BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Embarrassed and conciliatory, Stanford Robinson and Troy Williams said they are ready to return to the Indiana Hoosiers' lineup Thursday night but that they know they need to earn back the respect of both their teammates and fans.
The sophomores were suspended for four games -- two exhibition games and the first two regular-season games -- for failed drug tests during the summer.
All three will make their first appearances of the season against No. 22 SMU at Assembly Hall on Thursday.
"I know we let a lot of people down, teammates, coaching staff, family and definitely the fans," Robinson said. "But I think we've learned from it. Before I think we had a little idea of what it means to put on an Indiana jersey. Once this all happened and it went public, we saw what it really means to be a Hoosier."
The players' suspensions, announced just days after news of the car accident, made for a tumultuous start to the season for the Hoosiers and coach Tom Crean.
"He went through a lot more than we had to go through," Williams said. "The fact that he kept us through all of this, we're just grateful."
Robinson and Williams are critical pieces for the Hoosiers, who lost Noah Vonleh to the NBA and Will Sheehey to graduation, and are trying to rebound from a 17-15 season.
Williams started all 32 games for the Hoosiers last season, averaging 7.3 points per game. Robinson started nine and averaged 6.4 points.
During the suspensions, the players were not permitted to sit on the bench during the exhibition games and did not participate in the team's typical pregame walk-throughs.
Those days, they said, drove home the severity and cost of their actions more than anything else did.
"When we were in the locker room, the three of us were the only ones not getting dressed," Williams said. "Everyone else is getting ready to go out and play the sport they love, and that's when it really hit me."
Both players privately apologized to their teammates -- "It felt like we left our brothers out in the cold alone," Robinson said -- and have used social media to apologize to the fans.
But neither is naive enough to think that forgiveness will be immediate.
"People were upset and angry, just looking at us like, 'Why?'" Robinson said. "Basketball is a big thing here, a huge thing. It's not like they were disowning us, but more like asking why. I don't think there's anything specific you can do [to curry favor] or are supposed to do. Each and every decision you make, you just have to make sure it's the best one. Make sure your coaches, your teammates and your family can count on you, be an accountable person."