It's not the name that has attracted Indiana to 5'9" Tacoma, Wash., point guard Isaiah Thomas, but rather the game of the elite Class of 2007 point guard.
Indiana, and more specifically Associate Head Coach Kerry Rupp, has been in hot pursuit of the top-10 '07 point guard, and the effort has apparently been paying off. In fact, it's very possible that Thomas could make an early verbal commitment.
"We were discussing it the other day, and he was talking about making a verbal commitment," said Tacoma Curtis Senior High School Coach Lindsay Bemis.
In addition to Indiana, Thomas has been getting interest from the likes of Washington, Washington State, Purdue, Kentucky, Florida and Georgetown, among others. While Bemis didn't say which program Thomas was considering pledging to, indications are that it's the Hoosiers that have surfaced as his favorite.
"Right now, Indiana is the one he's talking about the most," said Bemis. "I know he likes Coach Rupp a lot, and I think he's enamored by the fact Indiana – that's a basketball Mecca."
If Indiana is able to get a verbal from Thomas, it would be getting a pledge from one of the top-ranked players from the West Coast in the '07 class. As a sophomore, Thomas averaged 26.1 points, 6.2 assists and 2.4 steals for a team that went 20-8 and qualified for the state tournament.
"He's a very up-tempo, creative with the ball point guard," said Bemis. "He has great range, he has great strength and jumping ability. He can get in the paint and finish extremely well for someone his size."
That size is something that Bemis originally thought might scare off some college recruiters, but that hasn't been the case. Every coach who has stopped by the Tacoma high school has said his stature doesn't scare them off at all.
"I really thought his size would be more of a concern for bigger schools," said Bemis. "But the more I watch him play, the more I realize he doesn't have a whole lot of restrictions in any area. He just knows how to get it done."
One of the coaches who said that size wasn't an issue was Rupp. The Hoosier assistant was in Tacoma during the evaluation period to see Thomas play, and he's also seen him on numerous times on the AAU circuit.
"Indiana is the school that has shown the most interest, and (Rupp) didn't have any reservations if he could play at that level," said Bemis. "And he's been around. Knowing his background, he's seen the game and coached the game, and he thinks Isaiah can step in there and play."
Bemis said Rupp likes Thomas' ability to score and get teammates involved, but also was enamored with some intangibles that can be big on the basketball court.
"He likes how he's a very charismatic type of person," said Bemis. "He's like the pied piper around our school. People will follow him.
"Everyone also likes his strength and feistiness – he doesn't take anything from anyone."
Those attributes have Rupp and the Hoosiers convinced they want Thomas in Bloomington, and it appears Thomas might be close to taking them up on the offer. While a pledge could be on the horizon, Bemis also knows the signing period for the '07 class is a ways away, and plenty could still change. There are a host of schools still showing plenty of interest, and Thomas must still improve in the classroom to make sure he's qualified to play at the collegiate level as well.
"Like I told him, it's early, and verbal commitments are non-binding," said Bemis. "They could take that verbal commitment, but if you don't qualify academically, you're not going anywhere."
If it all works out the way Rupp, Davis and the Hoosiers hope, they'll be adding a player with not only plenty of game, but also a name that is among the most legendary in IU history.
"He certainly gets a lot of attention because of his name, but he backs it up with his game," said Bemis of his junior point guard. "He's not getting all this because of his name. He can flat out play."
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