Friday, March 25, 2011

Hoosier Secret – Why Crean Rocks in Recruiting; Is IU Best of All Time

What is the secret to Tom Crean’s recruiting success? How has he been able to lock up so much in-state talent in the last nine months or so?

First, he’s done it the right way. He follows the rules. If he’s uncertain about something, he checks with IU’s compliance department before he acts.

In other words, he does what Bruce Pearl didn’t do.

Then, he works his tail off. He starts early with very young players and pitches a Cream ‘n Crimson dream.

In-state high school and AAU coaches have noticed. How could they not? You get Cody Zeller and Austin Etherington in the Class of 2011; Ron Patterson, Jeremy Hollowell, Hanner Perea, Yogi Ferrell and Peter Jurkin in the Class of 2012 (could Hamilton Southeast standout Garry Harris be next?); Collin Hartman and Devin Davis in 2013; and James Blackmon and Trey Lyles in 2014 (all these guys either play high school ball in Indiana, or play for an Indiana travel team); and the buzz is almost loud enough to knock Butler off the hot-topic list.


“That’s what the Indiana Nation has wanted from their basetball coach -- the ability to lock up the local talent,” Indianapolis Lawrence Central coach J.R. Shelt said. “Tom has embraced that. He’s gone out of his way to get in the gyms, not only the high school gyms, but I know he’s been at the AAU practices as well. He’s covered all the bases with these guys. He’s done all his research. That’s what fans want from the head coach at Indiana.”

All this high-level recruiting will turn Hoosier practices into war zones. Playing time will be precious. Either Crean will have one of the deepest teams in the country, or a lot of people will be grumbling about playing time.

Crean has sought practice competition from the day he got the Indiana job. It will make players better if they embrace it rather than fight it.

Specifically, Christian Watford and Jordan Hulls will be seniors, and Zeller will be a sophomore, when the Class of 2012 arrives. You would figure those three would be sure starters. Ferrell, as the only true point guard on the roster, has a great shot to start right away. The athletic Perea (he’s the class’s top-rated player, at No. 10) would likely fill IU’s other pressing need -- a strong inside physical presence. That leaves everybody else battling for time. It will be survival of the fittest.

You wish Crean would open a few of these practices so everybody could watch. Not only would it fuel fan interest to a fever pitch (the Hoosiers aren’t selling out Assembly Hall, afterall), it also would help the young guys prepare for the crowds they’ll face in games, particularly in Big Ten play.

But that’s a debate for another day.

Anyway, Shelt understands this whole competitive practice situation. He’s passed insight on to Hollowell, who will experience it first hand.

“The thing I tell my players is when you’re at a college, the coach’s job is to recruit someone better than you. That’s his job. If you win 20 games one year you want to win 22 to 25 games the next year. You don’t do that without getting better players. Older players understand that. It’s the older players’ job to kick the young guys in the teeth and make them play. Get them ready so hopefully they do take their spot or at least contribute to the win. Take it from there. That’s the nature of high-level ball.”

That leaves the absolute, bottom-line nature when you get past the hype and potential and blue-chip accolades -- win.


If you were voting, which team would you pick as the greatest ever in college basketball?

The obvious choice for those who bleed Cream ‘n Crimson would be the 32-0 IU team from the 1975-76 season. It remains the last undefeated squad in college history.

However, you could argue that the 1974-75 team was better -- until All-America Scott May broke his arm. Those Hoosiers crushed people until Kentucky edged them in the Elite Eight. The ’76 team had to win several nail-biters.

The Sporting News, lacking Hoosier spirit, picked IU as the third best team of all-time. The publication picked the 1966-67 UCLA as No. 1 with the 1972-73 UCLA squad as No. 1.

Here are the rest: No. 4 North Carolina (1981-82), No. 5 San Francisco (1954-55), No. 6 UNLV (1990-91), No. 7 North Carolina State (1973-74), No. 8 Duke (1991-92), No. 9 Georgetown (1983-84), No. 10 Kentucky (1995-96).

Do you have some better choices? Let us know and we’ll run your comments/suggestions.


  1. Kentucky teams of Alex Groza, Ralph Beard, etal should have been near the top of that "Great team" list.

  2. Yes,the '75 IU team was really better. Also, I would not put that '92 'Puke' team in there. They should not have even made it to the final 4. Not only did Kentucky totally mess up by not guarding the inbound pass, but they failed to guard Leightner (spelling?) properly. And even before that Leightner should have been ejected from the game for stomping on the chest of a Kentucky player who was lying on the floor. Someone might get the impression that I don't like 'Puke'. LOL.

  3. Isn't that the same 72-73 team that Coach Knight and Downing would have won if Walton had fouled out instead of Downing? If I remember correctly, Downing had three fouls and Walton 4 but Downing fouled out on two very controversial fouls which either one could have been called on Walton and Coach Knight and I.U. could have had a fourth/ sixth title.