Indiana high school players will be a key recruiting focus for new IU basketball coach Archie Miller.
In his introductory press conference, Miller, 38, said he will have “inside out” approach that starts in Indiana.
Indiana is a state that routinely produces high-major college basketball talent.
The 2017 Indiana high school class had four players in the top 50 of the scout.com national rankings, but none of those players signed with Indiana, instead choosing UCLA (Kris Wilkes), Xavier (Paul Scruggs), Louisville (Malik Williams) and Michigan State (Jaren Jackson Jr.).
Wilkes and Jackson are McDonald’s All-Americans. Indiana routinely produces among the most high-major college basketball players per capita in the country.
“We're going to have a great way about us, and the term that we'll use is called inside-out. We have to start inside this state of Indiana, and we have to start moving outside very slowly, because the footprint is there,” Miller said.
“The inside-out approach means that we have to dedicate ourselves to the high school coaches in this state, the high school talent in this state, the grass-roots programs in this state, and they must feel like they're being dominated by Indiana University.
“You're not going to get every player. You understand that. But if we want them, we should have a great chance of getting them because of the commitment level that we're putting forth 24 hours a day at home.
“As you move further out, you have our great footprint of the Big Ten. Some of our best players that have ever played here aren't from Indiana, and we have to be able to capitalize on that, as well.
“And then the third thing as you go outside even a little further is how can you find those difference makers that come from all over the place, New York, overseas, I don't know, but if they fit the profile and we have an opportunity to bring a difference maker here, then that will always trump us to try and bring a championship player.
“But inside-out is the theme, and I think if you start with the past, you deal with our current, and you work that hard at those three levels, I think you can deliver all what we want because it's been done before.”
Miller has recruited Indiana in the past, going back to 2003 when as a Western Kentucky assistant he landed future NBA player Courtney Lee from Indianapolis Pike High School. Lee led Western Kentucky to the Sweet Sixteen and has played nine years in the NBA.
Indiana has a number of outstanding high school programs and AAU programs.
There are a host of talented prospects in Indiana currently, including uncommitted players such as Romeo Langford, Damezi Anderson, Kevin Easley, Robert Phinisee, Musa Jallow, Keion Brooks, Eric Hunter, Aaron Brooks and many others.
So what does Miller see in Indiana grassroots basketball?
“First of all, top-notch coaching,” Miller said. “I think that's the greatest thing about the state of Indiana is the high school approach, tremendous high school programs, starts all over the state, not just in Indianapolis, and you have tremendous talent all over the state. We all know that.
“I think it's a state that is renowned for putting out players that do well in college because they're prepared, and I've had a couple instances to recruit the state in my time, all over the different parts of my journey, but every time I've ever went in and come out, you always get the same feeling of that is a high-level operation going on right there.
“It starts with the state of Indiana. It’s going to go from the high school coaching, the high school talent, the grassroots talent, and we have to invest a lot more of ourselves to get in return. We don’t expect anything. We're going to have to earn a lot of respect in the state.”
Sean Miller, Archie’s brother and the head coach at Arizona, echoed those sentiments.
“Indiana has hired a coach that will not only build a perennial winner but also a person that will seamlessly embrace the high school coaching community and the people of the state of Indiana,” Sean Miller said.
Indianapolis Southport’s Kyle Simpson, who coached Scruggs and Butler freshman center Joey Brunk, was among the high school coaches at Miller’s introduction.
He liked hearing the “inside out” approach.
“I think that’s important,” Simpson said. “I think you’ve got to start in state. You have to at least put your best foot forward and try to get into the battles with the Butlers and Pudues for the kids that may have gone that way here recently.
“You’ve got to get in there, make it a three-way fight. You start here and work your way out. Obviously, Indiana sells itself around the country, so once you start getting guys here, you go nationally and internationally for that matter.”
There are a number of outstanding players and coaches throughout the state, and connecting with them can only help the talent pool on an annual basis at IU.
Former IU coach Tom Crean landed his share of in-sate players, including Cody Zeller of Washington, Jordan Hulls of Bloomington South, James Blackmon Jr. of Marion and others.
“I don’t think the relationship was bad. Obviously when you strike out in the 2017 class, it’s going to make things look bad,” Simpson said. “I have talked to some coaches who said there was some disconnect. I don’t know the whole background of why.
“Archie’s young. He’s energetic. His first job, he did a great job at Dayton, so I think he’s got a great background.”
Where is a good place in state to start?
“Anywhere throughout the state,” Simpson said. “He’s got two good coaches in his backyard, a hall of fame coach in J.R. Holmes (at Bloomington South). Musa Jallow is five minutes from here and you’ve got Andy Hodson (at Bloomington North) who’s a good coach.
“You start there. Tom did that with Jordan Hulls right off the bat, and that started well for the program. In Indianapolis, you’ve got some of the best coaches anywhere. Mark James just won a state title. You’ve got Doug Mitchell, Jack Keefer, a lot of coaches.”