Sampson Talks About Class, Gordon Recruitment

Bloomington, Ind. – Kelvin Sampson's first IU recruiting class is a top-10 one according to just about every national recruiting service. So what does that mean to the first-year Hoosier coach?

Bloomington, Ind. – Kelvin Sampson's first IU recruiting class is a top-10 one according to just about every national recruiting service.

So what does that mean to the first-year Hoosier coach?

Not much.

"I could care less about rankings," Sampson said. "My rankings come from my assistant coaches and my eyes, if we think a kid is a good player."

This time around, Sampson and just about everyone else concurs that the Hoosiers' 07 class is a special one. Indiana announced the signing of guard Eric Gordon, forward Brandon McGee and center Eli Holman Wednesday, and are waiting on a signed letter of intent from a fourth player, Chipola JC guard/forward Jamarcus Ellis, this week as well.

It's a group of players that Scout.com ranks as the eighth best in the nation, highlighted by the nation's No. 2 player overall in Gordon. While Gordon is the highest ranked player to pledge to IU in recent memory, player rankings rank just about as high on Sampson's list as the team rankings.

"Coaches don't recruit to be ranked – you recruit to fill needs," Sampson said. "Rankings are for people to get excited ready about. I get excited about how I think Eric Gordon can help us win games, about how Brandon McGee can fit into our team, about how Eli Holman can develop as a player."

The 6-3, 185-pound Gordon is the headline name on IU's list, a high-scoring shooting guard from Indianapolis North Central H.S. Sampson said he expects Gordon's impact on the program to be significant as soon as he arrives next season.

"EJ Gordon is a dynamic player," Sampson said. "Offensively, there are so many ways he can score the basketball…This kid scores really high on the wow scale. He's good. He's an impact guard."

With Gordon's letter of intent finally in hand, Sampson was free to discuss the highly-publicized and very controversial recruitment of Gordon. Gordon originally verballed to Illinois but eventually opted to back out of that commitment and sign with Indiana.

While not going into great detail on how Gordon's recruitment unfolded, Sampson said the first contact between the two parties was made in April, and that the Gordon family made it clear IU was an option they wanted to explore.

"Think about a kid that's committed to another school – we don't do that," Sampson said. "Coaches don't recruit kids that are committed to other schools…I think this situation was certainly unique and I hope it doesn't happen again."

Gordon's signed letter of intent gives Indiana the best player in the state, someone who brings an end to some of the recent in-state recruiting failures for players such as Sean May, Josh McRoberts and Greg Oden, all of whom who left the state to pursue other options.

"The bottom line is this kid grew up in Indiana, is an Indiana kid, and wanted to come to Indiana," Sampson said.

While Gordon is the big name in the class, Holman and McGee are also players Sampson is excited about. Holman is a 6-9, 210-pound left handed center who has a 7'7" wingspan, a very good defender and shot blocker who will have a chance to play a role immediately as well thanks to his abilities on the defensive end of the floor.

While he's 210 pounds now, Sampson said he can see the California product eventually develop into a 250-pounder who can be a force in the paint.

"He is a phenomenal shot blocker," Sampson said. "Shot blocking is a timing thing. Watch the opening tap. Watch how some 6-10 kids never get the opening tip. It's timing. They can't get it quick enough. It's not how high you jump, it's how quick. And that's what separate Eli – he's a quick jumper."

The 6-7, 210-pound McGee, meanwhile, is a versatile player who has some of the attributes that one of Sampson's all-time greats at Oklahoma possessed.

"The thing I really like about Brandon McGee is when I watched him play…I have a tendency to compare kids that I coached in the past, and he has a lot of Eduardo Najera in him," Sampson said. "Brandon doesn't really have a position. He can play just about anywhere you like him.

"Brandon McGee has a high basketball IQ. When he was at our elite camp in August, the thing that jumped out to me was his feel for the game, the way he makes people better with the pass, a good rebounder, good shooter, could just think the game at a high level."

The announcement of Wednesday's class was just the latest piece of good news that has Sampson confident about the progress the program has made since he first took over in the spring.

"I remember when Mr. Greenspan introduced me to the team, and I addressed the team for the first time," Sampson said. I remember that day, and I look from that day to right now, and we've made unbelievable strides. That's why I'm excited about the future of this program. Our future is bright. This recruiting class gives us a chance to be competitive at a high level in this league, and that's what recruiting classes should do."

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