Friday, April 30, 2010

Does IU Have To Sign A Big Man This Spring?

Forget, for a second, Indiana’s quest for frontcourt help and consider this question -- Would it be a disaster if IU didn’t sign any big men for next season?

A pessimist would say yes, but who needs pessimism these days when we have Tiger Woods stinking up the fairways.

An optimist would say that the Hoosiers just might have enough veteran big men to get by next year if -– and this is a big if -– they all return and have big off-seasons. That includes having forward Bawa Muniru play to his potential, or even just play, period. IU doesn’t need another season of having a 6-10 athlete sit the bench.

Yes, it would be nice if IU could sign, say, the second coming of Greg Oden, but this late in the spring that won’t happen. So you do the best you can, and if that means considering junior college big man Guy-Marc Michel, well, considering isn’t signing.

Coach Tom Crean has at least one more option in 6-10 Minnesota high school player Kevin Noreen. He had signed with Boston College, then backed out after a coaching change. Noreen averaged 37 points and 16 rebounds as a senior and is the state’s career scoring leader.

Anyway, IU does have inside potential with 6-8 Christian Watford, 6-9 Derek Elston (who really picked it up at the end of the season), 6-9 Bobby Capobianco, 6-9 Tom Pritchard (who regressed as a sophomore) and, of course, the ever smiling Muniru.

Pritchard has two years left. The others have three. There is definitely room for growth there, but it will only come with hard off-season work, but in strength building and skill development. Crean and his staff have a track record of developing players, sometimes even to NBA levels, so we’ll see.

That leads to another question -- could Michel be the savior for Indiana’s front court?

The short answer -– no.

The longer answer –- no because he’s not a savior. He’d provide much-needed inside depth, defense and athleticism. If offense came with him, that would be a plus.

He’s a 7-1, 265-pound guy with a 7-6 wingspan and this is a wonderful thing. He’s athletic enough to come from a soccer background and this, too, is a positive.

But, and you knew a “but” would be coming, he’s only played organized basketball since he was 17. That means this native from the Caribbean island of Martinique only has about three years of experience. A project, in other words.

That’s not a problem if he’s playing at, say, North Idaho College. In fact, he DID play there and averaged seven points, seven rebounds and three blocks this past season. He told that he was sometimes “lost on the court.”

This could be a big problem in the Big Ten. IU doesn’t need another lost big guy. Muniru already has that role. Still, Michel has enough potential for Colorado and Gonzaga to recruit him. He has a strong upside if he develops.

The Hoosiers would boost their overall athleticism if former Ohio State and Wright State guard Walter Offutt walks on at IU. He’d have to walk-on because Big Ten transfer rules prohibit players transferring players from being on an athletic scholarship (although academic scholarships are fine). He told the Indianapolis Star he’d come to IU if a good financial aid package is devised.

The bottom line is that while Crean hasn’t signed anybody this spring, there’s plenty of behind-the-scenes action going on. When there’s action, there’s hope, and where there’s hope, there’s a chance. In other words, all things are possible.

Isn't that what spring is for?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Adams Set To Pay Indiana Basketball Dividends

Drew Adams is going to produce a big Indiana basketball payoff.

Yes, you’re probably thinking recruiting given Adams’ Indiana Elite AAU connections, but hold that thought for just a second.

Adams is 25 years old and he’s a not yet a college coach, although he’s on track to be. For now he’s the director of basketball operations/video coordinator, a position he acquired after Brian Barone left to become an assistant coach at Wisconsin-Green Bay.

That means he does a bunch of behind-the-scenes stuff. One of the most important is video work. IU basically records every game that is on TV, no matter the time or obscure channel. That means when the Hoosiers return to the postseason stage -– and they WILL return (saying that 50 times a day will make it easier to believe) -– they’ll have tape of whichever team they’re matched up with.

Beyond that, they’ll have tape of every team they’ll play next season, plus tape of every practice. All of this is broken down into teaching segments that makes you wonder how Bob Knight, John Wooden and the other coaching wizards did it back in the pre-digital days.

Adams will handle all of that, and it’s a means to an end of being a college head coach some day. He grew up a Hoosier fan, went to Bloomington South High School (averaged 10.8 points as a senior and led the Panthers to a Conference Indiana title), played two years in junior college, played for a year at Iowa under Steve Alford and current IU assistant coach Tim Buckley.

He wound up as an assistant coach for his father, Mark, who runs the Indiana Elite program. He got to know the guys IU is recruiting (already committed Austin Etherington, plus Cody Zeller, Marshall Plumlee, Jeremiah Davis, D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, Kenny Kaminski, Peter Jurkin and Hanner Para).

Yes, in case you didn’t notice, Indiana Elite is loaded with in-state studs.

Anyway, along the way the younger Adams and his coaching aspirations got the attention of IU coach Tom Crean.

“For years Tim Buckley would talk about him,” Crean said. “It’s been a real blessing for Indiana basketball to have him in this program. He wants to coach; he wants to learn; he wants to get better.”

So Adams is here and loving every minute of it. Of course, he gets plenty of minutes to love because this is a hard-working staff not interested in off time when there’s a tradition to uphold, especially when that tradition is staggered by consecutive 20-plus loss seasons.

It starts with a strong foundation, which includes a strong coaching staff. Crean insisted that with Buckley, Bennie Seltzer and newly hired Steve McClain, plus Adams, he has the best staff in the country.

Buckley and McClain are former head coaches. Seltzer was a finalist for the Central Florida job. Crean said it’s “just a matter of time” before Seltzer becomes a head coach and “he’s going to be a great head coach.”

“When we talk about the best staff in the country,” Crean said, “I’m not talking about a magazine that ranks the three best recruiters. We have to make sure we’re recruiting the kind of people who you want to coach with. I’m not looking for the flash-and-dash staff. I don’t think Bob Knight was. I know Tom Izzo isn’t.

“We want guys who have a lot of substance. I don’t want a staff of models, of coaches who dress nice. I’m looking for guys who dress like me. Who are as intense as I am. That’s how we’ll win at Indiana. That’s how Bob Knight won at Indiana. That’s how Tom Izzo wins at Michigan State. That’s how we won at Marquette. That’s the kind of staff I want.”

Is this the staff that will win at Indiana? We MIGHT start knowing that next year. We DO know that Adams will have a significant role.

“Drew has been preparing for a job like this for a long, long time,” Crean said. “He’s earned the opportunity to move up. This makes our staff a lot better.”

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Intrigue, Insight and Indiana Basketball

Ah, yes, a little Indiana basketball scheduling intrigue.

Hey, a high school junior big man pays the Hoosiers an unofficial visit.

Oh, a little more insight into why coach Tom Crean likes his two-man recruiting Class of 2010.

Let’s start first with IU’s two signed players for this coming fall, a pair of three-star (out of five) shooting guards in Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey. Oladipo is from Maryland. Sheehey is from Florida.

“One of the reasons why I like the guys we signed,” Crean said, “is they come from good high school programs, good summer programs, teams that won.”

One of the ways, to build a winning program is to have a bunch of guys from winning programs in it. The more winners you have, the more losing becomes unacceptable, and the more winning you do.

It sounds easy, doesn’t it?

“You’d better put a premium on winning,” Crean said. “It’s not like they change when they get to college and put that premium on.

“When you go out of state you don’t want to find kids who are part of a good team, but of a good program.”

Of course, Crean also wants that from in-state players.

“There are so many good players in this state and they’ve been so well coached,” Crean said. “One of the keys this state has is it has so many good coaches and good programs. They take it really seriously. Kids get a chance to get their games advanced.”

Crean and his staff continue to watch that advancement while building relationships that, ideally, produce signed players who lead to championships.

“We’ve got balance issues to work through (with the returning players) so we can recruit properly,” he said. “That will happen as we go down the line.

“Recruiting is non-stop. You’re always learning about somebody new. Talent is in all corners of the state. It’s not locked into one area. That’s a great thing.”

As far as out-of-state talent, consider Jarrod Uthoff, a 6-8 junior forward from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, who took an unofficial visit to Indiana on Wednesday. He’s also stopped by Butler, Illinois and Notre Dame.

And just in case you need an intrigue fix, IU is set to play in the Las Vegas Classic just before Christmas. The field reportedly includes New Mexico, which is coached by Steve Alford, the former Hoosier All-America who really, really wanted the Indiana job after Mike Davis moved on.

IU passed on Alford, took Kelvin Sampson and ended up in NCAA misery. Alford left Iowa, arrived in New Mexico and turned the Lobos into a NCAA tourney team.

Go figure.

If you believe the Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier, and who doesn’t, the field also will include Colorado and Northern Iowa. Two games would be held at Assembly Hall. Two more would be played in Las Vegas.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Crean Keeps Spring Recruiting Options Open

Okay, so Indiana coach Tom Crean is not locking up the cream of the spring basketball recruiting crop, or anybody for that matter.

Does that mean he’s conceded the spring? Is it disaster for the program?

Are you nuts?

The latest word is that junior college forward Dwight McCombs is headed to Central Florida (he’s the fourth big man to pass on the Hoosiers, the others were forwards Moses Abraham, Will Yeguete and Cody Larson) just as a 6-10 Minnesota prep standout, Kevin Noreen, is back in the recruiting mix after saying goodbye to Boston College in the wake of its coaching change.

Noreen averaged 37 points and 16 rebounds as a senior and is the state’s all-time leading scorer.

Minnesota is interested. So is Northwestern (a source told the Wildcats are a slight favorite and that Noreen is set to visit IU in the next week). So are a bunch of power-conference teams.

The Hoosiers still need a quality big guy and while Noreen is not nationally ranked by, the potential apparently is there.

Other Class of 2010 possibilities are guard Walter Offutt (previously at Ohio State and Wright State), 6-9 junior college forward John Wilkins and 6-7 forward Emmanuel Negedu (expected to transfer from Tennessee).

In the end, it’s all about improving the program, which is the No. 1 objective.

“We want to make sure we’re recruiting diligent,” Crean said. “We’re recruiting for this class (Class of 2010) because we want to finish this one strong.

“At the same time, we continue to understand that we cannot get away from recruiting the young kids in this state and throughout the country.”

Those in-state kids in the class of 2011 include already committed Austin Etherington (just because he’s given his word doesn’t mean you stop recruiting him), plus Cody Zeller, Marshall Plumlee and Jeremiah Davis. Then there are such 2012 prospects as D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, Kenny Kaminski, Peter Jurkin and Hanner Para.

Yes, these guys all play for the Indiana Elite AAU programs, which are coached by Mark Adams, who is the father of Drew Adams, who was just promoted to director of basketball operations and video coordinator. Drew was an assistant coach for Indiana Elite before joining IU last year.

Crean is no fool. He understands the importance of relationships in recruiting and while hiring Adams guarantees nothing in terms of signing players, it certainly doesn’t hurt.

But that’s a blog for another day.

In the meantime, the returning Hoosiers are busting their rumps to prepare for next season and try to end their two-year losing streak. They’re lifting weights and enduring individual workout sessions designed to steel them for future challenges.

“We’ve seen growth in everybody,” Crean said. “That’s what this spring is all about. We try to make it as intense…

“I think the main thing for them is don’t let the workout beat you. We’re trying to make the workouts harder all the time. You want to beat the workout.

“There will be 25 percent of the (recruits) who read that will say, ‘We don’t want to do that.’ Well, good! Let’s weed it out. You have to have a serious mindset to win at this level. That’s what we want.”

In other words, Crean wants tough-minded guys, serious guys, guys who can make instant impacts and help blast away all this losing misery. Will it happen? You’d better believe it. When?

Not soon enough.

One last thing. Bloomington Herald-Times writer Dustin Dopirak got guard Matt Carlino to confirm he will graduate from Bloomington South next month after his junior year so he can enroll at UCLA for next season. Carlino, who originally committed to IU and then moved from Arizona to Bloomington, backed out of his commitment earlier in the spring. He’s set to compete for the point guard position at UCLA, although he was mostly a shooting guard at Bloomington South.

Monday, April 26, 2010

McClain Says He's Ready for IU Basketball Recruiting Challenge

So here is Steve McClain, new to Indiana but not the coaching profession, seeking to make the kind of impact that will help boost the Hoosiers back to national relevance.

Yes, some of that will involve how well he works with the players, particularly the big guys; how much he helps improve the defense, a specialty of his; how much he improves the coaching staff.

But perhaps the biggest key is what McClain can do for recruiting. He recruited nationally during his nine years at Wyoming, and had success in getting Chicago guards to come west, among other things. He’s been in the profession for 28 years. He knows how to get things done.

Now McClain is at IU, a traditional powerhouse, and if the power has short-circuited the last couple of years because of NCAA sanctions and a start-from-scratch reality, it can be short-lived with the right kind of recruiting. That means good players, tough-minded players, players who thrive on the court and in the classroom, players upon which the Hoosier tradition was built.

Can McClain help land those kinds of players? That’s the million-dollar question. Can he help sway in-state players to ignore overtures from Kentucky and Louisville and Ohio State and Michigan State and, of course, Purdue and now Butler? It’s a challenge McClain insists he’s ready for.

“It’s not like nobody is coming into the state to recruit them,” he said. “That’s the fun part. As Coach (Tom Crean) says, I’m not real good at taking no. I won’t take no. We’ll stay till the end. That’s the competitive part I enjoy. A lot of guys don’t. I do.”

McClain will compete without previous experience in recruiting state of Indiana players. Is that a problem? Let’s consider the interaction of McClain and Crean at a recent press conference.

“I’ve never been in a job where you have (high school) players like you have at Indiana,” McClain said. “I’m looking forward that I don’t have to get on a plane. I get tired of that…”

“You’re still getting on a plane,” Crean said with a smile.

“At the end of the day,” McClain said, “it’s about relationships. Do people trust you? Have you done right by the kids you have recruited? One thing I can fall back on is if a guy wants to check me out, I can give five other coaches to call."

Some fans are unhappy that many of the best in-state players are going somewhere besides Bloomington, but there's a lot of talent coming up through the state in the next few years and IU has to get its share. The recruiting competition will be fierce, which would make the success so much more rewarding.

“It’s so much fun to do this in this state because the basketball is the best," McClain said. "The high school coaches are great coaches. There’s such a dynamic here.”

McClain faces that dynamic because of his long-time friendship with Cream.

“It started with us watching each other,” McClain said. “I go back to when he was an assistant coach at Western Kentucky and I was the assistant at Hutchinson. People who work and have a passion for what they do tend to be around each other. When Coach called about the job, there was no hesitation. It was an opportunity to grown and learn.”

Opportunity, of course, has to lead to success, and the sooner the better.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

McClain A Good Fit For IU Basketball

Today we are going to reveal the secret why Indiana coach Tom Crean chose Steve McClain as his new assistant coach and not, say, Dane Fife.

First, we begin with this new bit of intrigue -– Crean was so upset with former coach Roshown McLeod that he stopped using him as a recruiter last fall. That meant the IU staff was a man short on the recruiting trail. Yes, that likely impacted recruited, but bigger issues were at work.

“The guys who are probably most excited (about hiring McClain) are probably (assistant coaches) Bennie (Seltzer) and Tim (Buckley), because frankly since about the end of October, we have been a man down in recruiting,” Crean said. “By my choice, but that is the way that it was.”

Crean didn’t specify a reason, but it goes back to trust and loyalty and support. That’s huge in the coaching profession and if you don’t have it, or are perceived you don’t have it, you ain’t lasting long.

Anyway, McLeod was on his way out. Just before the end of the season, Crean apparently had enough and cut him loose.

So why McClain?

“He’s fearless,” Crean said.

“He’s a great coach,” Crean added.

Oh, yes.

“I didn’t tell you about the golf outings you’ll do instead of me,” Crean joked to McClain. “Back in Wyoming you were riding horses, going to barbecues, roasting pigs.”

Here, it’s golf. And then, of course, it needs to be about winning. McClain apparently has that covered.

“When you look at the whole package of being able to recruit, of being able to handle all the administrative parts, being able to represent the program in so many different areas,” Crean said, “he fits.

“The number one parameter is I had to find somebody that had some trust and loyalty. Bottom line. And I wasn't going to hire a stranger, that doesn't work.”

By now you know that McClain has been a successful coach for 28 years. He won a national junior college title as the head coach at Hutchinson Community College (a 91-16 record in three seasons) and later had a successful run at Wyoming (157-115 with four postseason appearances in nine years), although his last few years were rough enough for him to move on. That took him to Colorado as an assistant coach, where he was instrumental in helping to rejuvenate a Colorado program that is now poised for postseason opportunity. He was a finalist for the head coaching job after Jeff Bzdelik left for Wake Forest.

The Colorado search took a while and Crean, who had known McClain for years starting when both were assistant coaches, was willing to wait. In fact, if McClain had gotten the Colorado job (and Crean hoped that he would), Fife likely would have been IU’s new assistant coach. After all, Fife had strong Hoosier roots from his days as a defensive standout. He was a key member of IU’s 2002 national runner-up team, and later served on then coach Mike Davis’ staff. As a head coach Fife has boosted an IPFW program that has struggled since moving to Division I. He directed the Mastodons to their first winning record at the Division I level this past season.

Anyway, when McClain didn’t get the Colorado job, Crean snapped him up.

“He goes into the Mountain West and wins that league,” Crean said. “He competes year after year. The closest airport to Laramie, Wyo., was 2 ½ hours away, yet they recruited throughout the country.

“He’s developed a toughness in his players. A perseverance. His teams were tough. Absolutely tough. They were the epitome of toughness. To have him part of our staff will help us continue this restoration process.”

So what does McClain think of this? That’s coming soon.

Oh, for those of you who pointed out the brain-dead error I had in a recent blog headline -– I corrected it -– thanks. I have lots of excuses, most involving alien abduction. Anyway, I am convinced that it will be the last typo, error or glitch I will ever have. Now I’m going to do some research for that hit song McClean had before becoming a coach – “American Pie.”

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Indiana Basketball -- Garl Pushes Creek Rehab

What’s up with Maurice Creek, you ask. How is Indiana’s freshman guard, whose breakout basketball season was wiped out by a freak knee injury, doing in his rehabilitation from knee surgery?

Well, he’s not ready to soar to spectacular heights, or even work out full time with his teammates, but he is improving.

For this he can thank -– or curse -– trainer Tim Garl.

Garl is a nice guy, a great guy, except when he gets you in his rehabilitating clutches. Then he morphs into what some believe is the reincarnation of the Marquis de Sade. Who is that, you ask? Well, he was the French dude from the 18th Century who developed the reputation for inflicting pain on people. Actually, he was a writer who wrote about sex, violence, blasphemy to the Catholic Church and other topics that led to the birth of Howard Stern.

Anyway, Garl’s job is to get players back to full health as fast and as safely as possible. That means he has to push them. And push them. That means, sometimes, players don’t always like him.

And that pleases coach Tom Crean to no end.

“Maurice is probably ahead of schedule healing wise,” Crean said. “He has to continue to be diligent. The thing I like is Tim Garl is on his tail every day. I’m sure he has a picture of Tim in his room with darts and a fake mustache that he can throw at.

“You know what -– he needs a few more. This staff’s job is to push him and the great thing is we have the support of mom and dad because he has never been through anything like this.”

So what does this mean for Creek’s basketball game?

“He’s done some individual workouts with us,” Crean said. “He’s done a lot of shooting. We’ve had to back him off from time to time. We follow the pain-is-the-guide method with him and Tim continues to push him. If you ask Tim he would say Maurice could be doing a lot more, and that is exactly what you want.”

Creek was averaging 16 points when he got hurt just before the start of Big Ten play. The Hoosiers never really recovered. Getting Creek back to full strength is critical for next season. And if that means Tim Garl has to assume the persona of Darth Vader, well, rumor has it Tim looks good in black.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Cook Hall -- The Future of Indiana Basketball Is Now

Does Indiana’s new Cook Hall mean that the Hoosiers will soon surpass Kentucky as the must-sign destination for college basketball superstars?

Hey, it’s okay to dream, and when you see this much-needed multi-million-dollar upgrade to the program, and you NEED to see it, you’ll want to dream.

Cook Hall (photo courtesy of IU athletics) features identical facilities for the men’s and women’s programs. That means no more sharing the Assembly Hall court, which forced the teams to alter their academic schedules depending on when they could practice. It will have a state-of-the-art weight room, training room, locker room, coaches offices, meeting rooms and, best of all a Legacy Court that has enough bells and whistles to inspire the most fanatical of fans. Why? Because it highlights the tradition of a program that has produced five national championships, 41 All-Americans and enough memories to ensure the program’s status among the nation’s best.

Yes, the Hoosiers have struggled the last few years thanks to the mess left by serial phone caller Kelvin Sampson. Yes, coach Tom Crean is in overdrive trying to restore the Cream ‘n Crimson’s winning ways, and that means, among other things, upgrading the talent.

You’d better believe this facility will help. Sure, Crean figures players will be impressed by all the cool features, but beyond that he wants them inspired by the history, tradition and legacy that made IU a school to fear for so long.

“We want recruits to come in here and they will be impressed,” Crean said. “They’ll certainly be impressed with the graphics.”

Those graphics, by the way, are due to the year-plus efforts of associate athletic director Kit Klingelhoffer and former Herald-Times sports editor Bob Hammel. They planned and implemented all the Legacy Court displays.

“I want recruits studying the history of Indiana basketball,” Crean said. “For a historian, it’s unreal. The true fan will be blown away. I want the casual observer to say, ‘I want to see that again.’ That’s what I hope. The 15-year-old, the 16-year-old, even the 14-year-old, I want them to love it. I want them to see they can get better here.”

What will they see? How about a regulation-size practice court (players will have 24-hour access to it), a 2,000-square foot weight room (exclusively for basketball) and a spacious locker room that includes a players’ lounge and a 55-inch flat-screen TV.

Coaches will have meeting rooms, two balconies to view practice action, and a state-of-the-art video system to record practices and games.

Trainers will have a high-tech sports medicine facility that includes three small pools for hydrotherapy training (water running, swimming, jump training, balance training), recording equipment for analysis and four training tables (twice as many as what they have in Assembly Hall).

IU officials will dedicate Cook Hall, which is connected by an underground tunnel to Assembly Hall, on Sunday. The coaches have moved into their new offices (although Crean has been on the road recruiting so much, he’s barely had time to settle in), but the players must wait until next week, when all the final touches (including new equipment for the weight room and training room) are finished.

In case you wondered, it’s called Cook Hall because of the $15 million donation from Bill and Gayle Cook, and the Cook Group, a medical device company based in Bloomington.

Oh, one other thing. IU went from no practice facility to one that rivals, if not surpasses, every other such facility in the country. Does it guarantee a return to national relevance? No, but it’s a hell of a start.

IU's Saffold Has Starting Opportunity With Rams

Maybe Rodger Saffold (photo courtesy of IU athletics) needs a new best friend. Hey, it’s possible. The Indiana offensive lineman is, after all, set to become a multi-millionaire with his selection as the 33rd pick (the first pick of the second round) in the NFL Draft courtesy of the St. Louis Rams.

Yes, it wasn’t the late first-round opportunity Saffold had hoped for (why did the Dallas Cowboys go for receiver Dez Bryant and the Indianapolis Colts go for defensive tackle Jerry Hughes instead of this four-year Hoosier starter?), but he’s in the league and will soon be signing for serious money. Who knows? He might need help spending it.

For now, though, Saffold needs to start thinking about protecting quarterback Sam Bradford, the NFL’s No. 1 pick and the future of the St. Louis offense. The Rams ignored several trade offers because they wanted an instant-impact lineman. Saffold could get a shot at starting as a rookie because of the struggles of veteran Rams left tackle Alex Barron.

Saffold is the first IU lineman drafted since Cleveland took Isaac Sowells in 2006 and the first IU lineman selected in the second round since Andrew Greene was the No. 53 pick by the Miami Dolphins in 1995. He will join former Hoosier Victory Adeyanju, a defensive end picked by the Rams in the fourth round of the 2006 draft.

Saffold started 41 games in his college career. Last season he anchored a staff the allowed just 16 sacks, second best in the Big Ten. He made All-Big Ten.

“The entire football program is very happy for Rodger,” coach Bill Lynch said in a university release. “Rodger was a mainstay on our offensive line. He developed into an elite left tackle and one of our team captains. St. Louis is getting a tremendous player and a young man who will represent the organization in a first-class manner.”

For those who downplay Indiana’s football prowess, consider Saffold is the third Hoosier to be selected in the second round in three years. Cornerback Tracy Porter (New Orleans) and receiver James Hardy (Buffalo) were the 40th and 41st picks in 2008.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

On Teague and Indiana Basketball Recruiting

He wore a blue-and-white Kentucky cap, a red Pike High School shirt, blue jeans and tennis shoes.

Yeah, Marquis Teague was dressed like the teenager he is to make a life-altering decision. And if he was seduced by the Calipari side of the force, well, who isn’t these days? UK coach John Calipari already has the No. 1 guy in the Class of 2010, Brandon Knight, locked up. He has commitments from the top two guys in the Class of 2011, Michael Gilchrist and Teague, and is well positioned to get No. 3 Quincey Miller and No. 11 Adonis Thomas.

Oh, yes. Five players from this year’s Elite Eight team are leaving early for NBA riches.

No way is this fair, at least not for Indiana coach Tom Crean, who seeks some follow-up recruiting firepower to his current freshman group.

But we digress.

The Teague family was diplomatic is announcing their decision to line up with Calipari and turn down scholarship offers from Indiana, Purdue, Louisville and Cincinnati.

“There were lots of positives about all the programs,” Marquis’ father, Shawn, said. “There were no negatives. They all would have been good situations for Marquis.”

In the end, it came down to a two-coach dual between Calipari and Louisville’s Rick Pitino. In this instance, Calipari won out.

“This feels great,” Teague said. “I wanted to be a Wildcat. That’s what I’m going to be.”

Purdue’s Matt Painter and Indiana’s Tom Crean, recognizing they had no chance in this particular recruiting battle, backed off at the end. Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin, fighting the good fight to the disappointing conclusion, visited Pike on Wednesday.

Pitino made his last pitch on Tuesday. Calipari showed up on Wednesday.

Teague thinks Calipari’s dribble-drive system and ability to develop NBA-caliber guards is perfect for him, that Calipari will give him the freedom to create. Perhaps he is right.

Yes, much has been made that Teague has looked more impressive on the summer AAU circuit than in high school. As far as what that will mean in two years when he faces major college challenges, who knows.

As far as what Calipari thinks, we’ll have to wait until November when Teague officially signs and Calipari is allowed by NCAA rules to comment.

Teague describes himself as a “a solid point guard who can handle the ball, who is quick, who gets to the hoop and who leads by example.” He said he’s glad the decision is made so he can “relax” and focus on school and improving his game.

His father is glad all the rumors will end and that those stories that didn’t quite match the facts are over.

“I heard a lot of stories," Shawn Teague said. "I saw things that I supposedly said that I didn’t know anything about.”

Here’s what we do know –- IU went 0-for-2 with the Teague brothers (Jeff played at Wake Forest; he’s now a rookie for the Atlanta Hawks).

Here’s something else we know (thanks to the Dayton Daily News) -– guard Walter Offut, a former Warren Central standout who went to Ohio State, then left to transfer to Wright State, is now poised to walk on at IU. He missed his first season in Columbus with a knee injury. He played in just a few games this past season.

The Hoosiers are still in the running for 6-8, 235-pound junior college player Dwight McCombs.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Trust Big Factor in Hiring McClain

In the end, it was about trust and loyalty. It was about Tom Crean hiring an assistant coach he KNOWS will have his back when things get tough, as they certainly will in the on-going quest to restore Indiana’s basketball glory.

So Crean went with Steve McClain, lately of Colorado, previously at Wyoming and Hutchinson Junior College, a proven winner over a 28-year period.

Along the way Crean passed on IPFW coach Dane Fife, a former IU standout.

“It means a lot to me to bring in someone with the knowledge, experience and aggressiveness of Steve McClain,” Crean said in a university release. “I have admired him for how hard he works and how hard his teams, especially at Wyoming, played. He brings a toughness to our program and he carries that same mindset over into recruiting.”

Recruiting, of course, is crucial in the Hoosiers’ rebuilding process and how good a recruiter McClain is remains uncertain. A recruit won’t care that McClain helped a rebuilding Colorado go 15-16 last season, or that he went 157-115 in nine years at Wyoming or that he won a national junior college title at Hutchinson.

But the fact that McClain worked with several players who either played or were drafted by NBA teams, including Kurt Thomas and Lee Nailon of TCU, Justin Williams and Josh Davis of Wyoming, Ben Davis and Shaun Vandiver at Hutchinson and Harvey Grant at Independence Community College.

“I am excited to have the chance to walk into a building with five banners and be a part of a program that believes that what is on the front of the chest means much more than what is on the back of the jersey,” McClain said. “That is what college basketball is all about.”

Added Crean: “He has had a huge part in the development of so many outstanding players and we are excited to get him started with our program. He has hit the ground running in his first day on the job and with as much energy as I like to have, he brings that and then some. Indiana basketball is very fortunate to have him here.”

It will be even more fortunate if elite high school players start signing with the Hoosiers.

“Our philosophies are exactly on the same page in terms of how you ought to play and the toughness it takes to win a championship,” McClain said.

McClain replaces Roshown McLeod, who was let go late in the season. McLeod was just named head coach at St. Benedicts Prep in New Jersey.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Does Indiana Have a Shot at Teague?

So here’s the deal. Marquis Teague will -– PROBABLY –- announce his college basketball choice on Thursday. We say probably because, although he has set up a Thursday press conference, he has delayed his decision before.

An Indiana optimist could take this as a sign that Teague, the Indianapolis Pike junior guard rated as high as No. 2 nationally in the Class of 2011, will resist the siren calls of Louisville and Kentucky and become a Hoosier.

Remember, that’s an optimist and not a realist.

Teague has narrowed his choices to IU, Purdue, Cincinnati, Kentucky and Louisville. Hoosier coach Tom Crean has made a strong push to get Teague. Landing him could jumpstart Crean's efforts to get the best in-state players.

However, Teague's father once played for Rick Pitino, now the Louisville coach. The odds are VERY good that he will become a Cardinal.

Of course, Teague could be lured by the prospects of yet another Kentucky super class. Coach John Calipari’s knack for signing and developing NBA caliber guards (see Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans and John Wall as examples) is well known. So are the rumors that Teague will join top-rated Michael Gilchrist and Quincy Miller in a projected UK Class of 2011. Gilchrist is already committed.

Teague, in case you’ve forgotten, looms as a one-and-done guy, although his junior numbers at Pike (16.3 points, 4.6 assists, 3.1 rebounds, 1.6 steals) suggest that might be a little optimistic. He isn’t a great shooter (43 percent from the field, 66 percent on free throws). He has a lot to learn about defense, but then, what high school player doesn’t?

IU had to offer Teague. So did Purdue. He is too touted a player too close to home to ignore him. Still, is he a program-changing player? Is he a good fit? Perhaps so. Perhaps not.

He’ll get a chance to answer those questions for some school in the next couple of years, but it will all start on Thursday. The surprise won’t come if he passes on IU. The surprise will come if he doesn’t.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Is McClean in Indiana's Basketball Coaching Future?

Nothing is official, but if you believe the Denver Post, Steve McClain will be Indiana’s new assistant basketball coach.

Why McClain? You could mention the fact he was the associate head coach at Colorado the last three years and helped build the Buffaloes back to respectability with this past season’s 15-16 record.

You could mention the fact he previously was the head coach at Wyoming and guided that program to a 157-115 record with one NCAA tourney appearance and two Mountain West Conference titles. Or that he had a 91-16 record at Hutchinson (Kansas) Community College and won a junior college national championship there.

You could even point out that McClain was a finalist for the Colorado head coaching job, which opened up with Jeff Bzdelik left for Wake Forest. McClain lost out to Northern Colorado’s Tad Boyle for the Colorado job.

All this is important, but the bottom line is if IU head coach Tom Crean does go with McClain, it’s because he believes McClain provides the most recruiting impact.

Let’s face it. The Hoosiers need high-level players. They need an assistant coach who can help sign them more than they need a guy to coach, say, the pick and roll. Yes, Crean will always be the No. 1 recruiter, but an assistant who can bring in top-flight talent is invaluable.

Is McClain that kind of coach? It’s too early to tell, but if he comes to Indiana, he needs to be.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Indiana's Football Recruiting Roll Continues

Brace yourself. Indiana football coach Bill Lynch is on a recruiting roll.

The Hoosiers boosted their commitments to eight when linebackers Kyle Kennedy from Indianapolis Cathedral and Max Pirman from Ohio, plus offensive lineman Ralston Evans from Indianapolis Arlington joined the Cream ‘n Crimson cause.

They can’t sign until next February, which is when Lynch will be allowed, per NCAA rules, to talk about them.

The 6-3, 198-pound Kennedy was swayed in part by IU’s upgraded Memorial Stadium in general, the North End Zone facility in particular. He’s smart and fundamentally sound. He’s the third linebacker signed in the Class of 2011, which gives you an idea of where Hoosier coaches are putting their priority.

Purdue, Iowa, Cincinnati, Boston College and Ball State were recruiting Kennedy.

The 6-4, 260-pound Evans was getting interest from Purdue, Ohio State, Michigan, Tennessee, Duke, Ball State, Toledo and Buffalo. He’s athletic enough to play baseball and basketball at Arlington. He’s run a 4.9-second 40-yard dash.

The 6-5, 218-pound Pirman picked Indiana over schools such as Kansas, Western Michigan, Northwestern, Ball State and pretty much the rest of the Mid-American Conference. Pirman has a knack for sacking the quarterback (he had eight sacks in a playoff game). He’s played linebacker and defensive end. He showed up at Saturday’s spring game with high school teammate Chase Hoobler, a linebacker who will arrive in Bloomington this summer.

That gives IU four in-state commitments, which also reflects the coaches’ priority. The Hoosiers also have received four commitments in the last three days,

All these players fit Lynch’s recruiting approach. You rarely see him and his staff go head to head college football superpowers for elite recruits unless they have a realistic chance to sign them. Mostly Lynch looks for versatile athletes who can be developed.

Oh. Lynch has done this despite having just two years left on his contract, with no guarantee he’ll get an extension. That’s a quite an accomplishment. Now all he has to do is what matters most –- win enough to make a bowl game.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Indiana Football Future Has Freshman Feel

So here we were on a crisp spring night at Memorial Stadium, watching the future of IU football before our eyes.

One part of that future centered on true freshman tailback Antonio Banks. Running behind a makeshift offensive line because of injuries and a split squad, he still managed 49 yards on 11 carries, an average of 4.5 yards a carry. He was among the reasons why his Crimson squad beat the Cream 17-10.

Granted, 30 of those yards came on one carry, which means Banks averaged 1.9 yards the other times, but that misses the point. At 5-10 and 200 pounds, he showed enough potential to suggest he could be a solid contributor this season.

That is, if he doesn’t redshirt.

Here’s the deal. Banks graduated from high school in December, then enrolled at Indiana in January. That gives him a head start on typical freshmen, who normally doesn’t get to campus until the summer after their senior year. Still, he's got a lot to learn and improve.

With veterans Darius Willis and Trea Burgess, plus speed back Nick Turner in the running back mix, Banks seemed headed for a scout team role.

But consider Willis missed the spring game because of ankle surgery. Before that he was out with rib injury. Before that, well, this is nothing new. In fact, saying Willis is out with an injury is much like saying, “Mario Andretti is slowing down” was for so many Indy 500s. Willis is a talented guy, he led the team with 607 rushing yards and six touchdowns last year, but he struggles with durability.

And if he keeps struggling, then Banks has an instant-impact chance. He did total 2,948 rushing yards, 507 receiving yards and 41 touchdowns during his career at Middletown (Ohio) High School. He's an impact guy.

“He’s one of those guys you just notice,” coach Bill Lynch said. “He breaks tackles. He finds seams. He did that every practice all spring. When a guy does it day after day, you really notice him.”

The crowd noticed him. IU officials said the attendance of 5,325 was a record, although that’s hard to verify given the school has rarely recorded spring game attendance over the years. Still, it was certainly double the number from last year and far better than what the Hoosiers usually do.

That’s a good sign for the program, but a better one would be winning, say, eight games and going to a bowl game. And if Antonio Banks helps make it possible, well, it’s gonna be a heck of a future.

Friday, April 16, 2010

On Indiana Football, A Commitment and a New Glass Twist

For all those burning for a basketball recruiting fix, consider a football break. Today is spring game day, the annual event that leaves a football coach praying for an injury free finale. For Indiana’s Bill Lynch, however, it also comes with the benefit of knowing he now has five high school players committed for the Class of 2011.

Oh, yes. Lynch also gets to wonder what the heck is IU athletic director Fred Glass going to do next to get people into Memorial Stadium?

First, let’s focus on recruiting. The latest commitment, revealed by the efforts of Inside Indiana’s Matt Weaver, is linebacker Zach Shaw from Coshocton, Ohio, and if you don’t know where the town is (basically between Canton and Columbus) you just might understand the significance of Shaw’s junior numbers –- a school record 228 tackles and a school record eight interceptions.

Yes, this 6-4, 218-pounder is a playmaker and that is something the Hoosiers can’t get enough of given that poor defense, more than any other factor, is why they’ve been to just one bowl game in the last 17 years.

Now a cynic could say that the Hoosiers beat out Kent State, Toledo and Ball State for Shaw, so how good is he? Well, Ohio State, West Virginia and Michigan were looking at him, so that tells you something, but if you seek a definitive answer, you’ll have to wait about three or four years and see what kind of college player he becomes.

Shaw is the second Ohio linebacker to commit to IU, joining Mike Replogle. The other commitments are quarterback Tre Roberson and tight end Jake Reed (both are from Indiana) and offensive lineman Kirk Harris from Kansas.

As far as the spring game (otherwise knows as the battle between the Cream and Crimson), the Hoosiers are never going to rival, say, Alabama for drawing huge crowds. But Glass wants to make it an event fans will want to see. Sure, he could bring in Tiger Woods to hit golf balls off the North End Zone addition, but that’s not realistic, so he’s settled for 3,000 free t-shirts. Some will be cream colored, some will be crimson. Fans will sit on the stadium’s east side and will be divided into a Cream Section and a Crimson Section. They’ll cheer and have a chance to win prizes. The big one is a chance for a randomly selected student to kick a 40-yard field goal. Why is that big? Because making the field goal will be worth a year’s free tuition.

If you’re a parent of an IU student, this is a VERY big deal. It's the latest example of why Glass and his outside-the-box thinking helped boost football attendance by about 10,000 or so a game last fall.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

IU Basketball Recruiting is Quiet, But Busy

On a day when Kentucky dominated the basketball recruiting news -– how much top talent can John Calipari keep getting? –- it was all quiet on the Indiana front.

That doesn’t mean coach Tom Crean wasn’t busy. He’s pushing on all fronts to land some impact players, specifically inside players, who can help next season.

Still, you see Gatorade national player of the year Brandon Knight sign with Kentucky on the first day of the signing period, followed by junior guard Michael Gilchrist committing to the Wildcats (yes, that means Calipari has the No. 1 player in both the Class of 2010 and 2011), and wonder, why can’t Crean get some of these guys?

The only answer to give is that Crean is trying.

Of course, there is that old Yoda quote that says, in a bad paraphrase, there is no try, there is only do or do not.

The Hoosiers do have guard Will Sheehey, rated at No. 131 by, and Victor Oladipo, who’s at No. 133.

They do not have a dominant big guy. They are in the hunt for junior college forward Dwight McCombs. He is 6-8 and 240 pounds. He is coming off a monster season for Moraine Valley Community College in Illinois where he averaged 22.3 points, 13.3 rebounds and 5.1 blocks.

He’d spent a year at Miami of Ohio before that and barely played (0.8 points, 1.3 rebounds). He has two more official visits to make. He told Mike Pegram of and Inside Indiana that he would use one visit to go to Arizona State. The other is between Auburn and IU.

The Hoosiers also are recruiting 6-9 South Dakota forward Cody Larson, who had signed with Iowa, but was released after Todd Lickliter was fired and former Siena coach Fran McCaffery took over.

In the meantime the national buzz focused on Kentucky. Calipari also is getting studs Enes Kanter and Stacey Poole for the Class of 2010. He’s also in the hunt for elite Class of 2010 recruits Josh Selby, Marcus Thornton, Terrence Ross, Terrence Jones and C.J. Leslie.

Who cares if you lose five key players to the NBA draft if you keep getting this kind of talent?

Also on the recruiting front, Ray McCallum will play for his dad, the former IU assistant coach, at Detroit. Trey Zeigler, the nation’s No. 26 player according to, will play for his father at Central Michigan.

Yes, if you’re thinking this way, Crean has a son, but he’s like 11 years old, so it would be a while.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Are Big Recruits in Indiana's Future?

Could the Indiana Hoosiers be poised to go big?

Hey, anything is possible given IU basketball coaches are taking hard looks at junior college forward Dwight McCombs and former Iowa signee Cody Larson.

McCombs is a 6-8, 240-pound power forward, just what the inside challenged Hoosiers need. Okay, they really need another Greg Oden, but that ain’t happening by Wednesday, the beginning of the college signing period. McCombs is a guy who averaged 22.3 points, 13.3 rebounds and 5.1 blocks for Moraine Valley Community College in Illinois. He’s played one year of mid-major ball, at Miami of Ohio, before transferring to Moraine Valley.

The 6-9 Larson was released from his national letter of intent in the aftermath of Iowa firing former coach Todd Lickliter. He was considered to be Lickliter’s top recruit after averaging 19.9 points, 7.8 rebounds and 4.1 assists as a high school senior. However, he was suspended from the team late in the seaon and missed the state playoffs. Also, he is not considered a top-150 player, and when your top recruit basically isn’t ranked, when you’ve had three straight losing seasons, life can get a little shaky. That’s among the reasons why Lickliter was fired.

Larson, by the way, is also getting looks from Ohio State, Arizona State, Minnesota and Florida.

Larson would also be an inside boost for the Hoosiers. Getting one or both players, or at least one big guy, is crucial given IU’s inside struggles and lack of depth.

Right now all IU has is a pair of guards for the Class of 2010 -- Will Sheehey and Victor Oladipo -- decent recruits, but not players who will turn the program around. McCombs and Larson aren't program changers, either, but at this late date, that's not likely to happen.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

For Indiana Football, Dual-Threat QBs Are Cool

There’s something about a dual-threat quarterback that can turn a Hoosiers thoughts to Antwaan Randle El.

Yes, that is a very good thing.

We mention this because Indiana has just received a verbal commitment from Lawrence Central quarterback Tre Roberson. Granted, he’s not the biggest guy at 6-1 and 170 pounds, but that’s not the point right now. His ability to throw and run is.

All Roberson did was throw for 1,008 yards and rush for 984 yards. That’s pretty impressive balance. He threw for eight touchdowns and ran for seven more TDs. That, too, is impressive versatility.

Roberson picked IU over Purdue and Toledo. He attended Saturday’s scrimmage at Memorial Stadium.

Randle El, in case you’re still suffering from the shock of Tigers Woods swearing at The Masters, ranked first in school history in career passing yards (7,469) and total yards (11,364), and second in school history in rushing (3,895 yards), points (270) and career touchdowns (45) and passing touchdowns (42). He’s now a NFL receiver back with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Roberson is the fourth Hoosier commitment and the second from the state of Indiana. The other in-state player is tight end Jake Reed of Columbus North. Also committed are offensive lineman Kirk Harris and linebacker Mike Replogle.

Roberson, by the way, won’t be the only dual-threat quarterback in the program. The Hoosiers already have Edward Wright-Baker from Jeffersonville. He’s battling Dusty Kiel for the backup quarterback spot behind Ben Chappell (who is definitely NOT a dual-threat QB). Wright-Baker figures to get plenty of action when IU goes to its Wildcat formation.

Players can’t actually sign until next February.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

IU Basketball Hope Amidst Butler Glory

So here is forward Cody Zeller, looking to make a college choice and three questions looms over the in-state recruiting scene like Godzilla:

Can Indiana coach Tom Crean get him?

Is Purdue coach Matt Painter the forgotten wild card amidst Butler mania?

Why won’t Ohio State coach Thad Matta stay out of the state of Indiana? Raid Pennsylvania or Delaware or, say, the Buckeye state? Leave the Hoosiers alone.

Sorry. It’s just that every time Matta crosses over the border, some high-profile prep superstar seems to windup in Columbus. From Greg Oden to Mike Conley to DeShaun Thomas, Matta makes his Indiana mark, a testament to his recruiting skill and state connections from his Butler days.

Of course, nobody has made a bigger mark the last couple of weeks than Butler coach Brad Stevens. He just signed a 12-year extension for an undisclosed amount of money in the wake of the Bulldogs’ national runner-up finish. He already was making about $750,000 a year, so it’s safe to say he’s now a million-dollar-plus-a-year man. It’s also safe to say that Oregon, which contacted him three times this week, would have paid a lot more.

Stevens, just like Gonzaga’s Mark Few, values job-and-life quality over higher-profile opportunity.

Stevens may not be the charismatic recruiter that, say, John Calipari is, but he’s a strong talent evaluator who targets players who fit the Butler system and academic standards. Plus, he’s won 89 games in three seasons, the fastest start in NCAA history. In-state players looking for prime-time college opportunity are likely to give the Bulldogs more consideration.

That’s a long way of saying he has targeted Zeller and Zeller, according to the Indy Star, is impressed, although not surprised.

Zeller is one of the top players in the nation. has him at No. 35 in the Class of 2011. He’s No. 4 in the state (once again the in-state talent is impressive) behind Indianapolis Pike’s Marquis Teague (No. 2 nationally), Lawrence North’s Michael Chandler (No. 10) and Gary Wallace’s Branden Dawson (No. 16). Just about every top program in the country has offered Zeller a scholarship, including Indiana, Purdue, Butler, Notre Dame, Florida and, yes, Ohio State.

Like most top-caliber recruits, Zeller figures to cut his list to five by the end of the summer and make a decision well before the November signing period.

Purdue's Painter has thrived by recruiting in-state talent (13 of the 17 players on the roster were from Indiana this season, as are three of the four incoming recruits). The Boilers' success (four straight NCAA tourneys, two straight Sweet 16 appearances) will be hard for Zeller to ignore.

So where are the Hoosiers in all of this? Crean continues to make his pitch about being part of restoring the program to greatness. Zeller would get all the playing time his performance and effort would warrant. Plus, he’d get to play in the Big Ten and practice in IU’s brand new Cook Hall, also known the mother of all practice facilities.

While some bad-mouth Crean’s recruiting (will he ever again sign a big guy?), the fact remains he made his reputation as an outstanding recruiter. He’ll eventually get the talent to where it needs to be.

Hey, if you believe the rumors, Zeller’s older brother Tyler, now at North Carolina, might transfer to IU to give Crean the impact big guys he needs to really get the program rolling. If a transfer does happen, it likely would be within a month.

Rumor, of course, isn’t fact. But it does give Hoosier fans something huge in this month of Butler glory:


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Indiana Football Is Showing Progress

Okay, as spring football practices go, it wasn’t Rembrandt or Picasso or DaVinci, but that wasn’t the point. After nine sessions Indiana coach Bill Lynch wanted to see progress, find young guys who can play and keep guys healthy.

So on an unseasonably warm afternoon beneath a blazing sun and cloudless blue skies at Memorial Stadium, the Hoosiers strutted their stuff.

“We put some new things in on both sides of the ball,” Lynch said. “We’re starting to get some guys dinged up so we played a lot of young guys in as practice went on. The more young guys you have in there the tougher it gets. It won’t be quite good. We put new things in on Tuesday, work on it on Thursday and Friday so by the time we scrimmage on Saturday’s it’s generally pretty clean.”

Clean is good, development is better. Lynch is building his program with the idea of redshirting as many freshmen as possible unless a new guy can come in and fill a need. He wants to make sure the young guys can handle what teams such as Ohio State and Penn State and even Michigan w

“Overall we’ve had a good spring,” Lynch said. “We’ve have a lot of young redshirt guys get in so we can see where they fit into it. One thing I can tell you, we’ve found more guys ready to play, whether it’s on offense or defense or special teams.”

This is huge given IU lost a ton from an already shaky defense. It lost some key offensive linemen. Lynch wants instant impact guys, players who will make a difference from their first snap, regardless of experience.

It’s about winning, of course, and after seasons of 3-9 and 4-8, the fans are way past the patient stage. They want to see IU upset somebody, be a Big Ten factor (upper third in the conference is fine) and make a bowl. You know, do what Ohio State does all the time.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Versatile Player Commits to Football Hoosiers

Jake Reed is a versatile guy, which means he fits right in with what Indiana football coach Bill Lynch likes in a recruit.

Reed, in case you missed it, is the 6-4, 231-pound Columbus North standout who just committed to the Hoosiers. He’s IU’s third commitment for the Class of 2011 and the first from Indiana.

That in-state label is important because Lynch targets Indiana hard and if he can consistently sign the state’ best talent, he’ll go a long way toward building a consistent winner. He and his staff hope Reed is the first of a strong group of in-state players who will commit in the next few months.

Reed is both a tight end and a defensive end. Which position he plays in college is uncertain. He’s taken a couple of unofficial visits to IU. At one, he spent time with the offensive coaches. During his latest one, last Saturday, he was with the defensive coaches. He’s fine with playing on either side of the ball.

At Columbus North, he’s been mostly a blocking tight end, although he did have eight catches for 147 yards last season.

His physical play could serve him well on defense at the college leve.The Hoosiers have gone to a 3-4 defensive scheme (three defensive linemen, four linebackers) and sometimes they want ends who are fast and agile rather than power guys. With a 4.88-second time in the 40-yard dash (bet the house Reed will improve that time in college), Reed is fast enough to be a speed rusher, yet athletic enough to drop back into pass coverage.

Reed, by the way, is a four-star player out of’s five-star system (UPDATED NOTE -- I might have jumped the gun on his rating. Let's just say he's well regarded). The Hoosiers need that kind of quality to get the program to bowl contending status.

Reed joins offensive lineman Kirk Harris and linebacker Mike Replogle as IU commitments. Figure IU will sign 20 to 25 players, so a lot of work lies ahead before next February’s signing day.

The Hoosiers are working now with spring practice development. Lynch continues to juggle the roster in the quest to develop depth, determine who the best players are and maximize potential. Freshman linebacker Jack Denton has moved to tight end. For now the move is temporary, but you never know. Denton, by the way, graduated high school last December so he could get an early jump in college.

In another move, redshirt freshman safety Nick Zachary is working with the wide receivers.

Finally, here are some players who are done for the spring: defensive tackle Jarrod Smith (back injury), safety Jarrell Drane (knee), offensive lineman Cody Faulkner (ankle), and cornerback Lawrence Barnett (wrist). Barnett is set to have surgery to fix ligament damage. He's had a strong enough spring to convince the coaches he's ready for a significant role next season.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Will Butler's Basketball Success Hurt Indiana?

So how big a worry is Butler’s success for Indiana? Will it hurt Hoosier recruiting? Will you suddenly see Washington’s Cody Zeller and other in-state kids prefer Butler over IU?

Not necessarily.

Butler proved with its national runner-up finish that it can thrive on the national scene as well or better than anybody. That it did so with unheralded recruiting classes -- at least compared to, say, Duke -- is testimony to Brad Stevens’ coaching ability, the toughness of its players and the importance getting kids who fit the Butler Way.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said making the title game will change the Butler program, in a good way. The Bulldogs, in fact, with four returning starters, assuming Gordon Hayward doesn't bolt for NBA riches, will certainly be a preseason top-5 team next season. Krzyzewsksi suggested they might even be No. 1.

But don’t expect the Bulldogs to go toe to toe with North Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas and company in the recruiting wars. It’s not their style. It’s not what got them to this level, and it sure as heck won’t keep it there.

What will?

Basically, doing what it’s been doing – recruiting guys that get the “Butler Way” mentality, who put team over individual, who care about academics and who thrive in small-school, mid-major surroundings.

Oh, yes. Targeting in-state players.

Yes, the Bulldogs' NCAA tourney run will draw some in-state kids, but that was already happening. Junior forward Matt Howard, for instance, passed on Purdue, among others, to go to Butler.

But it likely will happen more now. Take Zeller, who has offers from Butler, Indiana and Purdue, among others. His choice could provide an indication of how much the Bulldogs’ March Madness run has had on the in-state recruiting world, Indiana and Purdue in particular.

But don’t take our word for it. Consider Dave Telep, the national recruiting director for

“I think it will always be Butler recruiting,” Telep said. “Just because they have a bigger profile doesn’t mean that they’ll skimp on their core values and recruit a bunch of different kids. You may see them going after a couple guys who are a little bit higher level, but for most part I can see Brad Stevens being true to his model.

“I believe the Butler Way is what has gotten them to this point. You might find that over the course of a few years they’ll do what Gonzaga has done -- stick their nose in with some higher-profile guys, but I don’t think Brad Stevens will trade talent for the proper fit for his program -- ever.”

In other words, Butler’s success will make IU coach Tom Crean sweat a little more on the top-level in-state kids, but it won’t keep him from his goal: restoring the program to championship caliber. He might have to work a little harder, but then, hard work has always been a key component to Crean's success.

And to Butler's.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Can Indiana Get Marquis Teague?

So now Indiana’s Hoosiers wait. Will Marquis Teague choose them? Will the nation’s second-ranked player in the Class of 2011 -- out of Indianapolis Pike High School, no less -- see the Cream ‘n Crimson light or will he succumb to the recruiting pitches of Kentucky, Purdue, Louisville or Cincinnati?

We’ll know soon enough.

Teague, of course, is not a big man, and IU absolutely needs a couple of good big guys, but if you get a chance to land an elite guard, even if he’s a potential one-and-done guy, you’ve got to take a shot.

And so coach Tom Crean has.

Yes, the fact Louisville coach Rick Pitino just signed a four-year extension, which keeps him there until 2017, hurts the Hoosier cause. So does the fact Teague’s father, Shawn, once played for Pitino. So does the fact that Kentucky coach John Calipari, fresh off an Elite Eight run, has a knack for signing and quickly developing guards who leave early for NBA riches. So does the fact Purdue has become a national power that in two years will need a powerhouse guard to replace E’Twaun Moore.

You could argue that Teague might not be a good fit at IU, that the leave-early-for-the-NBA attitude might be the last thing Crean needs for his rebuilding, that Teague will likely not come to Bloomington so it’s best to target others.

Crean, of course, is targeting others.

You could argue all that, but the bottom line is you can’t ignore a player this good who lives barely an hour from your campus, and Crean isn’t. Teague has the kind of skills his program needs and every program wants, and if they sometimes come with potential glitches, well, welcome to the world of big-time basketball.

Anyway, Teague will soon pick a school, and if it turns out to be the Hoosiers, it will be a huge boost for Crean’s program and recruiting. And if the odds don't favor IU, well, they didn't seem to favor Butler at the start of the season, and look where the Bulldogs are now.

End of argument.

Friday, April 2, 2010

What Was Indy Star Thinking?

By now you’ve probably heard of the little photo glitch at the Indy Star, the one that sent murmurs rippling through the Lucas Oil Stadium press room (we in the media love to ripple, by the way) as we braced for Final Four frenzy.

The Star ran a Friday story about the love-hate image of Duke. The story, written by veteran sports writer (and really good guy) Jeff Rabjohns, was fine. The photo of Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski that accompanied the story was fine. The extra drawings/illustrations/really bad idea that were added to the photo wasn’t so fine. It portrayed Krzyzewski as the devil with drawings of horns, a bulls-eye on his forehead, glasses, a mustache and a goatee.

This might have been hilarious if done in a bar after midnight for the enjoyment of a few under-age-30 guys on their way to having their mothers do their laundry.

For it to appear in the state’s largest newspaper in front of the national media and as part of a major, national event was embarrassing, inappropriate, stupid –- pick your adjective.

Krzyzewski, as you might have guessed, wasn’t impressed.

“I did see that,” he said during Friday’s press conference. “I thought, that can’t be? How can a newspaper do that? I thought I looked better.

“But it was kind of juvenile. Not kind of, was. My seven grandkids didn’t enjoy looking at it. They said, That’s not poppy. You know what, it is what it is. It’s very juvenile.”

Star management agreed. They pulled the distorted photo for the final run. They came to Lucas Oil Stadium and personally apologized to the coach. They ran a story publicizing their apology.

As far as journalism sins go, it was minor. It was more of a school boy prank gone bad, although you’d expect better from such a paper.

Rabjohns has had to deal with the aftermath because many readers, not understanding the way newspapers worked, blamed him for the drawings. He had nothing to do with it. All he did was write a well-reported story that addressed the perception of the Duke program in the wake of its 11 Final Fours and three national championships in the last 24 years. Duke has seen dozens of such stories over the years. Like the New York Yankees, they are a successful team some people love to hate.

Some of those, apparently, work at the Star.

“We have great kids,” Krzyzewski said. “We go to school. We graduate. If we’re going to be despised because we go to school and want to win, that’s your problem. And you have a problem because we’ll go to school and we’ll try to win. If you don’t like it, keep drawing pictures. Try to do them a little better than that, though.”

This reminds me of an incident that occurred when I worked at a newspaper in Evansville many years ago. Somebody, as a joke, wrote a headline that included the F... word. It accidently got sent out to where the paper was being produced. It never got in the paper, but the headline appeared next to the layout. Some people might have gotten a chuckle about it. The managing editor did not. He tried to find out who did. No one admitted to it.

The editor found out which computer it had been written and sent on. Two people used that computer at about the time of the incident. The editor called both guys into his office. He said he knew one of them had written it and asked the guilty person to admit it. No one did. The editor said if no one admitted it, he would fire them both. The guilty person admitted it and was fired.

Thus, a harsh lesson was learned.

Hopefully, no one at The Star gets fired over this. It’s too hard to keep newspaper jobs these days. But hopefully the Star has no more such glitches. It has far too many quality people working there, it is far too good a paper, for something like this to happen again. So the next time the urge to do another lamebrain such stunt strikes, stop, think and do something more mindset appropriate -- like watch Porky's reruns.