So Indiana basketball had a bad recruiting day. It happens. But did it have to happen to a program so badly in need of a big-time boost?
Sometimes, you don’t get a choice.
The Hoosiers lost the big man they had made a full-court press to get. They lost the verbal commitment they seemed to have locked in for good.
So who’s left? John Wilkins? Will Yeguete? Is that going to be enough?
Hold that thought.
First, 6-9 forward Moses Abraham is going to Georgetown. At least, he is right now based on his verbal commitment. He’ll be able to sign next month. Abraham had a good two-day visit to IU this week. Coach Tom Crean made a big push and got to the brink of a big commitment before Abraham chose the Hoyas, who are closer to his Washington DC home and who are not in a major rebuilding mode.
Then, guard Matt Carlino backed off his commitment and reopened his recruiting. This is big because Carlino moved from Arizona to Indiana and Bloomington South. The proximity to IU’s program was not a coincidence. He averaged 13.3 points and 4.3 assists as a junior for the Panthers, who were undefeated until losing to Jeffersonville in the regional finals. Rivals.com rated Carlino as the nation’s No. 122 recruit.
This is a double blow for the Hoosiers, whose incoming class of Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey excites few except, perhaps, their families. Abraham could have been a shot-blocking force next season. Actually, he almost certainly will be. Just not for the Hoosiers. Carlino is a versatile athlete who understands the game. You can’t get enough of such players in your program.
Wilkins and Yeguete are decent players, but unlikely to make the kind of major impact IU needs next season.
Here’s the bottom line. For Crean to start having consistent big-time recruiting success, he has to get in-state players. They are more likely to appreciate Hoosier tradition. But Crean is in a big recruiting hole because of the huge in-state push by Purdue coach Matt Painter, who exploited the Hoosiers poor coaching decisions (Mike Davis beget Kelvin Sampson beget players who refused to do what was right on or off the court) to build one of the nation’s top programs. It will take years for Crean to undo all that damage.
Can he? Absolutely. Crean made his reputation on being a dynamic recruiter as an assistant coach at Michigan State and as the head coach at Marquette. He can do the same thing at IU. First, though, he’s got to get through this disappointment. He’s got to land more strong recruits (remember the current group of Hoosier freshmen were considered one of the nation’s best groups). He’s got to ensure all the key returning players will actually return. He’s got to start producing winning records.
It’s a lot to ask for, but then, nobody said restoring a program to glory would be easy.