Bloomington, Ind. – There's no questioning the talent Kelvin Sampson has assembled for tonight's Hoosier Hysteria.
Sure, the second-year IU coach has a gifted Hoosier team that will officially open its practice season in front of 10,000-plus tonight at Assembly Hall, but we're talking about the players he's amassed who will be sitting courtside. Among the on-lookers will be at least 11 recruits from the 2008, 2009 and 2010 classes. Of the 11, nine are top-100 players in their respective classes.
The 2008 class will be represented by verbal commits Devin Ebanks and Matt Roth, along with Mt. Vernon, N.Y., forward Kevin Jones. Ebanks and Jones are making their official visits, while Roth will be in town for the second time in three weeks after joining Tyler Zeller for his official visit last month.
The 6-8, 205-pound Jones is Scout.com's 49th-ranked player and one of the top players still available in the class. He has officials scheduled to West Virginia, UMass and Pitt in the following three weeks, and is also considering Ohio State, St. John's, Georgetown, Rutgers and Seton, Hall, among others.
"He's stayed true to himself and worked on his game," Scout.com National Recruiting Director Dave Telep said of Jones. "By that I mean he's grasped what makes him standout – rebounding, tenacity – and mixed in enough perimeter to keep you honest. Plus, this is a kid who gets after it all the time."
While Jones' decision to visit for Hoosier Hysteria makes him one of the evening's featured visitors, so is the fact IU has four top-40 players from the 2009 class. Brooklyn, N.Y., small forward Lance Stephenson (ranked No. 5) sports the loftiest ranking, while Elizabeth, N.J., point guard Dexter Strickland (No. 10), Richland Hills, Tex., shooting guard Nolan Dennis (No. 23) and Indianapolis power forward Stephan Van Treese (No. 40), are also ranked among the nation's best.
Joining that grouping of '09 recruits is Tipton, Ind., forward Derek Elston (No. 69), a 6-8, 205-pounder who has already verballed to IU; 6'8", 205-pound Eureka, Ill., center Jordan Prosser; and 6'4" shooting guard Jacob Jenkins from Louisville.
Indiana lured Ebanks from the Bronx, N.Y., in the '08 class, and it is trying its hand again with the New York area with its pursuit of Stephenson and Strickland.
Strickland is the top-ranked point guard in the '09 class according to Scout.com, a 6-3, 175-pounder has become even more of an IU priority with the apparent loss to '08 recruit Bud Mackey following his arrest two weeks ago.
"This summer was a turning point for Strickland as he made the transition to point guard and did it effectively," said Scout.com Recruiting Analyst Evan Daniels. "Coaches love his ability to push the tempo, drive the lane and find open teammates in transition. His jump shot and ability to score is also impressive."
Stephenson, meanwhile, is a high-scoring small forward who is also being recruited by just about every major program in the country.
"When talking about Lance Stephenson's game, the first thing that comes to mind is how physical he plays," Daniels said. "he's got the strong frame and uses his body very well when he drives to the basket. College coaches also like the fact that he's a great scorer and one of the best scorers in the 2009 class."
The 6'5", 180-pound Dennis comes from a family that Sampson is familiar with, since he recruited Nolan's older brother, Collin, several years ago. Collin wound up going to South Florida, but Sampson is now after Nolan, who is the top-ranked player from Texas in the '09 class.
"I thought (Dennis) put too much pressure on himself during the summer," Telep said. "He started out in the spring and early summer on a big roll. He received a lot of attention and not unlike a lot of kids, felt the pressure of the process. I think he's got a world of talent and when he's out there playing loose and having fun he's quite the prospect."
Van Treese, meanwhile, is the highest ranked in-state player in the class. He missed a good portion of the AAU season while battling mononucleosis, but is now fully recovered and is poised for a big junior season at Indianapolis' Lawrence North H.S.
"The kid's got size and the will to get it done inside," said Telep. "He's had to overcome the injury bug but with his attitude and work ethic you know he's on the road back."
It's no surprise that the 2010 class will be represented by McCallum, the son of IU assistant coach Ray McCallum. A sophomore at Bloomington North H.S., McCallum averaged double figures as a freshman and after a big season with the Indiana Elite AAU squad, many are expecting him to establish himself as a national name in his class.
"This young guard is growing and has the size and makeup to be an elite kid at his position," Telep said. "To me, his poise and ceiling as a prospect stand out the most."
Talent Abounds in Bloomington
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