BLOOMINGTON – Bennie Seltzer is back.
OK, it might not have the impact of, say, Bob Knight returning to Assembly Hall, but that misses the point, which is that one of the assistant coaches instrumental in returning Indiana to national prominence will be in the building tonight.
This time, though, it will be as head coach of Samford (1-1), and his mission is simple:
Beat the Hoosiers (2-0).
Seltzer has a 12-22 record in just over a year at Samford. He coached at Indiana for four years, enduring three straight 20-loss seasons before the Hoosiers broke through with a 27-win, Sweet 16 appearance in 2012.
“Bennie had such a hand in the development and the re-establishing of this program over the past few years,” coach Tom Crean said. “Bennie was here through every tough period, through every tough moment, through all those tough years, and was just an absolute study in perseverance, in the sense of how he continued to have incredible energy every day, how he continued to make the players better.
“He's very, very good. He's got a great head on his shoulders, got an excellent mind, quick mind, innovative mind.
“I had no doubt he'd be a successful head coach, and he obviously is being that.”
Seltzer recruited some of the players who enabled Indiana to return to its title winning ways.
"He was big time,” senior swingman Will Sheehey said. “He was involved with my recruitment from my official visit and even came down to my high school. Once I got here, he helped push me through a lot of things. Coach Seltzer was definitely one of the reasons this program has grown back into what it is and why many of the guys who have left developed into the players they are now."
Added Crean: “His recruiting was phenomenal. He was the point person on some of the key people who helped this program come back to where it is in the sense of Christian Watford and Victor Oladipo and Maurice Creek. He did so many different things to help us get this program where it needed to be.”
Seltzer is trying to do the same thing at Samford. He's building with eight newcomers, including six freshmen.
The Bulldogs are led by 6-foot-8 forward Tim Williams and 6-foot-4 point guard Raijon Kelly. Williams averages 14.0 points and 14.0 rebounds. Kelly averages 16.0 points and 4.5 assists.
“Tim Williams is a hard guy to deal with of the angles that he creates inside, because of the strength that he plays with,” Crean said. “Raijon Kelly is an excellent guard. They've got numerous guys that can make threes, and they've already been on the road, so it's not like we're going to be their first road test.
"We know it's going to be a very, very competitive game. ... We're going to have to play much better defensively than what we did the other night (against LIU Brooklyn).”
Sheehey is off to a strong start, averaging 14.5 points and 8.0 rebounds. Freshman Noah Vonleh earned Big Ten freshman of the week for his 11-point, 14-rebound performance against Chicago State. He's also on the Wooden Award preseason watch list. He averages 14.0 points, 12.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks.