Hoosiers Struggling To Attract Top Recruits

Colin Burns provides us with an editorial, commenting on the future of Indiana basketball, the likes of Indiana's returning big men and newcomer Patrick Ewing, Jr.

A disastrous blowout at the hands of the Pittsburgh Panthers in the NCAA tournament exposed IU's lack on toughness in the paint. It also pressed the need for the off-season recruiting efforts to target big, psychical low post players that could handle players like Onterrio Lett and Chevy Troutman who completely dominated the Hoosier big men.

Next came the post-game press conference of coach Mike Davis, who ripped into his players as being the most selfish he has ever coached (although he offered an apology that was too little too late). To top it all, IU is in the midst of a horrible recruiting season, losing out on almost every big man they have targeted in trying to shore up their weak inside presence. Welcome to the off-season from hell.

A look at next year's roster shows that the Hoosiers not only lose their best low post player in Jeff Newton, but three of their top four scorers. If people thought the offensive load was on Bracey Wright's shoulders last season, wait till they get a glimpse of the 2003-2004 Hoosiers. The top recruiting priority for this season should have been post players who can not only score but also rebound. What a noble concept: a low post player that can score and rebound.

A look at the returning big men for IU would not scare a junior high team. It appears to this writer that George Leach has ability to be a solid post player. An inability to catch simple passes down low and frustrating defensive play leaves one shaking their heads at this 6'11 tower. What about Sean Kline and Mike Roberts? An off-season of hard work can only improve their sub par play from last year. These three big men combined for 10.7 points and 8.3 rebounds for the season. Prepare for Davis to give Wright the green light to shoot as soon as he crosses mid-court.

The Hoosiers have these inside problems to address in recruiting. Their efforts can be summed up in the past three weeks, when three players IU was targeting decided to attend a different university. Jason Cain, a versatile 6'8" power forward from Philadelphia, is gone to Virginia. Maurice Shaw, a slick 6'9" player, decided to attend prep school. Then, the best big man still available, Alexander Johnson, told us earlier this week "IU stopped recruiting me." What is going on in Hoosier land? Did Coach Davis forget that he's supposed to recruit the best players available? Nevertheless, this one is hard to figure out. It is late in the recruiting wars, and there is not much time left. Passing on a prospect at Johnson's caliber is mind-boggling.

The gap still exists in the paint. The one big catch of recruiting has been Patrick Ewing, Jr. The question is will he be an impact player or is his name the big attraction. His averages in high school were 20 points and 10 rebounds per game. They are double double numbers, but those are not the impact stats that Hoosier fans see improving the inside game next year. This team is only more than a year removed from the national title game and the fans are ready for a year of rebuilding. What hurts more is that while IU searches for big, physical prospects, Michigan was able to sign a four-star player in 6'10" Courtney Sims and Illinois was able to land superstar Charlie Vilanueva (although he appears headed for the NBA Draft). While the Hoosiers are completely dumb-founded by the string of rejections they have received lately, other Big Ten teams are loading up to knock IU down to the bottom half of the Big Ten.

The recruiting game is a crap shoot. There are times when highly touted players flop and there are times when lowly regarded prospects shine. Not addressing the needs of a team is a different story. Coach Davis and his team of recruiters must find some diamonds in the rough. At this point any big men would suffice. Such a glaring weakness cannot be fulfilled with just the addition of Ewing and probable red shirt Jessan Gray-Ashley. There needs to be someone else, or else the off-season from hell will become the season from hell.

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