At a recent practice, Indiana Coach Bobby 'Knight called over Ted Kitchel, his sweet-shooting senior forward. "Kitchel," began Knight, "do you have any idea how old I am? I've been screaming at guys like you for 20 years. Give me a break, will you, Kitchel? Don't make me yell today." Smiling and nodding, Kitchel trotted back out on the floor. The coach was in good humor. Later, the 42-year-old Knight would even say, "I feel as good about coaching right now as I ever have."
After the 1980-81 season Knight seemed to have a case of the blahs. He didn't really begin to understand how much coaching meant to him until Landon Turner, a forward on the 1981 national champions, was paralyzed in an automobile crash near Columbus, Ind. Then, following a season that was better than it had a right to be (19-10 and an NCAA bid), Knight was picked to coach the 1984 U.S. Olympic team. Goodby, blahs. Hello, Blabs.
The Blabs are what you get when you have a 7'2" center from West Germany who has improved his grasp both literally and figuratively. Uwe Blab not only has increased his upper body strength and grip, but has expanded his understanding of the game. He and Steve Bouchie, a senior forward, will be IU's most improved players. Stew Robinson, a precocious freshman guard, will provide some badly needed ball-handling and passing.
The Hoosiers have at least nine players, maybe more, who figure to make a contribution this season. "These are the most competitive practice sessions we've had since I've been here," Knight said several weeks ago.
The player who may determine whether Indiana is a good team or a great one is Randy Wittman, the senior swingman. Wittman racked up some impressive figures in preseason practices, making 23 of 29 shots, 19 of 24, 19 of 25. Understanding Wittman's potential, Knight became upset last season when he saw Wittman failing to work hard enough to get the 10 or 15 shots a game that he needs for the Hoosiers to reach maximum offensive firepower. That's why, early this fall, Wittman worked a lot with the second team.
"I'll be the first to tell anybody that last year was pretty disappointing for me," said Wittman. "I wasn't much of a factor in many games. My goal this season is to become a factor on the floor. Last year I took the shots I had but didn't really work to get more." If Wittman works this season, everything should work out fine for Indiana.