How important is having state of Indiana players? Let’s take a look at Butler, which, in case you’ve spent the last few days on vacation on the Amazon River and missed it, is in the Final Four.
The Bulldogs have 15 players on their roster and 10 are from Indiana. They also have one player from Illinois, Florida, Alabama, Kentucky and Georgia.
Their best player is 6-9 sophomore Gordon Hayward. He’s from Brownsburg and has generated speculation that he might enter the NBA draft after this season, although he’s too smart to say anything about that. Beating Michigan State in Saturday’s national semifinal –- plus juggling a rigorous academic load -- is enough to think about.
Arguably their second-best player is sophomore Matt Howard, who is from Connersville. He will not, by the way, enter the NBA draft after this season, but he just might flop to draw a charging file in the defensive spirit that once made Dane Fife an Indiana University legend.
Of Butler’s five out-of-state players, four are key contributors. They are Shelvin Mack from Kentucky, Ronald Nored from Alabama, Shawn Vanzant from Florida and Willie Veasley from Illinois.
In other words, most of the players are from Indiana and the bordering states of Illinois and Kentucky. Coach Brad Stevens went long-distance to get Nored and Vanzant. It’s a Midwest-centered recruiting philosophy that also has worked well for Purdue’s Matt Painter.
Indiana coach Tom Crean knows all about this. He is targeting the state and the surrounding area. The Classes of 2011 and 2012 seem especially loaded. It’s crucial to the rebuilding process for Crean to get as much high-end in-state talent as possible.