Ebanks Set to Return Monday

Bloomington, Ind. - After being away from his St. Thomas More School team for about a month, Devin Ebanks returns to Monday. Ebanks talks about his month away as well as his reasons for sticking with his IU pledge...

Bloomington, Ind. – Devin Ebanks' absence from St. Thomas More School comes to an end Monday.

The prize recruit of the Hoosiers' 2008 recruiting class has been away from his prep team for about a month for unspecified family and school issues. Ebanks said Sunday night he'll be back practicing with his team Monday, and he'll return to the floor Wednesday for St. Thomas More's match-up with Naval Academy Prep.

"It's been difficult being away, but it's been something that me and my family have been working through," Ebanks said. "But me and my family decided that now is the time for me to come back, start everything off new and fresh."

Before his temporary departure from the team, Ebanks was averaging 24.7 points and 10 rebounds for Connecticut prep school. While the team certainly missed the presence of its leading scorer in December, they still managed to go 5-3 without him and are currently 8-4 on the year.

"I give my teammates a lot of credit – with me being gone, they still found a way to win some tough games," Ebanks said. "I think this can wind up helping us. I'm basically the go-to guy, and the team found out it can still win games without me. It shows they can still get it done."

That might be the case, but there's no doubt St. Thomas More Coach Jeremiah Quinn is excited to be getting his star player back Monday. Ebanks is equally excited to be rejoining his teammates and getting back into the flow.

"I'm ready – I've been preparing all week to get back to practice," Ebanks said. "I need to get that first practice in and kind of see where I'm at."

While Ebanks has been preoccupied dealing with his personal issues, he's still managed to keep in steady contact with the IU staff and keep an eye on his future teammates. He said he talks to the IU staff just about daily, and is excited about his future in Bloomington.

"I've been talking with coach just about every day - either I call them or (Coach Kelvin Sampson) gives me a call," Ebanks said. "I've been staying on top of how they're doing."

Next year, Ebanks figures to be a very big part of what the Hoosiers are doing. The 6'8", 195-pound forward is Scout.com's 13th-ranked player overall and fourth-ranked small forward. The consensus is both D.J. White and Eric Gordon will be leaving for the NBA at season's end, leaving a big scoring void that Ebanks will likely help fill.

"I'm very excited," Ebanks said. "I can't wait to get there and play."

There was a time when IU fans were worried that the prized Bronx, N.Y., recruit might not follow through on his summer verbal to the Hoosiers. Former assistant coach Rob Senderoff was instrumental in luring the New York area standout to Bloomington, and his departure led many to think Ebanks might reconsider his college destination.

But Ebanks said that wasn't much of a possibility.

"I remembered the times I'd been there, and me and my family built a really good relationship with Coach Sampson," Ebanks said. "He's someone that I consider to be a mentor for me. I can talk to him about anything, not just on a basketball level. If I'm having problems with something or need help, I can call him and he'll help me out."

Ebanks has undoubtedly leaned on Sampson during the last month while he's been away from his prep team. Soon enough, Sampson will be leaning on Ebanks to help lead the Hoosiers when he arrives on campus in the fall.

While he's best known for the plethora of ways he can score, Ebanks said he's making strides in other areas of his game as well.

"My rebounding has definitely picked up," Ebanks said. "I'm averaging a double-double now. Also, I think my leadership skills are better, and I'm more patient with the ball. Before, I'd come down and see the first play and not see the second play. But that's something I'm better at now."

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