By October of 2010, Indiana already had two commitments for the 2014 class from players who either hadn’t played in their first high school game. Trey Lyles and James Blackmon Jr. both had enough success as middle school players that suggested they could be among the top players in the nation in their class, and both decided then that regardless of what happened in their next four years of high school, they would play for Indiana.
But now, three months before they were expected to sign with Indiana, neither is committed to the Hoosiers. Lyles, of course, de-committed a year ago, and James Blackmon Sr. confirmed Thursday that his son has opened his recruitment and will look at other schools.
“James committed when he was probably 14 years old,” said James Sr., a former Kentucky player who coached his son at Fort Wayne Bishop Luers and will coach him at Marion in his senior season. “Over the last couple of years when we talked, he always told me he liked Indiana, but I don’t know if he was 100 percent sure. He was probably 98 percent sure, but 98 percent wasn’t good enough. I want him to be 100 percent sure before he makes that commitment so that he’s ready for college. The only way to do that is to compare Indiana to other schools.”
The Hoosiers have had very little to do with Lyles since he de-committed close to a year ago. The Arsenal Tech forward and No. 5 player in the country according to Rivals.com narrowed his list this summer to include Kentucky, Louisville, Butler and Florida, but Indiana has long since been out of the picture.
Early indications, however, are that that will not be the case with Blackmon. Blackmon Sr. said IU coach Tom Crean was understanding when the Blackmons expressed their wishes, and that Crean gave every indication that he would continue recruiting Blackmon.
“We left on a positive note,” Blackmon Sr. said. “Coach Crean and I talked. He kind of understood. They’ve been really supportive, and I think they’re going to stay in contact.”
Blackmon Jr. has seen his recruiting stock skyrocket over the past year after suffering a major knee injury in his sophomore season and missing the entire spring and summer travel season between his sophomore and junior season. He recovered and scored 33.3 points per game for Bishop Luers as a junior and also starred for Spiece Indy Heat on the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League circuit this summer. He played on that team with Lyles, Louisville commitment Jaquan Lyle, and Indiana target Trevon Bluiett among others. Blackmon Sr. said that being around those players and others that he saw on the circuit had some influence on his son’s decision.
“The kid has played a lot of basketball this summer,” Blackmon Sr. said. “He has a lot of friends who are going through the process and they share stuff with each other. Kids start thinking certain ways, and you want them to be 100 percent all in.”
Blackmon Sr. was asked if he regretted allowing his son to commit as early as he did.
“I don’t know how answering that is going to help me either way,” Blackmon Sr. said. “James got hurt his sophomore year, I thought that helped him as far as not having to worry about playing AAU basketball and not rushing to get back. He took the whole summer to get in the weight room, and then he led the state in scoring last year. I could second-guess, but I don’t want to do that. I just want to move this process along. I don’t think Indiana did anything wrong. I still feel positive about Indiana and I still feel positive about Coach Crean.”
Blackmon Sr. said his son hasn’t had any contact from other schools yet and that there’s no timeline for him in terms of visits or when he wants to make a new commitment.
“We’re just going to sit back and let this sink in here, what we’re dealing with now,” he said. “… Now that it’s open, I’m pretty sure we’ll get some contact and decide from there.”
In the meantime, the Hoosiers are just three months from signing day and now don’t have a single verbal commitment from the 2014 class after having at least one in their pockets for almost four years. They have several offers out, including several to shooting guards, including Robert Johnson of Benedictine High School in Richmond, Va., who is scheduled to visit IU Aug 23-25.
Blackmon Jr. took to Twitter to say that he still isn’t ruling IU out.
“I never said I wouldn’t end up at IU,” he posted on his account. “I still love Indiana.”