Hoosiers Target '08 Standout Babbitt

Elite '08 prospect Luke Babbitt is already getting national recruiting attention, including plenty from Indiana. IU Assistant Head Coach Kerry Rupp was in Nevada recently to watch the 6-7, 205-pound left-hander from Galena H.S.

Luke Babbitt still has three years of high school basketball ahead of him, but it looks like it will be three seasons in the national recruiting spotlight.

The 6'7", 205-pound left-hander from Reno, Nevada's Galena H.S. has barely gotten his prep career underway, but he already has just about every major college program trying to get its foot in the recruiting door. The Class of 2008 prospect is already getting interest from just about every Pac-10 school, while others such as Duke, Wake Forest, UConn, N.C. State, Indiana, Michigan and Gonzaga have been inquiring as well.

"I've had five Division I players here in 14 years, and I'm in awe of all the attention he's already getting," said Galena H.S. Coach Tom Maurer.

So what's all the fuss? Babbitt is a big man with skills, someone who shot 52 percent from behind the 3-point arc as a freshman, yet has the sort of size and frame that leads many to believe he'll be a power forward at the collegiate level. He combines that with the fact he's a near 4.0 student who is still growing and still learning.

"What we're trying to do is develop him so that by the time he's a senior he is someone who can play anywhere on the court," said Maurer. "He's a really good player right now, but what we want to do is develop him so that by the time he's a senior he's a great, great, great player."

In that quest, Babbitt has been focusing on a trio of things this off-season. Maurer has him working on creating his shot off the dribble along with improving his ball handling. In addition, Babbitt has been working on being able to go to his right and use his right hand when he has the ball in the paint.

Babbitt has made strides in all three areas, and Maurer said they'll target three more areas next summer.

"Next year we'll sit down with him and say, ‘here are three things to work on,'" said Maurer. "We figure by the time he's a senior we will have identified everything he's needed to work on to be that sort of player who can play anywhere on the court."

Making Maurer's job easier is the fact that Babbitt is a willing and eager student.

"He's fun to work with because he's not afraid to fail," said Maurer. "That's important. In a game, he's not afraid to go right when he's got it. At this point, you don't want to be worried about winning, you want to be worried about getting better."

These sort of attributes made Galena H.S. a popular stop for college coaches in recent weeks, all of whom wanted to look at Babbitt first hand.

One of those visitors was IU Assistant Head Coach Kerry Rupp, who made a big impression on Maurer.

"I love Kerry Rupp, and I had never met him before," said Maurer. "He came out a little early – our workout was at 7 p.m. and he came in at around 2 p.m. – and after he introduced himself to the principal, we sat down for five hours and X'd and O'd. That guy really has a great knowledge of the game."

Maurer was also interested to talk to Rupp about the IU program because the Galena H.S. coach is an IU grad. A long-time friend of former IU assistant coach and current Bowling Green head coach Dan Dakich, Maurer spent 16 years working IU's summer basketball camps during the 1980s and 1990s.

"I have ‘IU BBall' on my Nevada license on my red truck," said Maurer. "I bleed Indiana still."

Maurer's affinity for IU basketball – coupled with the fact he has a talented prep that IU is very interested in – had him asking Rupp some tough questions about the future of the program, since Babbitt won't be a college freshman until the fall of 2008.

"My question is, ‘is Coach Davis going to be there in seven years?'" said Maurer. "Because that's the timespan we're looking at. That's also what I'm asking Duke. Is Coach K still going to be there? Because like it or not, kids play for a coach. They also look at the program as a whole, but they want to know who is going to be coaching them."

Rupp, meanwhile, impressed upon Maurer that after back-to-back seasons without trips to the NCAA Tournament, the future is bright in Bloomington.

"He really talked up coach (Mike Davis) and the program," said Maurer. "You want to talk about a really loyal guy to Indiana University – I see a lot of times assistant coaches kind of hint to you that they don't agree (with their head coach), but this guy was bleeding red. He believes in Coach Davis and showed me and impressed me with the belief that Indiana has turned the corner.

"Kerry represented Indiana really well. He was telling me about the two kids from Auburn as well as Coach Davis and how well he relates to kids. He said they're cleaning it up and that they have kids there who are great students, going to class and there aren't the ‘me' attitudes – it's a team attitude."

Those were all things that resonated with Maurer. Indiana appears to have its foot in the door with Babbitt, and time will tell where the talented '08 big man winds up.

"It's going to be interesting because he has no limitations," said Maurer. "He wants to play in a great conference, he wants to play for a great coach, and he wants to go to a great institution. Those are great qualities."

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