IU In-State recruit watch: A.J. Hammons and Justin Gant

In theory, A.J. Hammons is exactly what Indiana needs right now. He’s a 6-foot-10, 250-pounder with the frame of a true center. The sort of guy you can feed on the low block and just watch him overpower his defender. With the Hoosiers struggling to get much of anything out of the center position right how, there are certainly IU fans who would like to add Hammons to the fold right now.

But Hammons is a sophomore, and he does need that time to be college ready.

I went to Carmel High School on Friday night to watch Hammons and the Greyhounds play Terre Haute North and Justin Gant, The Hoosiers have been recruiting Gant, though they haven’t offered him a scholarship yet like they have Hammons.

Hammons certainly had his moments in Carmel’s 51-38 victory, scoring 11 points, grabbing nine rebounds and blocking three shots. He displayed a nice jump hook,  good defensive instincts and enough athleticism to use his height to his advantage on the backboards.

But there’s still a lot he can accomplish. Right now he has two go-to post moves, the hook shot and a reach step. He can obviously add more to his repetoire, and he hit a 12-footer on Friday, showing an improving face-up game. More importantly, though, he needs to get better at getting position in the post and demanding the ball. With as much size as he has on everyone Terre Haute North used to defend him, he didn’t get the ball enough. The blame for that, Carmel coach Mark Galloway said, goes to both he and his teammates. They need to get him the ball more, and he needs to get better at sealing off defenders.

“It’s a two-way street,” he said. “Sometimes our guards — we’re getting better, we’re good at it, but we’re not great at getting him the ball. He’s also good at demanding it, but not great. He doesn’t have great timing but he’s got good timing at trying to seal. So we’re still working on those things the aspects of how to duck in and have that timing on being able to post and seal and read the defense. but he’s a sophomore, he’s come a long way just being to know those two post moves. and being able to keep it high and chin it and not put it on the floor. He’s made a lot of progress.”

His defense has been good. He went for a few shot fakes on Friday, but for the most part, he’s a disciplined shot blocker. Physically, he still has a good bit of baby fat on him, but that can be turned into muscle.

Gant’s situation is intriguing. At 6-8, 200 pounds, he’s a skinny power forward at the moment with the lean but muscular body of a really tall cross country runner. However, he certainly has inside outside skills. He scored 21 of the Partiots’ 36 points in the loss. made a nice post-up turn in to score on Hammons and he hits some shots from 15 feet and out.

“I think he’s progressing nicely,” Terre Haute North coach Todd Wolfie said. “He’s added some strength, he’s added a lot to his game. He’s getting to the point now where he can take the ball to the basket and put the ball on the floor. He shoots it really, really well.”

Gant admits he needs to improve his 3-point shot to be even more of an inside-out power forward.  At the moment, he said he’s holding offers from mid-major schools like Indiana State, Evansville and Bradley, but a big summer on the AAU circuit (he’s playing with Spiece) could earn him more high-major attention.

AUDIO: Mark Galloway discusses A.J. Hammons’ progress.

AUDIO: Todd Wolfie talks about Justin Gant

AUDIO: Justin Gant talks about improving his stock

5 comments

  1. I would love to add Hammons. He is going to be a beast. I am not sure if a center with his talent would want to play in Crean’s system though.
    Gant is intriguing.

  2. I’ve been watching Indiana HS basketball since 1983. IU did not land a pure center since that time. Hammons better end up a Hoosier if Crean wants to win big at IU.

    Too many low post players leave the state.

    Montross (1990 — UNC) and Kemp 1988 (UK and a big bag of money) were the biggest blows, but in the end, IU’s big man recruiting stunk or was at best inconsistent for far too long.

    Landing Cody Zeller from the class of 2011 cannot be dismissed either. Size, size, size!

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