Bloomington, Ind. – With the uncertainty that has enveloped the IU basketball program these days, many have to be comforted by the apparent certainty of Derek Elston's commitment.
The 6'8" junior from Tipton (Ind.) H.S. originally committed to the Hoosiers last fall, swayed by the opportunity to play for Coach Kelvin Sampson at one of the most storied programs in college basketball. But a lot has changed since then.
Sampson is out, resigning nearly three weeks ago following an NCAA report alleging major violations by him and his coaching staff. Dan Dakich is in on an interim basis, but it's a near certainty IU will seek a different full-time replacement once the season comes to a close. Indiana also has an appearance before the NCAA Infractions Committee coming in the spring, a trip that could result in additional penalties for the program.
These aren't good days for IU basketball, but its problems haven't prompted Elston to back off his IU pledge. Barring a multi-year NCAA postseason ban, Elston still intends to honor his verbal commitment and play his college basketball in Bloomington.
"Coach Sampson played a major role in his commitment, but I think Derek understood there was a lot more to that program than just Coach Sampson," said Tipton Coach Travis Daughterty. "This history of IU basketball and the tradition they have in this state, the following with their fans in our area and around the state are things that really mattered to him when he made that decision.
"Those are things that have existed at Indiana for a long time, regardless of the coach."
While Elston's commitment to IU hasn't wavered, the program's commitment to him hasn't, either. Dakich and Assistant Coach Jeff Meyer have been to Tipton since Sampson's resignation to watch Elston play and re-assure him that he's still a very coveted commodity.
That comes as no surprise since he is a top-100 player in the Class of 2009 and one of the front-runners for Mr. Basketball honors next season, but it was still comforting for him to hear.
"I think the future is uncertain for their entire staff, but they're committed to their job, and their job right now is that Derek knows ho much he's wanted down there," Daugherty said. "They've done a great job of staying involved and communicating with Derek as the process has unfolded. They've worked hard to make sure he knows how coveted he is down there."
All of this has unfolded while Elston has been completely a very successful junior season. While the team suffered a disappointing loss to third-ranked Bishop Luers in the regional last weekend, Tipton still ended the year with a 21-3 mark, won a Hoosier Conference Championship, and was ranked fifth in the state heading into the tournament.
Elston led the way, averaging around 20 points and 12 rebounds.
"The hard work he put in during the off-season showed with the year he had," Daugherty said. "The attention he garnered before the season with his verbal to IU put a target on his back, and he really handled that well. I don't think that's an easy position for any kid to be in."
With his junior season behind him, Elston will be waiting to see what unfolds in Bloomington, but he'll also be gearing up for a senior season full of promise.
"I think he has the desire to improve his strength and work on developing a Division I body," Daugherty said. "As a player he's so versatile, so there are a lot of areas of his game that he has that he can improve.
"It's going to be important that he continues to develop his perimeter game, that he becomes a more consistent shooter and ball handler and passer. He'll also have to continue to develop his game around the basket as well. He's also going to be an important post presence for us and for IU someday, too."
Elston's Commitment Still Solid
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