Crean's Presence Means Plenty to Elston

INDIANAPOLIS - On his first day on the road recruiting for IU, Coach Tom Crean spent a good portion of it watching verbal commit Derek Elston. While Elston and Crean have yet to talk face-to-face, Crean's presence at Saturday's Top 100 Basketball Showcase meant plenty to Elston...

INDIANAPOLIS – Tom Crean's presence at Saturday's Top 100 Basketball Showcase said plenty to Derek Elston.

It was Crean's first day on the road recruiting since IU eased some of the self-imposed recruiting restrictions that were put in place in October. While Crean's day will end in Akron watching the King James AAU event, much of the afternoon was spent sitting front and center watching the 6-8, 215-pound forward from Tipton (Ind.) High School.

Crean's presence meant a lot to Elston, who verbally committed to play at IU when Kelvin Sampson was in charge. NCAA rules prohibit coaches from talking to recruits at these events, but Crean's decision to stop by Lawrence North H.S. in the morning to see Tipton's team go through some defensive drills and then to watch most of Elston's Showcase games and drills spoke volumes.

"I was real surprised, and I was real happy," said Elston. "I saw him (in the morning at Lawrence North) and I was pretty happy, got a little smile on my face and wanted to say hi, but I didn't know if he could say hi back. So I just looked a smiled."

Crean was then in attendance at the Top 100 Showcase at Ben Davis H.S., an event that included approximately 115 of the state's best recruits from the 2009, 2010 and 2011 classes. While there were six courts being used and a slew of talented players to watch, much of Crean's time was spent courtside watching Elston perform.

"To see him watching my first game got me pretty excited," Elston said.

Crean isn't allowed to talk publicly about recruits, but he surely liked what he saw. Elston averaged 19.8 points and 11.2 rebounds as a junior, and on Saturday displayed the sort of tenacity and offensive versatility that makes him one of the state's top players in the 2009 class. Whether it was a step back 3-pointer or the ability to run the floor and finish with a dunk on the fastbreak, it's obvious why Elston is currently ranked 57th in the class.

There was some uncertainty about what Elston would do after Sampson's departure, but he made it clear Saturday that he full intends to play his college basketball in Bloomington.

"It's (Indiana), definitely," Elston said. "Especially since it's Coach Crean now. When Sampson (resigned) I was really worried. I didn't know. IU was top, but I didn't' know what I was going to do. I was kind of worried if I was going to leave or not.

"To see Coach Crean come, that was big for me."

Elston thinks Crean's arrival could also be a big plus to some of the state's other top players.

"A couple of guys have already talked to me and told me because Coach Crean has come they'd like to come to IU now," Elston said.

Crean and Elston will meet face-to-face for the first time Sunday when the Tipton H.S. junior comes to Bloomington for an unofficial visit. Elston said he plans to ask his future coach about how he fits into Crean's system, and how he can make him better as a player.

But Elston said it's clear to him that Crean wants him in Bloomington, and he wants to be in Bloomington as well.

"He's full of energy, an all-around good guy," Elston said. "He said he's really excited to coach me and said he can't wait for me to be a part of IU." Top Stories