IU On the Rise with Strickland

Landing a point guard in the '09 class might just be IU's No. 1 priority, and there isn't a better point guard in the class than Dexter Strickland. Strickland talked to HoosierNation.com Friday night about his very favorable impressions of the visit and the IU program...

Bloomington, Ind. – Dexter Strickland couldn't figure out who the Hoosier fan was talking about.

When the 6-3, 175-pound guard from Elizabeth, N.J., made his way onto Assembly Hall's McCracken Court for the first time Friday night before the start of Hoosier Hysteria, he overheard an IU fan say, "there he is."

Thinking the fan was talking about Kelvin Sampson or D.J. White or some other local celebrity, Strickland found himself scanning the area for someone recognizable. What he found instead was a slew of fans' eyes that were focused squarely on him.

"I started looking around to see who they were talking about, and they were talking about me," said Strickland. "That caught me off guard."

It's also one of a series of events that has helped elevated IU in Strickland's eyes, and into serious consideration for his services. Scout.com's top-ranked point guard in the '09 class and No. 10 prospect overall said he began giving IU a closer look a year ago, and the program has now emerged as one of his finalists.

"At first I wasn't really too big on (Indiana)," Strickland said. "But when I heard Eric Gordon was going there, I was like wow, he's a great player. So that school must have had an impact on him, and it must be a great school, and I wanted to see how it was, and so far, I liked it a lot."

Strickland got an up close look at Gordon as well as the IU program over the weekend when he was in town for an unofficial visit. From the Friday night practice to the campus to the team, Strickland admits he left Bloomington with a very good feel for what IU would have to offer him.

"The thing I liked most was how everybody likes each other, there's really good team chemistry," Strickland said. "Everyone is nice to each other, the staff is wonderful, the players on the team, the fans, the campus, it was all great. I really enjoyed myself down there."

Strickland was one of the top-flight recruits from the New York area who was in town for the weekend. He was joined by '08 IU commit Devin Ebanks – who hails from the Bronx - as well as Brooklyn native Lance Stephenson, another top-10 2009 recruiting target.

Strickland said he's good friends with both, and the idea of coming to Bloomington together did come up.

"Devin and I played on the same (AAU team), the Metro Hawks, so we've been good buddies, texting each other all the time and talking on the phone," Strickland said. "Then with Lance, we're all three good friends.

"We were talking about (playing together), how it would be crazy and how we'd have a really good chance to win a championship. I was thinking about it and I have to think about it some more. After my next two trips, I'll make my decision. Hopefully, I'll get a chance to play with my friends."

That's something IU fans would love to see. They let Strickland know as much with a banner at Hoosier Hysteria, which was directed at the three New York products.

"When we were in the gym, they had a big sign that said IU loves New York, and it had my name, Ebanks' name and Lance's name," Strickland said. "Just knowing that there are people who you don't know who are there checking you out, it's a great feeling."

Strickland's final two trips will be to North Carolina (Oct. 27) and then to Memphis on a yet-to-be-determined weekend in November. Once those visits have been made Strickland said he'll make his decision, most likely between his five favorites of IU, Memphis, North Carolina, Michigan State and Florida.

"I've been to a lot of schools," Strickland said. "I've been to Rutgers, Villanova, Seton hall, Michigan State, I've seen a lot of schools. I think I'm ready to make my choice after my next two visits. I don't think I'm rushing it too much. I think I'll make the decision at the end of the season. That way, I know I'm trying to take my time and making the right decision."

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