier this season, I really thought it was over with, and I’ve said that before.
But I mean, just being here after everything I’ve been through, through my time at Indiana, I’m grateful to be here and able to play next to these guys and my other teammates.
Q. Following up on what you said about them, they do want to play a transition game against you guys. I asked him, because yesterday they played very well defensively at the end of that game to win the game, and I said, will you have success if you can keep it a low-scoring game? He said, no, we want to get out in transition. Do you think they could be successful against you guys in a lower-scoring game like they had yesterday?
TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: Absolutely. I don’t necessarily think it’s a knock on them if we try to keep it low scoring. I meant it more as that’s just how we like to play.
But I think any team in this tournament, at the end of the day, you’ve got to be a winner to get in. You’ve got to win a bunch of games, close games. So at the end of the day, it’s going to come down to possession by possession, and whoever executes better is going to win. So that’s what I meant by that.
Q. You guys are all seniors. Obviously these moments are fleeting for you guys, but there’s business to be handled. Yesterday do you guys find yourself kind of just taking it all in, looking around, like any of these games could be your last ones together? How do you guys kind of work through those emotions?
RACE THOMPSON: It kind of just adds fuel to the fire. Every time we put that uniform on, it could be the last time we put it on. I remember I told Trayce that tomorrow is not promised right before the game, and we kind of joked about it because of the “Rocky” movie.
Yeah, tomorrow’s not promised. So you go out there, you give it everything you’ve got, and you kind of got to live with the result as long as you’re leaving it all out on the court.
MILLER KOPP: It’s definitely a thought that goes in your head. You want to play like it could be your last game for the university because it very well could be. So my goal, and I think everybody else’s too, is to make this season as long as possible.
We’re taking it day by day and enjoying the process and coming in locked in every day and trying to extend our season.
TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: Just piggy-backing on what they said, really just since the start of this last week, it kind of hits you where you’re going through your last practices leading up to the first game, you’re kind of nervous going out there. But at the end of the day, you’ve just got to go out there and play.
Any time it could be your last time stepping foot on the court, whether it be from playing your last game or from injury. So that’s kind of how I look at it, where every time I step out on the court, I think it’s my last time I’m going to be out there.
But just being able to play with these guys for this year and last year, Race four years, it’s been a blessing, and it kind of hits close to home and makes you want to play a little bit harder so you can keep your season going.
Q. Last night, right before tip-off, they posted a picture of you starters huddled up with Xavier right before the game started. Obviously he’s had to miss a lot of this stuff. But what’s it mean to have him be engaged and a part of what’s going on with you guys?
TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: Xavier, even though he’s been hurt, he’s a huge part of our team. Even in the locker room — I remember against Northwestern, when we were playing at Northwestern in the locker room, he got us really fired up. He was trying to fire us up and get us going, and we came out and started playing well.
He does stuff like that, even though he’s not still on the court, he’s still our point guard, he’s still our leader. He’s using his voice and being vocal, hyping us up on the bench, and we need it from him because it gives our players confidence.
MILLER KOPP: You see him on the bench, a shot goes up, he’s the first one to put his hand up, saying it’s three ball. He’s the biggest cheerleader on the bench really, him and Anthony Leal, I think, go nuts over there.
So it means a lot because he can’t affect the game on the court, but he’s impacting the team and the game off the court, on the bench, in the huddles, in the locker room, and stuff like that. He’s definitely doing as much as he can while he can’t play.
RACE THOMPSON: Yeah, he’s been a great teammate. You couldn’t ask for a better teammate than X. Like they said, he’s the first one cheering. He’s paying attention in the scout. That’s how he knows what’s going on. He’s hollering out plays.
Again, he’s a leader in the locker room. Just keeping everybody together, keeping it light when it needs to be light, being serious when it needs to be serious. So I think just him being that great teammate and being a really good leader has helped us get to this point.
Q. Trayce, you said last night early in the news conference that your hip pointer was bothering you. Is that a common occurrence, is that like just last night? How is it now?
TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS: It’s good now. Just got to just keep getting treatment on it, just get it to the best possibilities to be able to play.
I did it actually at the very beginning of the game on yesterday. So I still played pretty well. But it’s just something that I just need to play through. It’s not really that big of a deal to me. I’ve played injured before. I’ve played with little knocks and bruises. Those guys have too. It’s something you deal with in college basketball.
THE MODERATOR: Student-athletes, thank you very much.
We’re joined by Head Coach Mike Woodson. We’ll open it up to questions.
Q. Mike, somebody just asked about X and just the role he’s tried to fill as he’s not been able to play, and maybe particularly as it’s become clear that he won’t come back this season. What is he bringing when you can’t put him in uniform but it seems like he’s still active on the bench, active in huddles, things like that?
MIKE WOODSON: Another coach. He’s been — I think he’s been excellent for Jalen and guys that handle the basketball up front. He’s been good in that area.
Coming into this season, none of us thought we would lose Xavier Johnson because he was such a big piece to the puzzle last year. He’s continued to work a little bit, can’t do much still, and we’re working our butts off to try to bring him back for next season. And only time will tell if that will happen.
But he’s been a major positive for our ball club even though he hasn’t been able to dress and play.
Q. With all that Trayce has accomplished in his career, he’s certainly on a short list of great Indiana players, and obviously you’re on that list as well. In your two years with him, how much have you enjoyed just sort of seeing him excel at the level he is and just the personal interactions you’ve had? He did mention when he passed you on the scoring list that he was kind of ribbing you a little bit, and you didn’t like that much.
MIKE WOODSON: Well, records are meant to be broken, but when I think about where we started trying to get guys to stay on board, to stay on the team, that for me was the most humbling experience when I took this job, when you sit guys down and you give them an All-Star speech and you ask guys to raise their hand and see who’s going to stay on board, and all the guys were walk-ons, that’s very humbling.
The fact that I went to the top and I started with Trayce Jackson-Davis and he gave me the opportunity to coach him, it’s been kind of nice to see where we started and where he is today. There’s been major, major improvement.
I mean, you guys see it on a night-in and night-out basis, and we see it every day in practice and once we play the game. It’s been a nice carryover into the ball games. My coaching staff has done an excellent job in helping me get him to this point.
Q. Mike, the University of Indiana basketball program is not just popular in Indiana, but it’s got sort of a national audience, and you have a job that is probably one of the most highly scrutinized in college basketball. Were there a set of skills that you learned when you were playing and coaching in New York or a mindset that you think you have been able to apply in this job to help you deal with all of that?
MIKE WOODSON: It’s a great question because I think, back to when I first got into coaching and my journey as an assistant coach to get to the top to be a head coach. And once I became a head coach in Atlanta, when I got my first gig there, it was very humbling because I had just come off of winning an NBA title with the great Larry Brown and that crew.
I took a young team from nothing back to the top in Atlanta, and it took me four years to do it. And in doing it, I just thought it didn’t matter where I coached and who I coached. I honestly thought — and I don’t mean this in a braggadocious way — that I could get a team to win. If you were around during the Knick days, there’s nothing like New York, when it comes to the media in how they scrutinize and wiggle their way into your world.
It wasn’t fun at times, but my walk of life in New York when I coached the Knicks was unbelievable because we did some things there that hadn’t been done in a long, long time.
So I’ve been able as a coach to learn on the fly and deal with the media like yourself, and it’s what it is. I understand you guys have a job to do, but I have a job to do as well. And Indiana hadn’t changed, just like New York Knicks, they hadn’t changed. When I played there in 1980-’81, it was the same, and it’s still the same. And I don’t mean that in a bad way, I love the New York Knicks.
Indiana has been the same from the time I stepped foot in there in ’76 until now. It hasn’t changed. Our fan base has been great, and our media expects us to win, and that’s how it should be.
Q. Speaking of that, you played and had a great career at Indiana, but you didn’t get what Quinn and Isaiah and Randy and Steve got, which is a National Championship. As you’ve gotten older, have you viewed that as a void in your career at all, and what would it mean for Trayce to get Indiana back where it used to be?
MIKE WOODSON: It’s a big void. You don’t come to college basketball, especially at Indiana, back during that time and not expect to win a Big Ten or a national title because that’s how it should be, and that’s how it was under the great Bob Knight.
And I honestly thought my senior year we were right there, heading in the right direction, and then injuries happen, and it’s a part of sports, man. Sometimes you can walk into a situation — I relate to — I tell Larry Brown this all the time in Detroit. He had to be the luckiest coach, not only a great coach, but one of the luckiest coaches because we had no problems that year with that Detroit Piston team. That team was meant to win. He was the driving force behind it.
That doesn’t happen all the time in sports. Unfortunately for me, my senior year, we got hurt. Randy broke his foot. I had back surgery. Was able to come back. But we didn’t get it done. So, yeah, there is a void.
As a coach, I didn’t come back to IU just to coach Indiana basketball. I want to win some Big Ten titles and a national title. We’ve got a chance, just like all the teams that are left in this tournament. I’m not selling them on anything less than that.
We’ll see what happens. Only time will tell.
Q. Miami has an experienced backcourt, tournament experienced backcourt at that. What’s your level of concern over that? And there’s a way you can X and O tendencies on the court, but can you attempt to take them out of the poise they’ve built up over their careers?
MIKE WOODSON: Again, they’re coach driven. They have a great coach, man, that’s polished, that’s been there, done it. And they’re a reflection of their coach.
I get it. So I know our team has got to come in and commit for 40 minutes and see what happens, man. That’s the only way I can tell our team. You can’t run from it. We got Miami tomorrow. They’re a great team, well coached. We’ve got to come in and commit on both ends of the floor for 40 minutes and see what happens.
Q. How much of a weapon has Trayce become facing the basket, catching the ball on the perimeter, driving? It seems like that’s improved significantly over the course of this season. Has that opened things up for you this year offensively? What did he do to develop those skills that you’ve seen over the last couple years?
MIKE WOODSON: Well, we’ve been able to put him in those positions in practice, and it’s been a nice carryover in the game. We’ve been trying to move him around out on the floor.
And I think what’s helped him more than anything is the fact he’s been able to rebound the ball and push the ball out and initiate our break. We’ve given him the latitude to do that, and I think he’s fulfilled that position real well.
I mean, we’re benefitting from it, the Millers and the Gallos, whoever gets in front of the ball, he’s been a guy that’s willing to pass it. So it makes it kind of nice to see him doing things like that.
Q. Have you ever seen a locker room rally behind a headband as much as yours did last night with Miller’s headband?
MIKE WOODSON: Shoot, I didn’t even notice it. The one thing I did notice, him making shots. That’s the only thing that matters to me. I don’t care about no headbands.
Q. Mike, how much of a luxury is it to have Jalen available, when Xavier gets injured, to have that caliber of player to turn the team over to in some capacity?
MIKE WOODSON: It was huge. When we set out to recruit Jalen Hood-Schifino, I was his biggest fan. Yan, Kenyon, they introduced the young man, and I couldn’t get enough of going to AAU tournaments and going and watching him in high school.
I made it very clear I have to get Jalen Schifino in an Indiana uniform. That was my first really priority. And it’s worked out because, again, I never thought I would lose Xavier. I really didn’t. I thought Xavier, even though I was going to start them both, Xavier would teach him and tutelage him along the way. We just never got to it enough.
Basically, we’ve thrown Jalen to the wolves, and he’s kind of handled it, man. I mean, he’s been poised. He’s had his ups and downs, man, but for the most part, we are siting here playing Miami because Jalen Schifino has had a good freshman season.
Q. Forgive me, I know it’s sort of a loaded question to ask you this about your own player, but especially given your NBA background, having to prepare for guys on short turnarounds and things like that, how would you go about preparing for a player like Trayce that’s not just the points and the rebounds, but the defensive presence, his passing ability, his ability to affect the game in so many different ways?
MIKE WOODSON: I don’t know. I mean, he does so many things. Trust me, every team we play, I’m sure they’re sitting there saying we’ve got to do this, do that, but there’s not one thing he can’t do on the floor. It makes the coach that’s sitting there preparing for him, it makes you wonder how can you stop this guy?
There’s been teams that have doubled him so much — I think back to the Purdue game there. He patiently waited until the right time towards the end of that game to really make his move, and he just sacrificed his game — and most superstars will struggle with that. I’ve seen it so much over the years in the NBA. They just feel like they’ve got to get theirs.
He sacrificed that night until the right time, and it was really nice to see because a lot of the players around him truly benefited that night at Purdue.
Q. What are you expecting out of the Miami offense tomorrow, in particular, Isaiah Wong and Nijel Pack?
MIKE WOODSON: I know Wong struggled yesterday. He’s been kind of their go to guy. Pack has been solid all season. I thought he carried them yesterday against Drake, after watching it.
Their big fella inside is a workhorse. He does a lot of good things for their ball club. They’re not a one-man show. They’ve got four guys that average in double figures. So there are key matchups all over the floor that we’ve got to really focus in on and concentrate it for 40 minutes.
Q. One of the things you didn’t really talk about too much last night was the job that Trey did on the Carry kid. When your perimeter defense has been good this year, you guys have been really good. Can you talk just a little bit about what he provided last night and obviously the carryover to the Miami guards tomorrow?
MIKE WOODSON: Well, again, Carry was kind of the head of the snake. We knew that going in, for Kent State, and was a key matchup. I thought our guys really played him, tried to make his catches tough, tried to really get into him, and held onto the basketball, and we had some success.
But it’s just not one guy. I don’t teach team defense as one guy. We’ve got to all sacrifice for the sake of the team, and when there’s a breakdown, you’ve got to trust that somebody’s there to help you. That’s kind of how we built our defensive system.
Q. When you look at Miami on tape, what do you see from them?
MIKE WOODSON: They’re perimeter driven. They’ve got perimeter play that sits at the top of college basketball. They do a lot of good things from their perimeter. Their fella inside, he’s a banger. He works.
Like I said, there’s not one key guy. There’s a number of guys that we’ve got to focus in on and lock in and play them for 40 minutes.
Q. He’s going to want to get out in transition against you guys, and you’ve said defense wins championships. They won yesterday with a press, full-court press in the last two minutes of the game and a 10-run. They can win that style of game. Is it a battle of wills, your style over their style, or is it NCAA, March Madness, possession by possession who’s going to win this game?
MIKE WOODSON: All of the above. No, really. It’s the team that doesn’t turn it over offensively and gets good shots, handles the pressure of being pressed, and defensively getting after them and taking things away that they like to do. Then when you do that, you’ve got to finish it with rebounding.
So if we’re able to do those things, then it should be a competitive game.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you very much. We’ll see you tomorrow night.
Filed to: 2023 NCAA tournament, Mike Woodson, Miller Kopp, Race Thompson, Trayce Jackson-Davis