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Friday, May 20, 2022
Home Sports NBA 'Weird' Northwestern Return Gives Kopp Plenty to Think About

‘Weird’ Northwestern Return Gives Kopp Plenty to Think About

By Pete DiPrimio
IUHoosiers.com

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Miller Kopp is returning to his college basketball roots.

Is he excited?

You bet.

Does the fact the senior forward is doing it Tuesday night as an Indiana Hoosier rather than a Northwestern Wildcat seem strange?

Absolutely.

“It’s something I’ve been thinking about,” he says. “I’ve been focused on every game, but it will be weird.”

Kopp spent three seasons at Northwestern before transferring to IU last spring. That totaled 87 games, 47 at Welsh-Ryan Arena, where he will make his first return since leaving the program.

“It will be super exciting to go back there to see old friends and teammates,” he says. “Really, I just want to win. That’s all I care about. I do not know what to expect emotions wise.”

Kopp figured to be a Wildcat his entire college career after picking Northwestern following a four-star high school career in Texas. But things changed (Northwestern’s 30-57 record during that time was a factor) and when Mike Woodson took over the Hoosier program last March, he decided to head south.

“I spent three years there,” Kopp says. “Some of the most transformative years of my life as a young man, as a player, were there.

“If you had told me in high school when I committed to Northwestern that I would be a senior and playing at Northwestern as an Indiana Hoosier, I would have told you that you are crazy.”

He says he has no regrets.

“It’s a blessing to be at Indiana University. I’m glad I’m a Hoosier going back there. That’s the weirdness of it all.”

Weirdness includes daily contact with former teammates and roommates Ryan Greer and Pete Nance.

“I talk to them every day,” Kopp says. “We talk about basketball, about the league, about the games and stuff.

“I watch their games and they watch mine, so it’ll be cool to go back and see them and get a win there, too. It’ll be fun.”

Kopp’s Big Ten experience has helped him, he says, and his IU teammates to a 7-5 conference record.

“There are a lot of the same coaches,” he says. “There has been some turnaround, but not too many changes. I’m familiar with the coaches. They do not run anything different. Why would they?

“I’ve got some good experience with guarding certain actions and teams and players. It helped a lot. I’ve helped guys on the team. There are certain guys I’ve guarded in the past – wings and guards. It helped (with teammates) giving me two cents. I keep giving those guys all the information I have. “

Teammates are appreciative.

“I love playing with him,” guard Trey Galloway says. “I love having him around. He’s a great locker room guy.

“On the court, he’s always setting the right example. He brings it every day in practice, which is great. He does not take days off. He’s always in the gym or getting shots up.

“It’s nice to have teammates like that because when you see them in the gym, you want to get in the gym with them. He’s a great addition to our team.”

Kopp is an addition in need of more scoring production.

In Saturday’s loss against Illinois, not only did Kopp score in 16 minutes, he did not take a shot.

Much of that was because of an Illini defense that prevented him from getting open looks. Kopp isn’t one to create his own shot or force one.

Still, he was recruited to provide perimeter punch crucial to Big Ten success.

“We’re not telling him not to shoot,” Woodson says. “Defensively, (the Illini) know he can shoot and they will not leave him. It forces someone else to shoot.”

Kopp was a double-figure scorer at Northwestern, averaging 13.3 and 11.1 in his final two seasons. It was 9.6 points for his career.

He’s only reached that number three times as a Hoosier, with a career-high 28 last November at Syracuse. The most he’s scored since then is eight.

He averages 6.2 points while shooting 38.0 percent from the field, 34.7 percent from three-point range. He’s at 91.3 percent from the line.

Last season he shot 39.6 percent from the field, 33.0 percent from the three-point range and 84.8 percent from the line.

But Miller isn’t a Hoosier to pad his stats.

“I just want to win,” he says again.

That will be difficult against a grueling upcoming stretch – three of IU’s next four games are on the road with trips to No. 17 Michigan State and No. 16 Ohio State besides Northwestern; the home contest is against No. 14 Wisconsin.

Success starts with defense. The Hoosiers hold teams to 37.7 percent shooting, the best in the Big Ten and seventh best nationally. They also lead the conference in points allowed (63.5).

IU (16-6) aims to set a defensive tone at Northwestern.

“A guy can go off and have a great game,” Kopp says. “We try to limit that stuff going into every game.

“A lot of guys on the team take their matchup personal. Stay in front of your guy and not let your guy score. There’s help. We help each other. We take a lot of pride in guarding the ball.”

Pride took a hit when Illinois scored 74 points by ending the game on a 32-11 run.

“We’re all still learning and getting better,” Kopp says. “That’s something that never stops. It’s something you always have to improve on.

“Obviously a team isn’t going to score zero points. We try to make it as difficult as a possible. When we’re strung together on a cord, that’s when we’re at our best, when we’re all moving as one. “

As for the tough looming schedule, Kopp says, “It’s a great opportunity.

“You can look at it two ways – it’s a tough stretch and we just have to get through it, or it’s a great opportunity to move up the ranks in the league, which is what we want to do.

“It comes down to staying focused and making sure everybody is locked in on each game. Make sure we’re doing everything we need to in order to win.”

Northwestern (11-10, 4-8) comes in on a two-game winning streak. It edged Rutgers in overtime 79-78 and won at Nebraska 87-63.

Nance leads the Wildcats in scoring (15.9) and rebounding (6.9). Guard Boo Buie averages 14.8 and shoots 80 percent from the line. He ranks second in the Big Ten in assists, at 5.2. He scored 27 points on 10-for-15 shooting against Nebraska.

“They’re tricky,” Galloway says. “They’ve got a lot of good sets, a lot of things they do well on the offensive end.

“It’s about our preparation and watching film and study what they do and their tendencies. That’s one thing we’ve got to focus on and do a lot better – being able to all lock in on a scout and know the things that they do and prepare well for them. “





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