Thursday, December 13, 2012

IU Basketball Recruiting -- Has it Ever Been Better?

Tom Crean has a recruiting plan. Of course he does. It’s how he took Indiana’s scandal-rocked program to the forefront of college basketball.

He can make 16 fit into 13. He can get the three extra scholarships he’s provided mesh with NCAA recruiting guidelines.

He can, and he will. And if he’s not revealing his hand publicly doesn’t mean the hand doesn’t exist.

So here’s what we know. On paper Crean has 10 players who can return next season. He has signed six recruits in the Class of 2013. Those six, by the way, comprise the nation’s No. 3 recruiting class. It's the latest sign that he isn't building a one-hit wonder program, but one that can sustain consistent excellence far into the future.

Anyway, Crean is three over the 13-scholarship limit. He can get to 13 if three players leave early for the NBA, if three players transfer, if three players quit, if three players become academically ineligible, or some kind of combination.

The good news -- it’s mid-December and Crean doesn’t have to start sweating until mid-summer.

“That’s all part of the stuff that goes on in the program as far as being able to project, look ahead, and at the same time, have a Plan A, a Plan B, a Plan C,” Crean said. “We just have those. That’s just the way that it is. It’s always like that. It’s rarely ever going to be public, but I could go to the stock line, which is that it always works itself out, and it does. It’s not like we just throw things out on a whim. We’re certainly not trying to stockpile for stockpilings’ sake.”

As far as forcing a player to go pro when he prefers to stay, Crean said that ain’t happening.

“If a guy is good enough to go (pro), and it's a no brainer, nobody is standing in his way. If somebody wanted to comeback, nobody is standing in his way.”

IU has always been a national player on the recruiting scene, but Crean has taken it to another level. For this class he got three dynamic players from the East Coast -- Noah Vonleh, Stanford Robinson and Troy Williams. There were a lot of reasons for this (including a lot of work), but don't under-estimate the importance of the Hoosiers’ No. 1 national ranking. Upsetting then No. 1 Kentucky last season at Assembly Hall also raised the program’s recruiting visibility.

As a result, and with a lot of help from new assistant coach Kenny Johnson, IU landed the nation's No. 7 player in Vonleh.The 6-9 power forward is the highest rated member of the class.

As far as when did IU regain its most recent national recruiting clout, Crean pointed to last December's dramatic win over No. 1 Kentucky on Christian Watford’s buzzer-beating three-pointer.

“I think we can go back to the Kentucky game,” Crean said. “There’s no question that had a huge value nationally for us. I think the Ohio State game. I think the fact that we went into the NCAA Tournament. All of those things helped.

"There’s no question that Kentucky got people’s attention. The game in here in December (a double-digit win over North Carolina) got people’s attention. Fortunately we were able to hold that attention, even when we didn’t know we were holding it, because there had been more comments made, but there’s no question that the projections of the summer time and being No. 1 played into it.”

Indiana’s return-to-glory status reflects a take-no-prisoners juggernaut that might not lose until February (against No. 7 Ohio State).

First, though, it has to beat dangerous Butler (7-2) on Saturday.The Crossroads Classic showdown at Indianapolis' Bankers Life Fieldhouse is part of CBS's Gameday telecast.

“The one thing this program has done, it’s had to earn its way back on everything,” Crean said. “It’s had to earn its way back on CBS. ESPN stuck with us through a certain period of time, but this is going to be our first Gameday.

“The opportunities come because you win, and you never apologize for what you earn. This program has earned the right again to be able to really go anywhere (in recruiting). Geography-wise is not nearly as important as are they are going to come here and get a great education, fit into the program, get better, have a chance to win, get all of those things that they want. Now it’s just more apparent nationally that that can and will happen at Indiana.”

Don’t underestimate the important of new assistant coach Kenny Johnson, whose East Coast connections have come in handy. Johnson once coached Stanford Robinson and had quick access to Vonleh and Williams.

“It’s like recruiting a great player that you know is gonna be really good, but you don’t know how good until you get him,” Crean said. “I think Kenny’s like that, and I think everyone would agree to that. Because Kenny fits.”

Now Crean has to make the scholarship numbers fit.

How will he do it? That's intrigue for another day. In the end, you know, he will.

1 comment:

  1. Honest Tom Crean folks. There he is in all his glory.