Per Jeff Rabjohns of Peegs.com, Kwame “KJ” Evans Jr., a 6’9” power forward from Moteverde Academy is planning an official visit to Indiana in early 2022. The date is not yet final, but he’s aiming for some time in February.
Evans is the second best prospect in 24/7’s class of 2023 rankings and third in the ESPN60 for that class. This will be his second official visit following a November 5 trip to Lexington.
Mike Woodson already has a commitment from Evans’ current high school teammate, Jalen Hood-Schifino, a 2022 point guard who committed to Indiana back in August. Add in freshman Tamar Bates, who played his final season at IMG Academy, and it’s clear that Woodson can and will get players from the top high school basketball programs in the country.
With three players signed so far, Indiana’s 2022 class ranks 17th in the country, which would be 20 spots higher than last year’s class if the rankings hold. The class includes one Archie Miller commit, CJ Gunn, a three-star shooting guard from Lawrence North in Indianapolis. The other two players, Hood-Schifino and Kaleb Banks, were recruited by Yasir Rosemond and Kenya Hunter respectively.
As a whole, this staff has recruited at an elite level so far. With two commits from Georgia, Banks and 2023 combo guard Jakai Newton, one from North Carolina, and one from Kansas, Woodson has been able to expand Indiana’s recruiting footprint beyond Miller’s apparent confinement to the Midwest. Landing 2023 point guard Gabe Cupps from Dayton, Ohio plus the ongoing recruitment of 2023 center Xavier Booker from Cathedral in Indianapolis suggest that Woodson will still recruit the Midwest heavily though.
Each of the prior two coaching staffs had some highly-regarded recruiting classes that didn’t pan out well, notably Tom Crean’s “The Movement” and really any Archie class, since they never made a tournament (do not, under any circumstance, blame Romeo Langford for that. He averaged 16.5 points per game in an Archie Miller offense with a wrist that needed surgery all season.). But coaching ability was never a doubt with Mike Woodson; the main concern was that he would be too removed from the high school and college games to land high-level recruits.
Of the top six players in percentage of minutes played so far this season, half are Woodson recruits, not counting Jackson-Davis, who likely would have left had Woodson not been hired and convinced him to stay. Parker Stewart, who ranks fourth in percentage minutes played, never played a game for Miller despite having transferred to Indiana during his tenure.
With all of the new players in the rotation and drastically different offensive and defensive schemes, it feels like we’re further along into the Woodson era than just 11 games. Especially compared to the the last couple of seasons, when we were told that Archie would start winning more once he got his guys in and the packline installed.
There’s obvious room for improvement, and you could easily argue that Indiana should be undefeated right now. The most glaring issue right now is consistency, as they dominated for portions of each loss, but ultimately lost due to longer stretches of sloppy play and a stagnant offense. A familiar story.
Still, Indiana ranks 39th in 3p% this year, up from 236th last year. And even though they’re still plagued by scoring droughts, the offense is playing at a much better pace, with an average possession length of 16.7 seconds compared to 18.1 seconds last year. The defense isn’t suffering without the packline either, ranking 11th in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to Kenpom.
There will be more bumps along the way and probably some ugly losses, but for now it seems safe to say that Mike Woodson has the program back on an upward trajectory, already having improved the offense and recruiting potential for Indiana beyond what his predecessor could accomplish in four seasons.