BLOOMINGTON, IN - DECEMBER 04: Tom Crean the head coach of the Indiana Hoosiers gives instructions to his team during the game against the Stetson Hatters at Assembly Hall on December 4, 2011 in Bloomington, Indiana. Indiana won 84-50. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Yesterday was the first weekday of the fall basketball recruiting period, and much of the attention, both from coaches and the media, was on Trey Lyles and an open gym at Arsenal Technical High School in Indianapolis. Lyles, of course, is the top ten 2014 recruit who committed to IU when the Hoosiers were way down and before he had ever played a high school game. Lyles decommitted a few weeks ago because, he said, he wants to experience the recruiting process. Kyle Neddeniep of the Indianapolis Star has some details, including a long list of prominent programs represented, but the most conspicuous absence was IU. Neither Tom Crean nor any of his assistants made the fairly short trip from Bloomington to Tech. The absence of Crean did not escape Lyles's notice:
It really hurt that they didn’t come today," said Lyles, who was the City Player of the Year as a sophomore, averaging 21.0 points and 14.2 rebounds. "Hopefully I’ll get on the phone with coach (Tom) Crean in the near future and see what’s going on."
With recruiting, it's often a matter of reading the tea leaves. Coaches can't publicly comment on specific recruits and may often have reasons for keeping their true intentions private, for the purpose of letting both the player and rival coaches wonder what is going on. In the last few weeks, Lyles has said lots of nice things about IU publicly, but the undercurrent has been full of innuendo about shoe contracts, package deals, Kentucky, and so on. So, what are the possibilities here? It's virtually impossible that Tom Crean, one of the most aggressive and tireless recruiters in the nation, either forgot about the open gym or didn't think it would be a big deal if his entire staff failed to appear. It seems to me that there are two main possibilities. The first is that Crean is turning the tables on a recruit and is playing a bit hard to get. Lyles was an IU commit for two years, and he and Crean know each other well. Crean liked his game well enough to offer him as an eighth grader. Obviously, Lyles has only gotten better over the last couple of years, and Crean has seen him plenty. It's not as if Crean actually needs to see Lyles play, or that Lyles actually wonders if IU, the program that offered him first, actually likes him. The second possibility is that IU is no longer recruiting Lyles. Perhaps Crean took the decommitment personally (I find this unlikely). Perhaps he believes there is something untoward going on with Lyles's recruitment and that there is no chance that Lyles ever will attend IU (there have been loads of rumors, particularly shoe company-related, but there always are).
I have no idea. Recruiting is a rough business, and IU has been on both ends of the decommit game. Lyles previously had said that IU leads, and has now said that IU remains in his top group, but if anyone thought this would be a short dalliance that resulted in Lyles re-upping with the Hoosiers...well, it's not going to be short, and yesterday's events make Lyles's recommitment to IU look less likely that it looked a couple of days ago.