Sunday, April 24, 2011

For the Zellers of the College Basketball World, Specialization Rules

Sometimes you wonder if stud high school basketball players get enough time to be kids.

Or to try other things.

Between high school season –- which is basically November through mid-March –- and AAU ball, which is basically April through July –- and other camps and school work outs in front of college coaches, there isn’t much time for anything else.

In other words, it’s specializing.

Yes, this accelerates the learning process, which is why more and more college freshmen players are so advanced when they arrive on campus. Who has time to ease into things any more? Anybody who is any good is playing right away and if you don’t, well, let’s not talk about that.

Eric Gordon hit the AAU circuit and everything else, became a one-and-done guy for IU, and now he’s a really rich guy in the NBA.

Jordan Hulls wasn’t one-and-done material for the Hoosiers, but he’s played a lot as a freshman and sophomore, as has Christian Watford. Some of it was because IU, still emerging from Kelvin Sampson’s sanctioned-filled era, needed them to. Much of it was because they could handle it.

So there is a reward for so much early basketball and missing out on other potential high school opportunities, although it’s not guaranteed. Still, you don’t know, which is why you see many more high school players hitting every event they can to improve their play, boost their profile and make national names for themselves.

That’s certainly true of elite players and you don’t get much more elite than Cody Zeller. IU’s incoming freshman headed to practice for the McDonald’s All-American Game in Chicago right after leading Washington to the high school state championship, then played in the Derby Festival Basketball Classic in Louisville over the weekend.

He’ll get some off time before this summer’s All-Star series against Kentucky standouts, but he’ll likely use that to lift weights and work on his game.

The same is true of guard Austin Etherington, who also participated in the Derby Festival. He, too, is heading to IU in the summer. They arrived in Louisville last Wednesday for practice and media availability. Also on the schedule were a visit to children at Kosair Hospital, a tour of the Muhammad Ali Center and participating in the Night of the Future Stars at Bellarmine University.

And then there are the guys in the Class of 2012. They play for Team Indiana and they've already had three AAU events, including one in Merrillville over the weekend. Ron Patterson, Henner Perea and Yogi Ferrell are carrrying the load right now because Jeremy Hollowell and Peter Jurkin are hurt.

It’s a busy schedule, but it seems certain to ensure they'll be major-impact ready when they reach IU.

And then the fun will really begin.


So much for IU’s chance to make a major Big Ten baseball statement. The Hoosiers lost three games to previously struggling Minnesota over the weekend to drop out of a first-place tie with Michigan State.

The Hoosiers had won all three of their conference series to earn a first-place tie with Michigan State. But Minnesota, which had been picked as a Big Ten favorite in the preseason, came to Bloomington seeking to get back in the conference race and did just that. IU lost its offense and got outscored 20-5 while hitting just .182 in the three losses.

Both teams are 6-6 in league play.

IU (25-15) has a chance to get back to its winning Big Ten tourney ways when it plays at in-state rival Purdue this coming weekend.

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