Thursday, August 5, 2010

Seal The Deal -- Crean's Aggressive Recruiting Offers Hope

Brace yourself. One of signs in the Book of Revelations for the end of the world is when Indiana actively recruits an eighth grade basketball player.

Well, guess what? It happened with Trey Lyles. This 6-8 forward, who will be a freshman at Indianapolis Tech, has reportedly received a Cream ‘n Crimson scholarship offer.

You might wonder how that fits with NCAA officials’ concern over coaches offering scholarships to very young players. Well, those officials’ jobs don’t depend on signing elite talent.

Tom Crean’s offer comes amid recruiting competitive pressure from the likes of Purdue coach Matt Painter, who also spent time watching Lyles play as an eighth grader at Decatur Middle School last winter. Also in the mix are Notre Dame, Ohio State (Thad Matta continues to hit Hoosier hardwoods hard), Illinois, Florida, Kansas, Georgetown and Florida.

These are some heavy hitters and you don’t beat them with passive recruiting or worry about how recruiting an eighth grader will destroy America's moral fiber.

Crean and his staff are not passive. They will be as aggressive as the rules allow them to be. Good things, after all, sometimes come to those who DON’T wait.

And speaking of good things, Indiana has made Cody Zeller’s big-three recruiting list. This is a hot fudge sundae for dinner good, and it's an intriguing change because Zeller had indicated he was going to have a big-five list and make five official visits this fall.

The Hoosiers are ahead of the game. Kind of like, The Bachelor.

Check that. They are ahead of everybody but North Carolina and Butler in the race for this 6-11 center from Washington, so there is still reason for IU fans to worry.

North Carolina, of course, is the hydrogen bomb in this. The Tar Heels are college basketball royalty, have a coach in Roy Williams who is as good as any in history not named John Wooden and have all the prime-time bells and whistles you’d expect from a powerhouse program. They also have Tyler Zeller, Cody’s older brother, and while that’s not a deal clincher, it certainly raises the stakes.

Yes, North Carolina stumbled into NIT obscurity last season, but that was due to the parade of early entries into the NBA draft that drained it of talent. Nobody expects a repeat, although you figure plenty of Duke fans have hopes. Not many players spurn an offer to play for the Tar Heels.

Butler, of course, was the feel-good story of 2010. It came within a few inches (or, perhaps an offensive rebound) of winning an improbable national championship. That dramatic postseason run got it into strong position for Zeller, and coach Brad Stevens is capitalizing on it.

Still, the Hoosiers are in good shape. They have five-national-championship tradition, a cool new practice facility (Cook Hall) with 24/7 privileges, a bunch of players who know Zeller and a passionate coach committed to turning things around the right way. Plus, IU is positioning itself for a winning record and a return to postseason relevance.

Zeller, of course, will make his final choice well before the Hoosiers can prove their March Madness mettle.

IU also is in the running for junior college forward Robert Goff, who played at Indianapolis Broad Ripple and who is preparinig for his sophomore season at Hutchinson (Kansas) Community College. He’s a 6-8, 240-pound inside force with offers from Cincinnati, Xavier, Oklahoma State, Iowa State, Auburn and Wichita State. He's not the next Alan Henderson, but who is?

There are more prospects, of course, and we'll list those later.

What does all this mean? Basically, Crean has positioned himself to land the kind of talent necessary to return IU to basketball superpower status. Now he has to seal the deal. You don’t need to read the Book of Revelations to know that.

1 comment:

  1. Coach Crean is putting together some good things at IU, should be seeing IU soon back to where it's tradition, team, and fanbase enjoys!