Crean Building A Wall

The glory days of IU basketball had their foundation in locking up the borders of the state in recruiting and building championship caliber teams with homegrown talent at its heart. After an arduous recruiting nuclear winter in Bloomington that stretched over multiple seasons, Coach Tom Crean has sent an undeniable message that its spring again at Indiana.

The glory days of IU basketball had their foundation in locking up the borders of the state in recruiting and building championship caliber teams with homegrown talent at its heart. After an arduous recruiting nuclear winter in Bloomington that stretched over multiple seasons, Coach Tom Crean has sent an undeniable message that its spring again at Indiana.

It's now seems like the distant past, but just months ago the Hoosiers had just one recruit committed to coming Bloomington in any future class—high school senior Austin Etherington. That allowed for plenty of hand-wringing amongst Hoosier Nation as the future was still very much unclear.

Would Crean be able to deliver talent to Bloomington on a consistent basis? More importantly, would he reverse nearly a decade long trend and begin to consistently deliver the best in-state talent to Indiana? The fate of the program hinged on these questions. You don't spend a decade out of the limelight and retain elite program status very long. After two losing seasons and eight years since their last appearance past the second round of the NCAA tournament, the Hoosiers needed answers and they needed them quick.

The noise you hear building in Bloomington is Crean delivering an emphatic answer. Yes, he can recruit. Yes, he will land the best in-state players. And yes, Indiana is still an elite program.

How else can you explain what the last few months have seen? Eight major recruits have committed to play their basketball at Indiana—the same program that holds a 16-46 record over the past two seasons. It's a clear sign that the results are finally matching the rhetoric of rebuilding in Bloomington. And as many expected it would have to be, the key to the process has been building a wall around the borders of the state of Indiana.

The latest dominoes to fall in Crean's tour de force of in-state recruiting occurred yesterday when prominent 2013 prospects Devin Davis of Warren Central High School and Collin Hartman of Cathedral High School decided they wanted to join what was happening at IU. Weeks earlier the state's most coveted recruiting prize, Washington senior Cody Zeller, had given Crean a pledge, which itself came on the heels of a commitment from perhaps the most talented player to commit to Indiana since Eric Gordon in Hanner Perea, a dominating 2012 forward from Columbia, who has groomed his skills stateside in Indiana. Before that it was coveted Broad Ripple guard Ron Patterson and imposing 7-footer Peter Jurkin who bolstered the 2012 class with their commitments. Add in early 2014 commitments James Blackmon of Bishop Luers and Trey Lyles of Indianapolis Tech and the Hoosiers have impressive talent committed to the program over the next four years. It's an impressive recruiting coup for anywhere, but it when it happens at Indiana and it's based on in-state recruiting success it seems to register louder than anywhere else.

The scariest part for those who oppose Indiana is that the ball is still rolling downhill as the momentum Indiana has gained in the state seems to only keep building. This Wednesday the top point guard in the state and one of the top point guards nationally, Park Tudor's Yogi Ferrell, will decide where to make his pledge for 2012. Indiana has long been reported to be the favorite and why not? The Hoosiers seem to have all the building blocks in place for a dominant run through this decade. It's the same reason that fellow five-star recruit Gary Harris, who many view as the state's best player right now, is strongly considering joining the Hoosiers in 2012 as well.

It wasn't that long ago that Crean was known only for cleaning house at Indiana and scrambling to even put together a recruiting class that would allow him to field a team in 2008. Since his arrival the IU coach has dealt with negative recruiting from other programs who told potential recruits that Indiana might never rise again; that the glory days of IU basketball were long gone and an inevitable decline into long-term mediocrity was unavoidable.

Much remains to be done. Acquiring talent is just the first step in delivering a championship caliber team. But with his hard work on the recruiting trail and by putting a padlock on the borders of the state Crean has proven that the Hoosier program hasn't just faded away. The truly elite ones never do.


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