clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Recruiting pendulum shift?

Like all of us, Gary Post-Tribune columnist Mike Hutton must be a bit bored during the week-long layoff before IU's next game, at Illinois on Saturday.  He pivots off some comments made during the Purdue-Michigan game last Saturday to make some grand pronouncements about recruiting that are a bit of a reach.  During that game, called by Brent Musberger and Bob Knight, Musberger attempted to recount a conversation he had with Knight and suggested that Knight had said that Purdue's role now in the state of Indiana is what IU's was in the Knight era.  Knight backed away from Musberger's account of their off-the-air conversation, but was quite complimentary of Matt Painter's system and said that his system had quite a bit to offer to a player who wants to be successful.  Certainly, it's hard to disagree with any of that, and it's not surprising that Knight would have nice things to say about Painter, who is the son of an IU alum and was a lifelong Hoosier fan until IU ran out of scholarships in the late 1980s.  Further, few Hoosier fans would disagree with the notion that Painter's style of play bears more resemblance to Knight's than does Crean's.  There are many ways to succeed in college basketball, and Knight's way isn't the only way, of course, but there are some similarities in style.

Still, from that Hutton jumps to some strange and even contradictory conclusions. 

Don't expect Crean to win the battles for the players that aren't predisposed toward IU that live in state, something that was almost always a guarantee for Knight.

Painter has proven over and over again that nobody outworks him on the recruiting trail and he has the sales pitch tweaked perfectly. He is fanatical about being seen everywhere when putting the full court press on a kid.

They never go outside the Midwest to recruit a kid unless there is a reason (a legacy, a friend-of-a-friend or some kid who just happens to be perfect for the Boilers' system).

A few thoughts in response to this passage. 

First, while the foundation for Knight's recruiting was in Indiana and the Midwest, I'm not sure that it's accurate to say that Indiana kids "almost always" were a guarantee for Knight.  Certainly, Knight outrecruited Purdue during his glory days, but Knight lost kids to out-of-state powers, and not just in his later years (think Eric Montross, Kyle Macy, etc.).  Also, Purdue always has recruited well in the Region (that's northwest Indiana, for those unfamiliar with the term).  The current foundation of Purdue's success is the junior class, including Robbie Hummel, E'Twaun Moore, and JaJuan Johnson.  When the class signed, Scott Martin, now of Notre Dame, was included.  Hummel and Martin were teammates at Valparaiso and Moore is from East Chicago.  That means that three of the four members of Purdue's best Painter-era class were from an area where Purdue has recruited well over the years.  Also, IU did sign the best Indiana player from that class, Eric Gordon

Second, while I don't doubt that Painter is an excellent recruiter, is there anything in the second paragraph of the quote above that couldn't be said of Tom Crean, that hasn't been said of him since long before he was IU's coach?

Hutton can't seem to decide what he thinks of Crean.  Near the beginning of his article, he says:

IU is going to do just fine at snaring its share of talented players with Crean at the helm. He's a great salesmen, a great coach and he has a great product to sell. Hard to beat that combination.

Later in the article, he says:

Crean's recruiting approach is similar to the way that Mike Davis and Kelvin Sampson tried to recruit. Look where that got IU.

I guess I don't understand how to square these statements.  Isn't he predicting both success and failure for IU within a few short paragraphs?

He complains that Crean, as did Sampson and Davis, tries to recruit both regionally and nationally:

Which comes first -- the regional part or the national part? National means you bump up against North Carolina, Kansas, Kentucky, UCLA and Duke. The success rate is lower with that approach.

Regional means you go toe-to-toe with Painter and Ohio State and Illinois.

That's nonsense, of course.  In the last decade or so, Duke has signed Josh McRoberts, North Carolina has landed Tyler Zeller and Sean May, and Kentucky landed the late John Stewart.  In some of IU's successful recruiting battles (for Jared Jeffries and Dane Fife, for instance), Duke was the runner-up.  National means national.  The powers listed by Hutton don't observe some non-aggression pact toward Indiana and the midwest, and it required about 10 seconds of reflection to realize that.  Plus, Ohio State and Illinois (at least briefly for the latter) have had success finding blue chip talent in Indiana.  And isn't the whole point of the article that Painter is an invincible recruiter?

This is precisely the issue I see looming for the Hoosiers and Crean.

Why don't they just decide to wrap up the state? After all, they are the program with five national titles and an unsurpassed tradition. They should be Indiana's team. When Knight was around, he pretty much got what he wanted in-state, giving Gene Keady the leftovers.

The dicey problem with putting a lock-down on Indiana is Painter. He's pretty good and he knows exactly what he wants and he isn't going away.

Again, I'm not sure what Hutton wants.  In the second paragraph, he suggests that IU should just "wrap up the state."  In the third paragraph, he says that IU can't "wrap up the state" right now because Purdue has a strong coach.  Hutton seems to have answered his own question, but doesn't realize it.

Knight's point about the Boilers: They have a system in place and you don't have to be a one-and-done guy to get a spot on the roster. I'd say Painter has done a little better than that. Hummell, Johnson and Moore will all get a least a sniff in the NBA.

As opposed to IU, which has had exactly one one-and-done player (Eric Gordon) since George McGinnis?  Sweet fancy Moses, I want to live in Mike Hutton's world, where the problem with IU's recruiting is that you have to be a one-and-done guy to get a spot on the roster.  Maybe he isn't talking about IU, but if he isn't, then why is this in the article? 

Painter already has three kids signed for next year from Indiana (Travis Carroll, Donnie Hale and Terone Johnson) and another one from Chicago (Anthony Johnson).

And he has Rapheal Davis of Fort Wayne verbally committed for 2012.

That's fine.  But it doesn't support the notion that IU doesn't care about recruiting Indiana or that recruiting Indiana is a sure-fire path to success.  IU's current, top 10 freshman class includes two Indiana kids, Derek Elston and Jordan Hulls (Elston committed to Sampson and Hulls committed to Crean).  Even Hutton acknowledges that IU's roster includes 7 kids from Indiana and 4 more from the midwest.  Purdue's incoming recruiting class is good, but Carroll and Hale are not in the Rivals top 150 (the Johnsons are #46 and #100, respectively).  Again, I think quite highly of Painter as a coach and as a recruiter, but I'm not sure the 2010 class demonstrates  the sort  of dominance that Hutton sees.  Painter has signed three Indiana kids, one of whom is an elite prospect.  That's not to say that Hale and Carroll won't be fine players.  They certainly will be well-coached.  It's impossible to say this without it sounding like sour grapes, but I can find no evidence on the Internet that IU even offered Hale and Carroll, although Crean showed some interest in both.  To offset any bitterness concerns, I freely admit that IU coveted most or all of Purdue's current junior class, particularly Hummel and Moore.  I just can't endorse the idea that Hale and Carroll mean that Painter owns Indiana.  Also, why would Hutton mention sophomore Purdue commit Rapheal Davis (who admittedly looks to be a top shelf recruit) and not top 100 IU recruit Austin Etherington, who is from Hamilton Heights, just north of Indianapolis, and is a year closer to campus than Davis?  This sort of cherry picking makes it appear that Hutton was simply searching for evidence to support his predetermined conclusions.

Obviously, Purdue is excelling on the court right now with Indiana players and is continuing to recruit well in-state.  Still, I'm not sure that the current state of recruiting shows the seismic shift that Hutton wants to see.  Recruiting experts suggest that the 2012 class in Indiana contains loads of talent, so at the very least, it will be easier to make an assessment next year.  And, of course, ultimately both programs will be judged by where they rank in March, not November.  In March 2010, obviously Purdue will have the upper hand, but the future doesn't look as dark to me as it does to Hutton.