A Hoosier basketball weekend

Here’s a story that will run in Sunday’s paper. Usually, you’d have to be a subscriber to read it. But not today. Enjoy.

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Isiah Thomas Christian Watford

Tom Crean was given a 10-year contract because rebuilding Indiana basketball, most everyone figures, will be an arduous job and one that need not be rushed.

Restoring the basketball team to one that can compete for conference and national titles could take Crean years.
Allowing fans to see through the haze of the last decade to better times — the times that gave the phrase “It’s Indiana” its meaning — may take longer.

But Crean went to work on both tasks this weekend, hosting an a camp for top recruits on Saturday and a invitation-only dinner in French Lick that is expected to draw 175 former players later today.

“I’m excited about the opportunity to talk to that group,” Crean said of the past players last week. “And to talk with them, listen to their stories. This really truly is what Indiana basketball is all about: the players who made it special.”

Crean planned the event, which also includes a golf outing on Monday, after meeting with local billionaire Bill Cook, who financed the restoration of the French Lick Resort. Crean has spoken openly of his desire to heal wounds left by the firing of Bob Knight and the hiring of Kelvin Sampson, which many former players opposed.

“What I need them to know is that I don’t want them to come back and be a part of the program,” Crean said. “What I need them to know is that we need them. We need them so much. We absolutely must have them as part of the program if we’re going to get it where it should be.”

Every former Indiana player, coach and manager was invited to French Lick, and over 300 people had said they would come as of Friday, including Ted Kitchell, one of the most vehement critics of Sampson, and NBA coaches Mike Woodson and Randy Wittman.

A former NBA coach and Indiana player who won’t make it to dinner did stop in Bloomington and assisted Crean on Saturday as almost 100 recruits filled Assembly Hall for drills as part of an Elite Camp. Former Knicks coach Isiah Thomas spoke to the participants, often bluntly.

“He was pretty straight-forward and was just telling it like it is,” said Bloomington South point guard Jordan Hulls, who has verbally committed to join Indiana next fall. “That was amazing to have him there.”

Brian Evans and D.J. White also helped Crean and his staff work the camp.

Hulls teamed with Christian Watford, a top 2009 wing prospect out of Alabama, and did not lose (the teams played one full scrimmage then went through situational scrimmages).

“He’s so long and athletic,” Hulls said of Watford, a 6-foot-7, 215-pounder whom Scout.com considers the No. 15 small forward in his class. “A tremendous athlete who can be such a mismatch.”

Crean has offered Watford a scholarship, but the Alabama native is considering several other schools. His family accompanied him on the trip.
Crean has one open scholarship to give in 2009, but could opt to over-sign by one (which the Big Ten allows).

Hulls was also impressed with the play of 2010 guard Jordan McRae, who was one of several players from the Atlantic Celtics program to make the trip from Georgia. McRae is a 6-4 shooting guard with a long list of interested schools; Indiana may now be on his list because new assistant Roshown McLeod came from the Atlanta area and was a respected coach there.

Matt Carlino, a 6-2 point guard from Arizona, also played well, Hulls said.

“He’s nice little left-handed shooter with a well-rounded game,” he said.

Bloomington South’s Spencer Turner and Dee Davis also played Saturday, as did two forwards who have verbally committed to Crean for the 2009 season, Bobby Capobianco and Derek Elston.

11 comments

  1. Great news about the camp. I am really excited about Tom Crean’s leadership and the quality of recruits who are committed and those whom we are recruiting. I am glad that Jordan Hulls reported his views about the camp to the media. He knows how much we need input on the future of IU basketball.

  2. Hopefully the former players know just how important they are and will be in helping the IU B-ball program rebuild itself. The small measure of showing up this weekend, or a simple phone call to a prospect that can’t see past the recent trouble. A simple message of hope for a grand turn around from a former or current NBA player/coach might just do the job.

  3. Mike_C,

    No typo. That’s what Tom Crean said. It just comes off a little strangely in writing. He’s saying they don’t just want the former players, they need the former players.

  4. This is awesome. The former players are one of the best recruiting networks. Plus having them at the games and just generally supporting the program will really help. I just hope the players at the camp aren’t familiar with Isiah’s rap sheet. Still, having someone of that stature talking to potential recruits has to help, esp. when he can point to banner #4 and say, ‘I was part of that and you can be part of #6 or #7.’

    I’m also glad to see Evans and D.J. helping out with the camp. Again, that has to reinforce the tradition of the program, esp. with D.J., who most of those kids probably remember seeing play only a few months ago.

    Good job, Coach Crean and everyone!!

  5. Where are all of those Tom Crean nay-sayers now? IU will be back in the Final Four soon. Give it 2 or 3 years..

  6. Steve O, I’m sure FireCreanNow! is at home taking a jar of Negative Pills and coming up with something at this very moment!!! It’s not enough to invite the former players, that dang Crean should have invited all former students and used a medium to channel the spirit of Branch McCracken!!! That will make perfect sense to FireCreanNow! ……………

  7. They make movies about Indiana basketball. I don’t recall ever watching a movie called Wildcats or Tarheels or Blue Devils or Bruins. They make movies about Hoosiers. I think they are going to be a sleeper because nobody has seem them play. How do you scout a team that has never played together? I think it will be touch and go early and then the chemistry will start to gel around December. I look for them to finish fourth or fifth in the Big Ten and possibly make it into the dance depending on their out of conference strength of schedule this year. That would be a reachable goal I think. Go Hoosiers!

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