Bloomington, Ind. – Newly hired Indiana head coach Kelvin Sampson still has not found a home in Bloomington, but he already knows how he wants to recruit.
Sampson recently named two coaches with Indiana ties to his staff in hopes of doing something Mike Davis could not do as of late at Indiana – recruit players from Indiana.
His staff will include Jeff Meyer, former assistant coach at Butler, and Ray McCallum, a former coach and player at Ball State. McCallum most recently served as an assistant to Sampson at Oklahoma for two seasons, while Meyer spent the past two seasons as an assistant at Missouri.
McCallum and Meyer each own 20-plus years of college coaching experience, but it appears their Indiana ties are what brought them to Bloomington.
"We need to embrace the high school coaches here," said Meyer. "Reach out and let them know we want to cultivate positive, working relationships with them.
"Having Coach McCallum, who is from Indiana and played and coached at Ball State, he is very familiar with the coaches in this state. I was able to come back to Butler for three years and reconnect. Many of those coaches came through and watched practice, so I got to know them again. That's a priority for us, no question.
"Our objective is to keep the best student athletes playing in Indiana."
In recent seasons Davis was criticized for not garnering commitments from the likes of Sean May (North Carolina), Rodney Carney (Memphis), Josh McRoberts (Duke), Dominic James (Marquette) and most recently the Indianapolis duo of Greg Oden and Mike Conley (Ohio State). While at Indiana Davis did, however, recruit Indiana Mr. Basketball A.J. Ratliff, Robert Vaden, James Hardy and most recently Terre Haute native Armon Bassett.
Meyer thinks this staff can have better success with Indiana players because of that focus on building relationship within the state.
"I think at the core recruiting is about relationships," he said. "My best guess is that for whatever reason those kids felt comfortable with the relationships that were built. If you look at it, you can kind of backtrack. (Ohio State head coach) Thad Matta was in the state a number of years as an assistant at Butler. He has worked this state, his staff has worked this state. He's got a whole staff that knows Indiana, they're Indiana guys. (Illinois head coach) Bruce (Weber) spent how many years up in West Lafayette.
"It's relationships that these coaches have had. The advantage that Ray and I have is we are from this state. We have strong relationships with so many of the high school coaches established here in the state. These first two weeks we've heard from scores and maybe hundreds of high school coaches. Our desire is to embrace them."
Meyer and McCallum have experience playing, coaching and recruiting in the state of Indiana, something Meyer feels can give them an edge over coaches from other states.
A graduate of Taylor University, Meyer's two seasons at Missouri were preceded by three seasons as an assistant coach at Butler. Meyer was part of a staff that led Butler to 2002 and 2003 Horizon League titles and a Sweet 16 appearance in 2003.
Meyer opened his college coaching career as an assistant to Lee Rose at Purdue from 1978-80. He aided the Boilermakers' share of the 1979 Big Ten title and NIT final appearance, as well as the 1980 NCAA Final Four appearance.
McCallum began his head coaching career at Ball State (1993-00). The Cardinals amassed a 126-76 record during his tenure, which included two NCAA Tournament appearances and an NIT berth. He became the first coach in Ball State history to post seven consecutive winning seasons and recruited NBA player and Indiana native Bonzi Wells to Muncie.
"Obviously we've hit the ground running," said Meyer. "Our focus has been two-pronged. We need to invest into the development of the kids we already have at this program and we've worked with these kids to build relationships. At the same time establish a foundation to build the program with. Then we need to reach out to the outstanding high school coaches in the state.
"I had the opportunity to coach in Florida for one year, South Carolina for three years, Virginia for 16 years, and Missouri for two years and I can tell you without a doubt that the best high school coaches that I've known have come from the state of Indiana."
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