ALBANY, N.Y. – For two programs in different conferences, split by 1,177 miles, there are a lot of ties that bind Indiana and Miami.

The Hoosiers and Hurricanes do battle in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at 8:40 p.m. Sunday at MVP Arena. Those ties come from both Indianapolis and South Florida.

Indiana freshman guard C.J. Gunn graduated from Lawrence North in 2022. Miami guard Nijel Pack graduated from Lawrence Central in 2020. The two did meet in a pair of Lawrence Township tussles in high school, but their relationship goes back further than that.

“Nijel is my guy. I love him and his family. I’ve known Nijel since preschool,” Gunn said. “We have the same trainer (Nick Daniels at M14 Hoops) back home. Seeing his commitment to the game and him being a gentleman, seeing his success he had in high school motivates me to want to do better than that.”

Gunn hasn’t seen Pack in Albany, other than when Miami came off the court and Indiana was about to take the floor Friday between games.

Gunn is hoping the Hoosiers enjoy the same success against Pack that Gunn had against him in their high school days.

“I played against him my sophomore year, and we beat them twice. So, hopefully, we can beat them again,” Gunn said.

Another Indiana freshman, forward Malik Reneau, is a Miami, Florida, native. Playing against his hometown school means a lot to him.

“I did follow them a little bit. It means a lot being a kid from Miami playing against a school I saw a lot of times. Coach (Jim Larranaga) was in and out of our gym when I was down there. It means a lot, but I won’t let that get in the way of the team,” Reneau said.

Under different circumstances, Reneau could have been a Hurricane. They were one of his final four schools when he originally committed to Florida in September 2021.

“They were one of my top schools I was considering, even when I de-committed from Florida, they were a top school I considered, but I thought Indiana was a better fit for me,” Reneau said.


Indiana’s players during the Hoosiers’ press conference Saturday were asked to reflect on how Indiana coach Mike Woodson deals with the “fish bowl” of coaching Indiana with all of the passion, fan and media attention it commands.

It turned into a roast of sorts.

“The first thing is he has zero social media,” Indiana center Trayce Jackson-Davis said. “He’s old school. He doesn’t know what anyone says, nor does he care.”

“Still has his flip phone,” Indiana guard Miller Kopp chimed in.

The joking aside, Jackson-Davis expressed his appreciation for the veteran coach.

“He’s a great guy. He would do anything for any of us, but at the same time, he’s all about business. He’s always locked in,” Jackson-Davis said.

Kopp cited Woodson’s unflappable nature.

“He’s just done so much in his career that at this point, he’s seen it all. He’s seen so much basketball and experienced so much that nothing gets to him,” Kopp said.


Woodson’s Indiana playing career was wedged between two championship seasons for the Hoosiers. Indiana’s undefeated 1976 team won the national title the year before Woodson’s playing career began. Indiana’s 1981 national champs won the year after Woodson left Bloomington.

“It’s a big void. You don’t come to college basketball, especially at Indiana back during that time, and not expect to win a Big Ten or a national title because that’s how it should be, and that’s how it was under the great Bob Knight,” Woodson said.

Indiana progressively improved during Woodson’s career, winning the Big Ten in 1980, but the Hoosiers were knocked out of the tournament without a Final Four appearance during Woodson’s career, which lasted from 1976-80.

“Unfortunately for me, my senior year (1980), we got hurt. Randy (Wittman) broke his foot, I had back surgery, was able to come back. But we didn’t get it done. So, yeah, there is a void,” Woodson said.

Woodson noted the void he feels serves as motivation for his coaching regime and his return to Indiana after a long NBA playing and coaching career.

“I didn’t come back to IU just to coach Indiana basketball. I want to win some Big Ten titles and a national title. We’ve got a chance, just like all the teams that are left. I’m not selling them on anything less than that,” Woodson said.


Kopp wore a headband for the first time in a game this season in Indiana’s win over Kent State on Friday. He joined Race Thompson, who has been wearing a headband since he took a knock to his head early in the season.

Woodson was asked if he noticed Kopp’s fashion choice.

“I didn’t even notice it. The one thing I did notice, him making shots. That’s the only thing that matters to me. I don’t care about no headbands,” Woodson said.

Trending Video