Blackmon Jr. committed to the Hoosiers in 2010, decommitted nearly three years later in August, visited Kentucky for Big Blue Madness, and ultimately recommitted to the Hoosiers in October.
In the end, Crean and the Hoosiers have their guy ... again.
"It changed by the minute," Crean said Thursday. "We knew we were in it. We absolutely knew we were in it. But it was worth it. Not just because we got him but because how we felt about him. We always thought this was the best place for him because we knew him pretty well and we got a pretty good idea what he needs to do to be as successful as he wants to be. We know where he wants to go, and we have a pretty good idea with all the time we've spent with him of how he's going to get there. But to act like, to know that we had it, no. I didn't know we had Cody Zeller until he called."
When Blackmon Jr. stepped on stage in Indianapolis to prepare to announce his decision on national television on ESPNU, Crean still didn't know who Blackmon Jr. would choose. Blackmon Jr. told AllHoosiers.com the day after the decision that he still didn't know who he'd choose at that point.
"I didn't truly know he was coming until he got on that air that night," Crean said. "I knew what our last conversations were like. I know what those were like, without question, and I knew what he wanted to do when he got up there. But actually going up there and doing it and pulling out that hat, I was -- I wasn't shocked and I wasn't -- but it wasn't like I had the smile going into it. We needed to see him put that hat on. We really did."
Looking back at it, Crean says he understood why Blackmon Jr. decided to reopen his recruitment back in August.
"I got it. You know, I got it at that time, why he decommitted," Crean said. "He had never been anywhere else. He had never seen another school. A few years ago -- you grow as a parent, you grow as a coach. I mean, I got it.
"Sometimes people can decommit, and it's the best thing that can happen for you. That was not the case with James. We really wanted him to be here, and we were willing to be in the fight. We were willing to be in the fight, and that's what it was because everybody else wanted him, too. He's an outstanding player."
This whole recruiting class has been an interesting -- and challenging one -- for Crean and his staff. They were without a committed recruit in late September, and then suddenly had three by the end of October.
It wasn't easy, but Crean ultimately ended up with a class he likes. One he wanted.
"It's all part of the 24/7 news cycle right now," Crean said. "It's like last year with the over-signing. We couldn't necessarily talk about on a daily basis what we thought was going to happen in-house. You just can't do that. You've got to continue to recruit, recruit and recruit, and you'd better have flexibility. You'd better have thick skin. You'd better not get your feelings hurt and you'd better be able to adjust on the fly, but at the same time with that being said you never get away from what the priorities are.
So I think what happens is you can't -- you've got to have a plan, okay, another plan, a contingency plan and then a contingency plan for the contingent plan. You just do. And I think if you don't do that, it's like the world now, you've got to keep moving with it."
What Crean and Indiana ended up with is a class full of elite shooters. Blackmon Jr. is the top shooter in the entire class, and Robert Johnson is close behind. Max Hoetzel, a 6-foot-7 forward, is also a very good shooter from the perimeter.
When you look at this year's roster, shooting is an area the Hoosiers are thin in. They shot just 1-of-16 from beyond the arc in the first half of Tuesday night's game against LIU-Brooklyn.
Blackmon Jr., Johnson and Hoetzel should help, and help significantly.
"We knew going in that that was going to be an absolute must for us was to get better there, and so we addressed our needs with a capital N," Crean said. "But to get the quality of young men, to get the way that they are as people and their families and to bring those families in here and to bring young men that really know how to win, that's a big deal."