Last night Tom Crean and Noah Vonleh made it official official. The two sat together in a press conference to announce that Vonleh will indeed being forgoing his final three years of eligibility to test the draft waters. If he goes where many experts expect him to go, he will be Indiana and Tom Crean's 2 post player lottery pick and third overall lottery draft pick in three years. Not too shabby if you ask me.
As for trying to replace Vonleh, that's going to be a more difficult task. There are a lot of programs out there that are trying to fill post needs and despite all the rain we've been getting, the well is relatively dry. There just are not a ton of options out there and when you're competing with Kansas, Michigan State, Ohio State and many others for those talents, well you're going to miss more than you get.
One of those targets, Marvin Clark has already pulled the trigger for Michigan State (to no one's surprise). He did so about two weeks ago. Unfortunately for everyone else, Michigan State isn't quite done yet. They're still trying to fill out some post player roster depth and will be very tough competition for the other biggest option for Indiana on the ever shrinking list of big men.
Yante Maten is another guy that has come on very strong throughout the school year. He didn't get a lot of love throughout the summer, but late bloomers always pop up in the spring. Maten won Gatorade Player of the Year for the state of Michigan this season and has put up very impressive numbers night in and night out. At 6'8" he doesn't have a ton of height but he's a hell of a rebounder and flirted with a quadruple-double in front of Coach Crean a few weeks ago. Since then he's received an offer and been on campus for a visit. But it appears Michigan State is now making a play for him and that has apparently been his dream school growing up. It's going to be tough to win that one if Izzo is serious.
Finally we have Indy native and Ben Davis graduate Trevor Thompson. The 7 footer is transferring from Virginia Tech and won't be eligible until 2015. However, it looks like he's wanting to stay local. The four programs that will be receiving visits are Ohio State, Indiana, Purdue and Butler. Thompson has come on strong after taking a prep year to reclassify to 2013. Some look at him as a real sleeper pick to explode onto the scene as a junior and senior. Again, it appears that he's likely destined for other programs. He has scheduled visits to Ohio State and Indiana with Purdue and Butler pending, but rumors are swirling hard that he's pretty well locked for Ohio State. The Thompson's are fighting said rumors tooth and nail, but it's better if you keep expectations low as to be pleasantly surprised rather than disappointed.
Ultimately, Indiana's best hopes for post presence next year are already on the team. Our team for next season is already on campus. Hanner Perea and Devin Davis are going to have to work their tales off to make sure they improve and are physically prepared to battle in the Big Ten. Michigan showed us that you don't need size, as they won the Big Ten with a 6'8" post player by three games. But it's going to require a lot of heart and leadership. It's time for Hanner to step up. It's his spot to lose. His skills will be desperately needed. Let's hope he's up for the challenge.
To end on a positive note, James Blackmon Jr. competed in the McDonald's All-American game the other night and finished second on his team in scoring with 13. His handles appear to be stronger than I remember (haven't seen him play in almost a year) and he appears poised to make a big impact on next year's squad. If he can step up and Robert Johnson can be half the player we expect he's going to be, Indiana could have a very lethal perimeter. If they can learn to take care of the ball, the combination of shooting and slashing ability from outside should be able to mostly negate the absence of a offensive post presence.
Perhaps the Hoosiers can add at least one more weapon to that tough perimeter game. Josh Cunningham out of Chicago hasn't quite been getting the love from Hoosier Nation that he should, but everyone is so focused on adding post depth that people forget we need to replace to wings that are transferring as well. Cunningham is a top 100 recruit that has a lot of the same abilities of Jeremy Hollowell. However, a lot of people are pointing out that his head is screwed on a lot tighter. That's a big deal when you know how much that was an issue with Jeremy. I think it's fair to say that Indiana is the leader for Cunningham and we should see a decision coming soon.
Ultimately, the Hoosiers are doing a patchwork recruiting job to fill some holes here or there, but the major contributors are in the program. Indiana will be adding the three freshmen (maybe four or five depending on Cunningham and Maten), but they'll be looking for leadership from the guys already there. Indiana's 2014-2015 season is not going to depend on who is coming, but who is already there. Let's hope we see a lot of growth.