Bloomington, Ind. - As the first year of the Kelvin Sampson era has come to a close, the Hoosiers' head coach deserves an A for creativity.
That's the belief of Scout.com National Recruiting Director Dave Telep, who admits that he thought Sampson and the Hoosiers had an anvil dropped on their head by the NCAA when it essentially put the Hoosier coach under house arrest for the first year of his IU coaching career.
"A penalty like Sampson's is essentially a summer death sentence," Telep said.
In the wake of the Oklahoma recruiting violations, the NCAA prevented Sampson from making phone calls to prospective recruits or from going off campus to recruit for 12 months. It was a ruling that caught Sampson and IU Athletics Director Rick Greenspan off guard, neither of whom appeared to anticipate the severity of the penalties handed down by the Infractions Committee.
With Sampson saddled by the sanctions, IU's recruiting efforts got off to a slow start. Purdue collected commitments from four top-100 in-state players, all of whom had Hoosier scholarship offers as well. That was cause for concern to Hoosier fans, who had witnessed a slew of talented in-state players opt to play elsewhere in the final years of the Mike Davis era.
But the Hoosiers' fortunes turned around, first with commitments from Chicago-area standouts Brandon McGee and JaMarcus Ellis. Soon afterwards, California center Eli Holman became the third member of the class, giving Sampson a pair of top-100 players along with the eventual JUCO Player of the Year. The biggest catch, though, came in October when Eric Gordon backed out of his Illinois verbal and announced he would attend IU to play for Sampson.
Add in prep school combo guard Jordan Crawford and JUCO big man DeAndre Thomas, and Sampson's staff put together a recruiting class ranked as high as No. 1 nationally by CSTV and No. 9 by Scout.com.
"I'm a little surprised the ban didn't have nearly the impact I thought it would have," Telep said.
So how did Sampson and staff do it? With some creative recruiting and solid work from assistant coaches Ray McCallum, Jeff Meyer and Rob Senderoff.
With Sampson unable to go off campus, the IU staff did what it could to bring the prospective recruits to Sampson. One way to do that was through the Hoosiers' summer camps, most notably the team's Elite Camps. A year ago IU had a pair of elite camps, one of which comprised of primarily out-of-state players, and another that included of mainly in-state players.
Those June camps gave Sampson a chance to work with potential recruits, and for those players to get to know Sampson, his staff, IU's players, and about the Hoosier program.
One of the players in attendance was McGee, who said his trip to Bloomington had a big impact on his decision.
"I was down there for the camp, and it was like a regular practice," McGee said. "It was hard nosed. (Coach Kelvin Sampson) said he wasn't going to hold anything back, and he didn't. We worked really hard."
While Sampson was unable to go off campus to recruit, he was able to take advantage of the fact that a couple of Bloomington restaurants – including Yogi's and Lennie's – are technically on campus.
Yogi's was a particular hot spot for Sampson and his staff when they brought in recruits, including Gordon, eventual Memphis signee Derrick Rose and most recently 2008 standout Devin Ebanks. All three were joined by Sampson, the IU staff and a couple of Hoosier players on unofficial visits to the 10th Street establishment, and they were greeted by a large contingent of Hoosier fans who did their best to show the community's interest in the program.
Add in Sampson's ability to text message recruits and to field calls from them as well, and IU managed to use to put together one of its best classes in years despite the restrictions.
"It's a testament to his creativity," said Telep. "But, ultimately, you don't get those recruits unless y our staff comes up big and Jeff Meyer, Ray McCallum and Rob Senderoff deserve to be commended for their patience, persistence, and ultimately, results."
Creativity Pays Off for IU in BB Recruiting
Peegs.com Top Stories
Coach TV: Johns talks offensive woes, TerpsEarlier today offensive coordinator Kevin Johns met with the media as Indiana works to solve its offensive woes and prepares for the challenge ahead with Maryland on Saturday.
Video intro: Sophomore walk-on Johnny JagerToday we begin our video profiles of some of the Hoosier newcomers with an interview with walk-on transfer Johnny Jager.
Hoosiers in the NFL: Week 7Each week Peegs.com checks in on the all the action in the NFL and how former Hoosier players are doing around the league. This week we take a look at how eight former Indiana…
Hoosier Newsstand, Oct. 25Get the latest articles on Indiana basketball, football and other sports in today's edition of the Hoosier Newsstand.