Shooting is his calling card, but Miller Kopp seeks to be two-way player
Indiana last won a piece of the Big Ten regular season title in 2016, and have just two regular season titles following the 2002 season.
The Hoosiers enter the 2022-23 season with the expectations of not only competing atop the Big Ten, but winning it. Starting from Mike Woodson to all the way down to nearly every player on the roster, that has been the sentiment coming out of IU media day last week.
With four returning starters, seven of its top nine scorers from last year, and a top-15 recruiting class on campus, Indiana has the talent to do so.
While the expectations are there, some of the same questions remain, however. One question concerns the shooting of Indiana.
"Well, that was a big problem last year. You guys witnessed, as the media outlet, and our fans, too, but I thought we got a lot of good looks," IU head coach Mike Woodson said last week. "We were in the top -- being in the top 5 in college basketball in terms of open threes that we just didn't knock down."
Indiana shot 33.3 percent from three last season. That mark ranked 216th in college basketball. As a team, it averaged just 5.9 made 3s per game, ranked 311th in the country. In conference play, it dropped to 31.9 percent (13th) and 5.8 makes (14th) a game.
A big reason for that was the inconsistent shooting from the two main shooters Indiana brought in from the transfer portal -- Miller Kopp and Parker Stewart. While Stewart has moved on, Kopp returns for his second season in Bloomington with aspirations of turning into the shooter Indiana thought it was getting a season ago.
Mike Woodson has the confidence in Kopp that he will be that guy for Indiana because of how coachable he is.
"Well, he's very coachable," Woodson said. "In the big league, we call him a true pro, because he listens and he tries to do all the things that's asked of him."
Kopp averaged just 6.0 points per game and shot 36.1 percent on 3s last season. Coming to Indiana, he averaged 9.6 points per game and shot 36 percent from three in 87 games at Northwestern.
In Big Ten play, Kopp saw his numbers dip. In 20 conference games, he shot 35.1 percent on 3s and made just 20 3s. More importantly, he attempted just 57 -- his lowest since his freshman season. His previous seasons included 78 as a junior, 113 as a sophomore and 46 as a freshman.
"I'm just going to be opportunistic with my opportunities with the ball and shooting the ball," Kopp said. "I'm not going to turn down any shots that's for sure. If the ball finds me and I'm open, the shot is going up.
"I'm not coming off of pick and roll and double drags and shooting 3s, that's just not my role... my role is to be ready to shoot when I get the ball and knock it in."
While his shooting ability wasn't up to the level he or Indiana expected last season, he made his mark on the defensive end as the season wore on. It was a need for Indiana down the stretch after seeing multiple wings struggle defending the ball for the majority of the season.
"I thought his defense last year was phenomenal," Woodson said. "I mean, from where he started, when people thought he couldn't really defend, he was one of our best perimeter defenders last year, which was kind of nice to see."
"We are always guarding. We know that's our calling card," Kopp added. "We are one of, if not the best defensive teams in the country, so we are always working on it . . . every rep it's always about how we can improve on our principles and what we do best, and that's our defense."
Kopp continued to earn more minutes in late game situations a season ago because of his improving defensive ability. While his numbers may not fully reflect it -- just a defensive rating of 102.7 -- it was significant improvement from the past two years at 104.2 and 109.7.
"A lot of it is awareness and intent. You have to be able to have the focus, the want and the hunger to be good at it," Kopp said. "How you go from a good defender to a great defender is your mind and your talking . . . that is something I really focused on and knowing the defense as a whole and not just where I'm supposed to be because that's not enough."
So while Kopp's shooting ability is going to be needed and relied on, his improvement as an all-around player is evident this summer. And heading into the season, his ability to be a legit two-way player is a significant storyline that is critical for Indiana.
"I'd like to think Miller having a taste of what Indiana basketball is all about now," Woodson said. "I think he'll be a lot better this season."