I'll be the first to admit that my original gut feeling concerning Theo Pinson and his commitment was wrong. I didn't mean to mislead anyone. I'm certainly not an inside source, and the college basketball recruiting scene isn't my full time job. I pretty much depend on other people to give me the scoop, and from that information, I formulate an opinion based on what I'm hearing and how I perceive things. I think my sources are good, but I am by no means always correct. Or a jinx (I hope not, anyway). But enough about Theo. I wish him the best of luck at UNC; no doubt that's a great place to play basketball. On a side note, I think Hoosier Nation was very respectful when it came to his decision. I didn't hear anything about any losers sending him hate-filled tweets. Respect is the sensible response in that situation, but it constantly amazes me how that isn't always the case.
Sorry for that mini rant, but let's get down to the main topic of this article. Despite missing on Pinson, Tom Crean still has multiple options when it comes to the 2014 class. My gut feeling tells me that this is a smaller class than we're used to seeing. Will Sheehey and Evan Gordon will be the only seniors on scholarship for next year's team. A lot will depend on whether or not anyone transfers, or whether or not Noah Vonleh goes pro. I think this is a 3 man class, meaning James Blackmon, Jr. and 2 others. So who will join JBJ in 2014? Here are some good options, listed in order of importance:
1) Goodluck Okonoboh-this 6 foot 9 inch center hails from the same area as Noah Vonleh. The two are pretty good friends, which is why I think IU has a great shot at landing Goodluck. I'll admit that I haven't watched a lot of video on Okonoboh, but the video I have seen shows him off as a Hanner Mosquera Perea type. Many scouts say that he is the best shot blocker in the class, with a ridiculous wingspan and incredible rebounding potential. At this point, I'd say his offensive game is more advanced than Perea, so that's a definite plus. Goodluck will come in and contribute immediately wherever he plays. UConn, Syracuse, and IU have all been serious players up to this point. I hear that Kentucky has started to show interest; expect other blue blood programs to follow suit. Like I've already said, having Noah on the team is a clear advantage in Goodluck's recruitment. If the Hoosiers were to get a commitment, I'd say that Vonleh will surely return for his sophomore season. Great wings are a dime a dozen, but if you can land a really great big man, that's huge for any team. That's why I have Okonoboh as our no. 1 priority right now.
2) Dante Exum-prior to a couple months ago, 6'6" Australian wing Dante Exum seemed to be flying under the radar. Besides his official visit to Indiana in January for the Minnesota game, he hadn't really received a whole lot of interest from high major schools, at least relatively speaking. This is likely due to the fact that he lives thousands of miles away and doesn't play in the normal AAU circuit. Then, this happened. The Nike Hoops Summit in Portland. America's best recruits taking on the rest of the world's best recruits. Exum dropped 16 points on 6 of 8 shooting. He was praised for his ball handling ability, but I especially loved his smooth pull up jumper. Since then, many more have been taking notice of his ability. Technically, Exum doesn't even have to play a year of college basketball. He'll be 19 by the time the 2014 NBA Draft begins (if you click on his name above, you'll see that Draft Express has him at no. 9 in that Draft). However, Dante has said that he wants to take a year and play college ball, so I expect that's what he'll do. The only reservation I have about Exum is the fact that he's played for so long overseas. We see a lot of international kids fail to succeed in the States. Remember Ben Allen? He also played at the Australian Institute of Sport, just like Exum. But I think it's clear right now that Exum's abilities far exceed Allen's abilities. At this point, IU, Louisville, and UNC seem to be the power players for the Kid from Down Under, with IU being his only official visit.
3) Jaquan Lyle-I really love Jaquan's game because he's a natural point guard who also brings size to the position, something IU has been lacking as of late (definitely something we could have used in the Syracuse game). He's listed at 6'4", and he's an excellent ball handler. Not to mention he has natural court vision and a smooth jump shot. I've been lukewarm on Lyle because of some attitude issues on the court, but I think those are behind him. The kid has it all, and I really believe that CTC could mold him into an even better player. James Blackmon, Jr. usually plays the 2 guard, so there wouldn't be a position battle between either of them. It seems like IU has been making a little bit more of a push for Lyle as of late. Stan Robinson and Troy Williams have both been friendly with him on Twitter, and he announced yesterday that he would be in Bloomington today watching some of the players work out. I think this is a great sign, but I also think that this will be a difficult battle for Tom Crean. Besides IU, Florida, Illinois, Louisville, Ohio State, and Tennesee are also interested. He's an Evansville kid, so IU seems like a natural choice, but Louisville is also right down the road. We'll see how it plays out. Nevertheless, it's exciting to be an IU fan right now. Tom Crean is recruiting some of the best talent in the nation once again.
Feel free to critique my list and let me know if there's anyone else you'd like to see in Candy Stripes.