Watford Gets "No. 1 Priority" Tag From IU

Bloomington – Christian Watford knows what will probably come up during next month's visit to Bloomington...

Bloomington – Christian Watford knows what will probably come up during next month's visit to Bloomington.

The 6-7 ½, 215-pound wing forward from Birmingham, Ala., will be in town for an unofficial visit the weekend of Aug. 23 to meet with IU Coach Tom Crean and his staff. He expects to get to know the Hoosier coaches a little better, check out the Bloomington campus and hear about the direction Crean wants to take the program.

He also expects the subject of committing to come up as well, even if it's only in passing.

"I'm sure he'll throw (committing) out there, but he's not going to put any pressure on me to do it," Watford said.

Crean might not pressure Scout.com's 47th-ranked player to add his name to the Hoosiers' 2009 class, but he has made it clear to the Shades Valley Technical Academy standout just how badly he wants him.

"Oh yeah, they do tell me I'm their No. 1 guy they want," Watford said. "That's a big part of what they stress to me when we talk."

That approach has been paying off. Watford said he's primarily considering four schools – Indiana, Louisville, Memphis and Kentucky – and considers all four on equal footing. While there have been stories suggesting Memphis and Louisville are the teams to beat, Watford shrugs off those reports and is adamant they aren't accurate.

"I hear all that (about favoring Memphis and Louisville), but it's very inaccurate," Watford said. "I'm not locked down on one particular place. I'm still wide open."

That's good news for the Hoosiers, who still have one scholarship opening for the 2009 class. That spot figures to be filled by a frontcourt player, and there aren't many available who are any better than Watford. A long-armed, versatile forward who averaged 22 points and 14 rebounds as a junior, Watford's stock has risen significantly with his play during the last several months on the AAU circuit.

Watford most recently attracted crowds in Las Vegas where he helped the Atlanta Celtics to an Elite Eight finish at the adidas 64 event. Coaches from IU, Kentucky, Memphis and Louisville were among those who were regulars at his games in Sin City. While he's enjoyed the attention and appreciates everything his AAU experience has done for him this year, he's also glad that a hectic summer of coast-to-cast travel has come to an end after the Las Vegas event.

"If it wasn't for AAU I don't think the exposure would have come like this," Watford said. "But it is a nice feeling to be done."

While the AAU season might be over, Watford's recruitment is still a ways away from a conclusion. Phone calls, letters and visits are all on the horizon for one of the best players still available in the 2009 class.

At this point, Watford said his Indiana trip is the only unofficial currently on the calendar. He said it's a trip he's been wanting to make in order to take a closer look at what IU has to offer, and Crean was more than willing to oblige. Watford expects to hear more from Crean about many of the things he's stressed throughout the recruiting process.

"I talk to both Coach Crean and Coach (Bennie) Seltzer, and they talk about the tradition of the basketball program, and how they can help me get to the next level," Watford said. "There's playing time right off the bat, and that I'll be able to compete for a national championship."

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