Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Losing Watkinson A Big Blow for IU Basketball

If Bloomington Herald-Times sports editor Chris Korman and sports writer Dustin Dopirak are right, and bet the house that they are, the Indiana basketball team just took a big hit, and ex-Hoosier Eric Gordon is the culprit.

See what being a multi-millionaire can do for you.

Gordon just wrapped up his second NBA season with the Los Angeles Clippers by averaging 16.9 points and 3.0 assists. But he wants to get better and part of that is getting bigger and stronger. Enter IU strength and conditioning coach Jeff Watkinson.

Check that. Put a FORMER label to Watkinson’s title. Korman and Dopirak report that Gordon has hired Watkinson to be his personal trainer.

That means somebody else has to take over IU off-season workouts. Somebody will, of course. And no matter what happens, team trainer Tim Garl will have a big role, as he has done so well for so many years.

In four seasons at IU Watkinson developed into a strength coach of national renown. He assisted the NBA in its pre-draft workouts. He helped prepare Gordon and D.J. White for their NBA careers.

Watkinson did that job well enough to convince Gordon to hire him. Injuries and illness limited Gordon to 62 games this past season. Watkinson will work with Gordon on strength and conditioning, diet and basketball skills.

Figure that Watkinson got a significant raise to do this job.

Also figure that coach Tom Crean won’t waste much time in deciding how to handle Watkinson’s loss. This offseason is huge for the Hoosiers given their youth and how much bigger and stronger they have to get. And they will improve in those areas, just not with Watkinson.

Also, in case you were wondering, Crean does fully understand the importance of signing in-state players, especially with the talent-loaded classes of 2011 and 2012. But because there are no guarantees, he hasn’t ignored out-of-state prospects. That’s why he brought in a couple of Ohio players in 6-5 guard Jalen Ragland (Class of 2011) and 6-8 forward Malik London (Class of 2012) for unofficial visits.

Neither is the second coming of LeBron James, but both have potential. Wake Forest, Ohio State and Xavier have offered the offensively challenged London, whose 7-1 wingspan makes him a shot-blocking-and-rebounding force. Ragland is a perimeter sharpshooter who averaged 14 points a game last season. At 6-5, he has the size you’re looking for from a shooting guard.

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