INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Complaints about Miller Kopp are coming from every corner of the Hoosier Nation, from the sports bars in Fishers to the frat houses in Bloomington to the mother’s basements in Batesville and many places in between.
The senior transfer from Northwestern, who is playing his fifth season of college basketball this year in Indiana, is likely to receive more criticism than any other player on the Hoosiers roster. That has some perks, as the last half of his 2022 season wasn’t very good, especially in the Indiana losses where they could have used a little more help from him.
But the criticism leveled at Kopp so far this season has been unjustified. In four games – all victories in which Kopp was instrumental – he was actually very good.
And the Hoosiers are a better team for that.
And your criticism? Well it really doesn’t matter. It has no value. Mike Woodson’s opinion? That counts. And the opinion of Trayce Jackson-Davis? That counts a lot more.
And they’re very happy with Miller Kopp right now. For good reason.
In four games, he is 9-for-17 from three-point range, an impressive 52.9 percent clip that tops the Big Ten in the first two weeks. The eight long balls he missed all looked good without anything being forced.
“He was solid. He looked good. He took a few shots here and there. I’m comfortable depending on where he is,” Woodson said. “I expect him to take shots when he has them. He grounded the ball a couple of times tonight and made a couple of plays on the edge. So, hey, that’s the progression based on where he started, when we first got it and where it is today.
“It’s very nice because he put in the work. He put a lot of time into shooting the basketball this summer. When we all got together, he did them in practice. So I’m not shocked that he’s doing them in-game now. He’s in good shape mentally and it’s nice to see him knock them down because it helps us.”
There’s no denying that Kopp’s quality play makes this team a very dangerous team. This team is built on getting the ball inside, certainly to Jackson-Davis and also an up and coming Malik Reneau.
But it’s also important to save shots when the doubles teams come, and that’s where Kopp comes in. Jackson-Davis has unshakable faith in him, and there was no better proof of that in Friday night’s big away win over Xavier. Although Jackson-Davis was only 1-for-7 off the field at this point and many people wondered why he was still off the field, Jackson-Davis knocked him out of a doubles team and Kopp nailed a three from the left corner and gave the Hoosiers an eight-point lead that proved sufficient.
“I told Miller to keep shooting, keep shooting, because I knew he was going to hit a big one,” Jackson-Davis said. “I knew he would stick with it. I ran back into defense before he even caught the ball.”
Kopp had 10 points in the Hoosiers’ 86-56 win over Miami of Ohio on Sunday. He had two threes and a pair of swimmers in the lane. You saw a lot of smiles on the pitch and a lot of clowns afterwards. He looks happy and plays easy.
Indiana needs this badly. He’s a better player this year in many ways. A second year in the system certainly adds to the comfort, but so does an insanely good work ethic.
“I think for me this summer has been a big focus. Of course you always want to shoot better. You can always dribble better. You can always just be better,” said Kopp. “I’m just focusing on getting reps and thinking about how big the mental shooting and the mental shooting I think.
He’s having fun too, which is a good thing. Playing with less stress is a big deal, something any pure shooter will tell you. Fun with the media after the game is now also the order of the day.
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Some days it’s golf…some days cooking chicken.
Yes everything is OK.
“I’ve been working on my golf swing a lot this summer and trying to get outside a lot and get a tan,” he said with a straight face after hitting four three-pointers against Bethune-Cookman. “I think that helped mentally, and I think if you look at the best basketball players — Michael Jordan, Steph Curry — they’re all great golfers too. So I think that helped.”
On Sunday night, he found a way to fit chicken into his post-game interview. It came up when he was asked about freshman Jalen Hood-Schifino learning the ropes and excelling through gunplay.
“You know, he puts the work into it. It’s one of those things that we’ve all been through as players,” said Kopp. “But you know, you put the work into it, and sometimes it doesn’t show up exactly when you want it to.
“It’s like marinating chicken. You know, you might have to let it sit in the fridge for six, eight hours and then put it on the grill. It tastes a lot better that way. It’s coming, and the guy is working his butt off, so I’m not worried about that.
Kopp averages 9.3 points per game and only one turnover per game. Granted, the Hoosiers had three much-anticipated blowout wins and the huge road win at Xavier, and it’s very early days. Many great challenges await.
But he’s doing what it takes now, and the Hoosiers are doing good. The newcomers are progressing well, and this entire roster is blending well as a team. Winning Friday night and then turning back and winning again less than 48 hours later was also a good learning experience.
“It’s good because the preparation in terms of short turnarounds is tremendous,” he said. “You see it in the NCAA tournament and the Big Ten tournament, so it’s good to have it this early in the season now, even for the young guys who are experiencing that and understanding the importance of locking in and.” to wash. You know, having a good game like against Xavier and then coming back, learning from that, moving on and then coming to a new game is great.
There are two more games in the Hoosier Classic and Indiana shouldn’t have a problem with Little Rock on Wednesday night or Jackson State on Friday afternoon, although the quick turnaround will once again be great for postseason build-up.
Then it gets serious.
Starting in a week from Wednesday, it’s No. 1 North Carolina, two Big Ten games – en route to Rutgers and home of Nebraska, then No. 14 Arizona in Las Vegas and No. 6 Kansas on the road in Lawrence.
For Indiana to navigate this tough road, Kopp has to be a factor every night. Sure, he’ll never be a focal point, and that’s okay. But remember, when Jackson-Davis doubles and Kopp is wide open in the corner – he is the go-to guy.
He may be the fifth pick for Indiana, but when the ball is in his hands, that changes.
Mike Woodson says it often about his long and voluminous list. When you’re out there, you have to perform. Minutes are valuable and earned.
That goes for Kopp too, maybe as much as everyone else in this squad. So far, so good.
Well, keep it up.
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