Bloomington, Ind. - Kelvin Sampson was hoping for a quintet of signees for the '08 recruiting class, but the second-year IU coach is excited about the quartet that are excepted to sign on the dotted line today.
On the first day of the early signing period, Sampson announced the signing of Matt Roth, Tom Pritchard and Terrell Holloway to national letters of intent this afternoon, and said the IU staff expects to receive a fourth letter from Devin Ebanks later today.
Sampson's staff had been hoping to attract a fifth recruit – Mt. Vernon (N.Y.) forward Kevin Jones – as well, but Jones announced today he will play for Coach Bob Huggins' West Virginia program, picking the Mountaineers over Indiana and Pitt.
While news of Jones' decision came as a disappointment, it's still a class that is ranked No. 25 nationally according to Scout.com, one that Sampson thinks can be a part of the lofty goals he's established for the program.
"When you add this class to (what we'll have coming back next year), we think we have a chance to remain a contender to play in the top of this league and to compete for championships. That's our goal," Sampson said.
The biggest name is Ebanks, a 6'9", 185-pound small forward from the Bronx, N.Y. He's Scout.com's 13th-ranked player in the 2008 class and is someone who is expected to make a huge impact when he arrives next fall. Sampson was unable to talk about Ebanks until his letter of intent arrives later today, but Scout.com National Recruiting Director Dave Telep said IU is getting a special player.
"Ebanks obviously has great size, and can be a multiple threat type of player," Telep said. "A passer, handler and scorer, this is a young man who should someday make a living with this game."
While Ebanks has been the center of attention with IU's '08 class, Sampson also likes what Roth, Pritchard and Holloway bring to the table as well.
The 6'3" Roth might not be ranked among the nation's top 100 prospects, but he's universally considered as one of the best shooters in the class. He averaged 21.1 points and shot 48 percent from behind the 3-point arc a year ago on a Washington (Ill.) Community H.S. team that went 27-2.
"He has the ability to make contested 3s," Sampson said. "A lot of guys can make them when they have time to set their feet. He makes a lot of contested 3s…he's a prolific, prolific 3-point shooter."
Roth enters his senior poised to shatter the state of Illinois' all-time 3-point shooting mark. In three years Roth has made 329-of-439 3-point attempts (44.5 percent), leaving him only 42 behind the all-time state mark of 371. A year ago he made 143-of-297 3-pointers, as he came within three of the state's single-season mark of 146.
While that ability to score from the perimeter is Roth's calling card, it isn't the only thing he brings to the table, according to Sampson.
"Matt's a tough kid - he has a lot of what I like in a basketball player," Sampson said. "The 3-point shooting, when you're as good at one thing as he is, the other things tend to get overlooked. But Matt is a great 3-point shooter who is improving in every area of his game."
In Pritchard, Indiana is bringing in a 6'8", 235-pound power forward from St. Edward's (Ohio) H.S. who should bring some size and some versatility to the Hoosiers' frontline. Like Roth, Pritchard comes from a prep program that is expected to also compete for a state championship this season.
Sampson said he stumbled across Pritchard during the spring and summer AAU season when he was watching another player, and wound being drawn in to more and more with each passing game. A left-hander, Pritchard is an adept passer who has range out to the 3-point stripe.
"Every time I saw him play I liked him even more," Sampson said.
"His size, he can play inside outside, he's versatile and a smart kid. Kids like Tom Pritchard, you can't have enough guys like him in your program. Big and strong and physical and tough, high basketball IQ, can pass and score."
The final piece to IU's 2008 class is the 6'0", 185-pound Holloway, Scout.com's 16th-ranked point guard in the 2008 class. While Sampson said the IU staff had been impressed with his play during the summer months, it wasn't until after Bud Mackey's problems arose that the Hoosiers got heavily involved.
Despite that late start IU was able to out-duel Tennessee and others for the Hempstead, N.Y., native's services, and Sampson said he fills an identified need in this class.
"We didn't want just another guard-guard, we wanted a point guard," Sampson said. "The guards we have, they're all adjusting to playing point guard. The thing I liked about Terrell, that is who he is. He's a point guard. He's not a shooting guard that we're converting to point guard or a scorer/point guard. He is a point guard and always has been."
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