We can find little things to criticize Tom Crean on plenty but recruiting isn’t one of them. He has thrown together fantastic recruiting classes year in and year out even without putting one of the most competitive products onto the court until last season. But is his recruiting tactics completely bulletproof like many would have you believe?
With the recent success of the program, the nearly instantaneous high reputation of Indiana basketball (once again) and the light hearted yet determined personality of the team, Indiana can now spread its wings a little and show it can truly fly. That means that Coach Crean and staff are opening up their recruiting focus from just the borders. Previously, Crean and company kept a heavy focus on getting the best of the best from the state of Indiana and it has served them well. Now they are trying to get the best of the best of the entire nation. Is this a mistake?
IU has always been a Hoosier dominated ball club. Heck, this next season there will only be 5 guys of the 14 not from the state of Indiana. That is a bed rock that I take a lot of pride in as a fan and it sends a message to high school kids all across the state. If you want to play college basketball at a high level, you are most welcome to stay home and help us compete for glory with the best of your AAU friends. With the recent recruiting classes and the upcoming ones in 2014 and 2015, you can make an Indiana all-star team out of the high school players and be a nationally competitive team pretty easily. What has me somewhat concerned is that IU appears to be straying from that model.
Crean is reaching out long distances to woo kids like BeeJay Anya and Stanford Robinson from Maryland, Marcus Lee from California and Sam Singer from Florida. The recent coaching hire of Kenny Johnson was partially for the purpose of taking our medium sized influence in the Beltway and blowing it up into a very large presence. This would sound like a good thing in the long run of things. Take the talent wherever it is from. That is certainly what North Carolina and Duke have done and they’re working for a national championship year in and year out, but at what cost?
NC State just pulled in the #4 rated class in the nation for 2012. Where did their three big recruits come from? The back yard. NC State was able to pull in a better class than North Carolina and Duke, because both schools missed on their national targets and forgot about their own back yard. Now NC State is a real competitor and probably the favorite to win the conference next year after being nobodies for the recent past. I do not want that to happen in Indiana. The state of Indiana is a much hotter bed for talent annually than North Carolina and if we neglect our own back yard and miss on a few national targets we’re in a world of pain because Purdue and Michigan will be breathing down our necks with Indiana kids.
Now some would say this might be alarmist more than anything. Crean has the ability to go national and the 2013 class in Indiana is good but not as strong as Indiana traditionally is. Add in that we need to add either a strong PG or a big man and Crean is going to have to look elsewhere. Those positions are not very strong in the 2013 class and the 2014 class for big men seems to be late bloomers. Why not go out and use your name to land already developed more accomplished big men? It is definitely a good reason to go national. Especially since we already have very strong players committed in those classes. If Indiana misses on national recruits so what, they are already strong classes as they stand.
My concerns start in 2015 and beyond. That is three years away but as Indiana and Crean have shown, getting into the recruits early in their careers certainly pays off in the long run. Both foundation 2014 players committed before they ever played a high school game and assuming Blackmon’s ACL heals up well, they’re the cornerstones for another top 5 class. 2015 looks to be another solid state of Indiana class and I would hate for Crean to miss out because he became super ambitious on the recruiting trail.
I’m not certain to this point if he is making a big mistake or just using national momentum to get the sand guys to fill between the rocks. There is no cause for too much concern quite yet, but keep an eye on the 2015 class. If Crean neglects them or falls behind in favor of more national players, it could be a sign of something soon to come. Don’t neglect the pretty girl next door because you think you can land a supermodel.