Bloomington, Ind. – IU assistant coach Jeff Meyer liked what he saw in IU's 62-58 win over Illinois Sunday, but he loved what he saw Saturday night.
That's when the Hoosier assistant was in Tipton to watch Class '09 verbal Derek Elston and his top-ranked Tipton H.S. squad whip visiting Twin Lakes H.S. 77-60 to secure at least a tie for the Hoosier Conference championship. Elston scored 28 and pulled down 11 rebounds to help Tipton to its 10th straight win.
"Coach was really excited after the game and really happy he was able to come and see him play," said Tipton H.S. Coach Travis Daugherty.
That sort of night has been common for the IU-bound 6'8", 205-pound forward, who is averaging 21 points and 11 rebounds for the 2A school. Daugherty said Elston has always been a versatile player, but he's added some additional size as well which has made him an even more formidable offensive player from a year ago when he averaged 15 points.
"He's continued to mature physically," Daugherty said. "His strength now provides him with some opportunities that he hasn't had in the past. He's always been a versatile kid, but now he commands a lot of attention on the block because he's strong enough to play in there."
While Elston's ability to play inside or out is a big reason why he's the 68th-ranked player in the nation according to Scout.com, that's probably not the biggest thing about his game that stood out to Meyer and IU Coach Kelvin Sampson. Instead, it was the fact that Elston's playing style fit the mold Sampson has long looked for throughout his coaching career.
"I think in their observations, they really like his toughness and competitiveness," Daughterty said. "That's been a staple of a lot of the kids who've played in Coach Sampson's system. You could tell Coach Sampson really liked that from the beginning."
That's why Indiana offered Elston so early, and why he's the first member of IU's 2009 recruiting class. His decision gave IU a good start to next year's recruiting class, and it also gave Elston an added boost of confidence as well as a reprieve from the day-to-day grind of being a highly-recruited basketball player.
"One of Derek's strengths is he's always been a confident kid and a confident player," Daugherty said. "I think (his IU verbal) probably added to that confidence level, and at the same time allowed him to relax a little bit because he's not concerned about the recruiting process and the pressure that can go with that, which is something a lot of kids his age are dealing with."
Instead, Elston has been able to devote his time to leading his prep team in its quest for a state championship, while also building a relationship with his future coaches at IU. In addition to Meyer's trip to Tipton Saturday night, Sampson is expected to be in attendance for Tipton's Feb. 1 game against Kokomo Northwestern.
Elston, meanwhile, was in Bloomington to watch IU's Dec. 22 win over Coppin State, and then returned Sunday for the Hoosiers' 62-58 win over Illinois.
"I think the comfort level felt with Indiana from the beginning has continued to grow, and it's been nice for him to be able to continue to develop a relationship with their program as an observer," Daugherty said. "There isn't a lot of contact right now, but he's been able to get down to some games and research their program a little more than most kids can who don't know where they're headed."
Future Hoosier Elston Continues to Blossom
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