Wilson Turns Up the HeatSince he arrived on campus there have been messages sent in ways both small and large, but perhaps no message has resonated louder than the one Coach Kevin Wilson delivered this week. The intense new coach has shown himself to be willing to send messages both publicly and privately and this week he let the local media know that his team had better open their eyes to the situation they find themselves in this off-season.
Calling his team "mentally weak", among other things, Wilson issued a challenge to everyone that thinks they have a role on this team already secured this spring.
"Our plan is to play as many freshmen as we can," Wilson told the Bloomington Herald-Times this week. "From watching some of our guys, I would hope some of our freshmen are better than the guys that we have on our team."
The coach minced no words in calling out what he thinks has been a sub-par performance from his troops this spring in terms of mental toughness and effort. Wilson has worked hard to physically condition players for his grueling demands and preferred pace of play and feels that, by and large, they are struggling to adapt. A good hour of practice is often followed by a bad hour of practice in which the effort and attention to detail drop. In Wilson's book there are simply no excuses to be made for that. If the team is going to compete to win in the Big Ten this season Wilson feels they must get tougher…and if they don't, he's willing to indoctrinate new players this fall that will. If it takes injecting new blood into the starting line-up, he won't hesitate to do so.
"We need to develop our team, but I don't see it as a five-year deal," said Wilson. "I see development by competition. Not development by waiting. We've been waiting 40 some years to go to a Rose Bowl again. It's not about waiting, it's about increasing the competition, increasing the energy level."
Perhaps the biggest adjustment for Indiana players this spring has been getting acclimated with a coach that won't hesitate to go public with his discontent. The previous regime led by Coach Bill Lynch was loathe to criticize individual players or his team through the press because he didn't want to undermine their confidence. Lynch made his challenges privately, but Wilson has no qualms with calling it just like he sees it—even when the news isn't good.
What this latest news means for Hoosier fans is twofold. One, their coach isn't afraid to set his sights on the top and hold his players accountable for achieving a level of play that will get them there. That's refreshing to a lot of beaten down IU fans. Two, it appears the team as it currently stands isn't ready to compete at that level…and how long it will take to get there is something maybe even Wilson doesn't know at this point.
Indiana Elite Reviving The Echoes of Indiana RedWhen Jeremy Hollowell announced that he would be playing his AAU circuit basketball with Indiana Elite this summer it came as little surprise. What soon-to-be Hoosier wouldn't want to play with the guys that he will be arriving in Bloomington next year with? Especially when it's a team loaded with this much talent?
Now the Hoosiers will have five commitments all suiting up for the same AAU outfit this summer. It's an invaluable opportunity not only for these players to develop critical chemistry together on the court, but also to continue to develop strong bonds with each other off it as well. It's these strong ties formed on the AAU circuit that helped bring them together initially and commit to the Indiana program together. Now that bond will only get stronger and when they arrive for their freshman season at Indiana you can expect a rare chemistry between them.
It's certainly an unusual phenomenon to have this many highly-rated players on the same AAU team attending the same college in 2012, but the concept of feeder teams certainly isn't unprecedented. Several college teams develop relationships with the top AAU programs and keep close tabs on them to mine them for talent. Programs like the Atlanta Celtics, D.C. Assault, and The Family have been turning out Division I prospects for their respective areas of the country for decades just like Indiana Elite has become one of the "elite" feeder systems in the country.
For Hoosier fans its evoking memories of the former Indiana Red AAU squad that operated during the Bob Knight era in Bloomington. That program helped stock the roster of some of Knight's better teams throughout the 90's and the ties between Red and Elite run deep with some of the same people in key coaching and administrative positions. Tom Crean has been able to revive the Hoosier program's close ties with the organization mostly through grassroots recruiting work at the state high school level and by making it known that there is always a welcome home for in-state prospects at the state's largest school.
What started for Crean with players like Matt Roth, Jordan Hulls, and Austin Etherington trickling in from the Elite program has now turned into a pipeline that includes three five-star players (Kevin Ferrell, Hanner Perea, and Hollowell) and two other highly coveted prospects (Ron Patterson and Peter Jurkin) playing on the same Elite squad this summer. With several youngsters in the class of 2013 and 2014 already making a national name for themselves, and showing avid interest in the Hoosier program, things only expect to get bigger and better going forward for Indiana Elite, and in turn the Hoosier program.
You can get your first look at the Indiana Elite senior squad this Saturday at the IndyBall.com Shootout in Indianapolis. Admission is $14 for a weekend pass with most of the games being played at North Central High School. The future Hoosier heavy sqaud, Indiana Elite-Team Indiana will kick off play at 3:15 Saturday in the North Central Main gym.