When it comes to recruiting, the cache of name value holds a ton of weight among fans. Because of nothing more than growing accustomed to hearing their names (think Eron Gordon, for example), fanbases can clamor for a player even as his stock dips and hordes of players pass them in the rankings. And yeah, sure, this is natural and allows for fandom to start earlier and earlier, but modern recruiting has shifted dramatically in recent years, and in the current AAU landscape, the tried-and-true geographic ideology for recruiting no longer is so cut and dry.
For instance, the commitment of 2017 signee Al Durham was a mild surprise to most Indiana fans, but in the blueprint of Tom Crean's recruiting style, the signing of an under-recruited rising 3-star combo guard from Georgia strangely makes sense. While this is not to say that building long-standing relationships with local talent is irrelevant, it is important to realize that in-state recruiting is becoming less and less relied on at the highest levels of the sport.
Yes, I know, I know. The state of Indiana has a DEEP class full of elite prospects in 2017. Names like Kris Wilkes, Paul Scruggs, Malik Williams, and Jaren Jackson Jr. don't come along every year, and that's nothing to brush off lightly. These are bonafide prospects being sought after not only by IU, but blue chip programs around the country. Because of this, not even the biggest IU homers expect all of these players to suit up in the candy stripes, and while it would be nice to land one or two of those guys, by no means would it automatically be a failure if none of these kids stay home to play at Indiana.
Tom Crean has continued to do a masterful job of finding gems in untapped markets, and that can be attributed to nothing more than simply putting in the hours on the road. Trust me, it's exhausting enough just keeping up on Twitter with who and where he and his staff have visited on any given weekend, I can't even begin to imagine what his daily travel schedule looks like. The steady influx of new names during an AAU season is unrelenting, but when there is traction with players at AAU events, it's just as important as when Crean gets face-time at Indiana high schools during the school seasons. So, let's take a look at some of the lesser-known names on the AAU scene that have seen recent connections to IU, as some of these players are equally as likely to end up on the 2017-18 roster as the name-brand guys that have been on Indiana's radar for years.
The 6'0", 170 lb PG has tons of Indiana connections, as he plays for Oak Hill (Troy Williams' alma mater) and the Boo Williams AAU team, which has produced a number of Indiana players and prospects in recent years. Coleman, the 33rd ranked player in 2017, is a difference maker who stuffs the stat sheet across the board, and is seemingly an ideal fit for an up-tempo Tom Crean offense.
Indiana loves its shooters, and Platek fits the bill. The 6'4", 3-star guard out of Massachusetts can shoot it from anywhere on the court, and the interest between him and IU is mutual, as he was offered a scholarship last week while on an unofficial visit to Bloomington.
Tucker's a new name on the recruiting front, but he is a major player in the class of 2017. A 6'7" SF, the 4-star prospect is the type of versatile wing that Indiana has come to build its identity around. While Syracuse seems to be a clear favorite here, Tucker is not ruling anything out, as evidenced by a visit to IU and Coach Crean in late April after an AAU tournament in Indy.
(I like this video because not only does it highlight Tucker's versatility, but the poster of Draymond Green's face in the background is eerily reminiscent to those oversized murals of Kim Jong-il in North Korea.)
Chuck Martin's work on the east coast continues to show, this time in the form of Nick Richards, a 6'11", 235 lb Center out of Long Island. As the 13th best prospect in the class of 2017, Richards has offers from almost every major program, but he recently said that Indiana is one of 5 schools that are currently recruiting him hardest. After the success of NY-product Thomas Bryant at IU, Richards' interest seems to be sincere, and will be a name to keep an eye on. Watch the tape below and you'll understand why every coach in America wants the big man out of Manhasset.
Smith isn't a completely new name, as he has been down to Bloomington on a number of occasions, but as a prospect from an area that Indiana has suspiciously been weak at recruiting (Chicagoland area), the mutual interest has been a positive development. As a former high school teammate of Villanova PG Jalen Brunson, the 3-star Smith has been more assertive as he has taken on more of a leadership role, with encouraging results. Through the first 7 games of EYBL action, he is averaging 11.5 points and 5 rebounds per game.
A recruiting version of #shootyourshot, Jarred Vanderbilt is a future NBA lottery pick, but Tom Crean wants him now. The #9 prospect in the class of 2017, the 6'8" SF can do pretty much everything on a basketball court, most recently putting up 13 points, 8 rebounds, and 10 assists in a victory for his Houston Hoops team in EYBL action this past weekend. Vanderbilt has reciprocated the interest, and would be a huge coup for any team that gets his commitment.