Saturday, January 7, 2012

IU Recruiting Coup – Finding Oladipo and Sheehey

Where were you when Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey commited to Indiana?

Don’t remember? There’s no reason to. That day lacked the historical importance of, say, what you were you doing the day men first landed on the moon, not that we’re admitting we’re old enough to remember that.

Anyway, Oladipo and Sheehey were under-the-radar guys from far, far away. Oladiopo was from Maryland. Sheehey was from Florida. They were not top-15 national material like Cody Zeller was. They lacked bet-the-house NBA certainty, as Eric Gordon had.

Oladiop and Sheehey were a couple of lower-end-of-the-rating-spectrum guys who made some wonder if Tom Crean would ever get this recruit-to-Indiana University stuff right.

Nobody’s wondering now.

Oladipo and Sheehey are on nobody’s lower-end list anymore. They have played HUGE roles in Indiana’s 14-1 start that has a whole bunch of experts not named Doug Gotleib or Bob Knight thinking that maybe, just maybe, the Hoosiers might be Big Ten title worthy.

The 6-5 Oladipo averages 11.7 points and 5.3 rebounds. He has a team-leading 28 steals. He shoots everything well except three-pointers (he’s just 6-for-24 beyond the arc). Beyond the numbers, he’s IU’s most athletic player, a human highlight film with an explosive first step and an ability to ignite a crowd with a dunk.

Oh, yes. He plays some pretty mean defense, too. So mean, in fact, that Crean has referred to it as “a gift from God.”

The 6-6 Sheehey is nearly as athletic who, when healthy, just might be the Big Ten’s best sixth man. He averages 10.7 points and 3.3 rebounds. He shoots 44.4 percent from three-point range, which on most teams would be really, really good. On this team, one of the nation’s best from beyond the arc, he’s just average.

Yeah, Sheehey is hurt (he’s missed the last three games and likely won’t play until next Sunday’s Ohio State game), and IU treats his injury with the secrecy usually reserved for when you ask for the code to launch the U.S. nuclear arsenal. He is “day to day.” He had a “lower leg” injury. It is as if revealing Sheehey’s ankle injury and projected time to return would cause Justin Bieber to get elected President of the United States.

IMPORTANT CLARIFICATION No. 1: We have never actually asked for the nuclear launch code.

IMPORTANT CLARIFICATION No. 2: Scientific research indicates that Justin Bieber getting elected president is one of the signs of the Apocalyspe.

Just saying.

Anyway, Sheehey has a strong basketball background. His father, Mike, played basketball at Virginia and St. Bonaventure. His uncle, Tom Sheehey, starred at Virginia, was drafted by the Boston Celtics and played professionally in Spain.

Still, Sheehey was rated as the No. 141 player in his class. Oladipo was at No. 144.

So what was it that Crean saw in them?

“They were excellent, excellent people,” Crean said. “They had a high level of athleticism. They had a little edge to them, which I think is really important. They had won (at the high school and AAU levels). All of those things really played into it.”

Crean said ratings are important, “but I don’t think it’s what you base your decisions on. It’s just part of the process. I think figuring out who really fits and who’s got those attributes, who has a high level of athletic upside, who’s got intelligence, who’s got character, who has a competitive mindset. To me, that’s where the edge comes in.

“You want guys who maybe have been overlooked or underrated, not invited to this or that, because the last thing you want in recruiting, and it’s so hard, but make sure you’re not getting entitled or enabled people. We’ve all done that, but entitled and enabled people get you beat, big time.

“So you want to stay away from that as much as possible. Sometimes you’ve got to peel the onion back and really look at the layers a little bit to see what’s really truen, what’s not, and then make your decision accordingly.”

When it came to Oladipo and Sheehey, Crean decided well. The program is reaping the benefits, and will for two more years.

Neil Armstrong, for sure, would agree with that.


In case you’re wondering, Hoosier Hoopla hasn’t fallen off the earth. We’ve been busy with a whole bunch of projects –- a kid’s book on Ancient Sparta, doing video, tweeting more than the law should allow, getting lost in a Detroit snowstorm (thanks to the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl), teaching journalism and fitness, discovering that blackjack is NOT the way to millionaire status.

And, oh, yes, trying to wrap up the greatest novel ever written, recognizing that "trying" might not ever lead to "doing."

Anyway, we’ll try to be more regular now as IU builds to what should be a very, very special March.


  1. Thanks for being the 'normal' writer(s) you are.

    This article answered a question that has plagued me for many weeks - what is it that Crean saw in these two players that caused him to sign them.

    I do happen to remember 'when' Crean signed Sheehey & Oladipo and also remember questioning - what was Crean thinking ... waisting scholarships on two projects.

    I also immediately reset my 'years until an IU turn-around' clock back a few more years and wondered whether they had hired the right guy as coach in spite how much I thought otherwise.

    My blood now is totally 'Crean & Crimson'.

  2. a-little-hyphen-crazy-aren't-we?