The big weekend for Indiana basketball has arrived.
Sure, there's tonight's Night of the Living Red event at Assembly Hall, which serves as an opportunity for IU fans to get a first-hand glimpse at Tom Crean's third Hoosier basketball team while also getting a chance to parade around McCracken Court in Halloween garb. But that's hardly the highlight.
No, the highlight is the arrival of Washington (Ind.) H.S. big man Cody Zeller for his official visit.
Zeller's trip to Bloomington is his third and final official visit, coming on the heels of earlier stops at Butler and North Carolina. The conventional wisdom is that a decision will come shortly afterwards from Scout.com's 16th-ranked player in the 2011 class, in time for the November early signing period.
This weekend's trip also all but wraps up 2 ½ years of effort on Tom Crean's part to convince the third Zeller to play his college basketball in Bloomington.
Flash back to April, 2008. At the start of the month, Crean was in the Hoosier Room in the bowels of Memorial Stadium, being introduced as Indiana's head basketball coach. By the end of the month, he was already in pursuit of the then-6'5" Cody Zeller.
At that point, the biggest thing going for Cody was probably the fact that his two older brothers had blossomed into McDonald's All-Americans and Indiana Mr. Basketballs who guided Washington H.S. to state championships. After all, Cody had averaged just 2.4 points and 2.1 rebounds on Washington's 2007-08 team that Tyler led to a state championship.
But at the close of April 2008, there was Crean, at the Top 100 Basketball Showcase at Ben Davis H.S. in Indianapolis. Cody wasn't in attendance, as the participants were almost exclusively rising high school seniors. But Washington H.S. Coach Gene Miller was at the event, and beforehand Crean and IU assistant Tim Buckley had cornered the Hatchets' coach in the hallway. While there's no way to know exactly what the two were talking about, logic would suggest they were letting it be known that Cody would be a top priority for their 2011 recruiting efforts.
That work has paid off. Plenty of big name programs have expressed interest in Cody, who averaged 15.0 points and 7.2 rebounds as a sophomore and then 20.5 points and 11.4 rebounds during Washington's 2009-10 state title run. But in the end it's boiled down to Indiana, Butler and North Carolina.
If Indiana wins this recruiting battle, it's impossible to overstate its significance. On the local front, it would show that a rebuilding IU program can still out-duel Butler, at program is at its absolute peak as it comes off a NCAA runner-up finish and had a player drafted in the NBA Lottery. From a national perspective, going head-to-head against North Carolina and emerging victorious has been uncommon, to say the least, for just about every college basketball program in recent years.
With all due respect to the likes of Trey Lyles, Ron Patterson, James Blackmon and event Maurice Creek and Christian Watford, there's no doubt that this would be the biggest recruiting victory of the Tom Crean era if he can pull it off.
We'll know soon enough.
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