Monday, September 27, 2010

Is it wrong for a college basketball coach to offer a scholarship to a 14-year-old kid?

Is it wrong for so young a player to make one of the biggest decisions of his life?

Are you nuts?

Sorry. We have to ask.

Yes, we refer to IU getting an oral commitment from 6-9 Indianapolis Tech freshman Trey Lyles. It is not binding, of course. He could change his mind. He has plenty of time to second-guess himself.

The same is true of Bishop Luers freshman guard James Blackmon. He, too, has committed to Indiana without ever having played a high school basketball game.

Yes, it sounds a little scary, but there is plenty of common sense involved in such decisions. For Crean, it’s a no-brainer. The guy’s been coaching a long time. He recognizes talent when he sees it. Youth doesn’t hide that.

Lyles is one of the top players in the country for the Class of 2014. So is Blackmon. As of now, they have the only scholarships IU will have available for that class.

Crean has been playing recruiting catch-up ever since taking the Hoosier job in the spring of 2008. One of his strategies was targeting young players in general, young in-state players in particular.

That strategy is starting to pay off.

Yes, taking players so young is a risk. You don’t know how they’ll develop athletically, academically and socially. But if you do enough homework, if you watch them in practice as well as games, if you get to know their families and those they hang around with, you can make a good judgment.

Lyles’ parents wanted him to wait before committing, just in case. The younger Lyles wasn’t interested. He liked Crean, liked his intensity, liked the fact he was known to bring out the best in his players.

Of course, what seems like a good idea at 14 might seem totally different at 18, so a change of heart is possible. Nothing is locked in until Lyles and Blackmon sign national letters of intent. The earliest that could be is November of 2013.

For now, though, this is yet another sign that Crean is on the verge of turning the program around.

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