Bloomington, Ind. – Nolan Dennis didn't know if he was in Bloomington or Hollywood on Friday night.
Dennis found himself surrounded by a slew of national-caliber recruits and in the midst of some 11,000 on-lookers for the opening night of IU basketball practice at "Hoosier Hysteria." He also found himself a little awestruck by his environment.
"I've never seen that many people come to one little event, and they said on game days there's even more than that," Dennis said. "I can't imagine playing in front of that many people."
While the evening's largest ovations were reserved for Eric Gordon, D.J. White and Coach Kelvin Sampson, Dennis was among those who grabbed the spotlight as well. Midway through the two-hour event, the crowd starting chanting the name of the 6-5, 180-pound guard from Richland Hills, Texas.
Rest assured, he noticed.
"I felt like a movie star," said Dennis, Scout.com's 23rd-ranked player in the 2009 class. "It was unreal. They knew who I was when I was around town at other places too, but nothing like that. With the whole crowd chanting your name, it makes you feel like you're somebody. I can't even explain it."
Dennis might have a problem putting those thoughts into words, but he doesn't have any issues saying where Indiana figures in when it comes to his recruitment.
"They're at the top," Dennis said. "They're right up there with a couple of other schools."
The crowd is a big reason for that, but the practice event isn't the only reason Dennis is raving about his IU trip. During his abbreviated stay, Dennis and his mother, Carol, had a chance to look around campus in addition to touring the athletics facilities, and both noted the atmosphere that surrounds the program in the community.
"The visit was great, and I love the atmosphere and the campus," Dennis said. "Basically, the whole city gets involved with the program. The tradition they have, the way they play, it's something I'd love to play in. It's basically all love out there. Everyone just loves the team, and they just want another national championship."
The man put in charge of that endeavor, as well as bringing top-flight recruits to Bloomington, is Sampson. Sampson first became acquainted with the Dennis family when he recruited Nolan's older brother, Collin, a couple of years ago when he was still at Oklahoma. Collin wound up going to South Florida, but Sampson appears to have IU positioned to make a serious run at luring Nolan to Bloomington.
"He makes it feel like family there," said Dennis. "He's the kind of coach you want to be around. It makes you feel like you're at home."
Will Dennis eventually call Bloomington home? Time will tell. He said he's planning on making unofficial visits to both Memphis and North Carolina for games before his high school season gets underway. While those two top-ranked programs are among many he's still taking a close look at, there's no mistaking the fact that IU has its foot in the door. Dennis' decision to go to the expense to make the trip from Texas to Bloomington for an unofficial visit is proof of that.
Dennis said Sampson has laid out how he'd see him fitting into his program, and it would be one that includes a very prominent role at a variety of positions.
"He talks a lot about my versatility," Dennis said. "The point guard there, Jordan Crawford, he's 6-4 and he can also play they wing, and I can do the same thing. (Sampson) said it's all about guards. You need some posts, but the college game is about guards. He loves how I can play the 1, 2 and 3."
Dennis Raves About IU Visit
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