With 5-star Malik Reneau’s commitment to Indiana men’s basketball earlier this morning, Mike Woodson has now assembled the Hoosiers’ best recruiting class since Tom Crean’s 2013 class
That class, you may recall, featured two future NBA players in Troy Williams and Noah Vonleh.
Reneau, the No. 28 player in the country, per 247 Sports’ composite rankings, is the second 5-star player to commit to Indiana from the class of 2022, joining his high school teammate Jalen Hood-Schifino, a five star combo guard ranked No. 21 nationally.
Woodson also landed a commitment from the No. 74 prospect in Kaleb Banks, a 6’8” power forward from Fayetteville, Georgia and retained Archie Miller-signee C.J. Gunn at guard, the No. 141 player nationwide from Lawrence North High School in Indianapolis.
Reneau gives Indiana the fifth best recruiting class in the country and the best in the Big Ten, two feats the Hoosiers have failed to accomplish on the recruiting trail since 2013. Reneau is also the third top-30 player Mike Woodson has signed in just two years, the two others being Jalen Hood-Schifino and Tamar Bates.
Folks, it might be time to get very excited about Indiana men’s basketball again.
As Luke pointed out earlier this weekend, Mike Woodson seems to heavily emphasize his NBA experience with recruits, both at the high school and college levels. When interviewed, mostly by 247 Sports, Tamar Bates, Jalen Hood-Schifino, Malik Reneau, Kaleb Banks, and Jakai Newton have all mentioned Woodson’s NBA background as positive factors in their decision to commit to Indiana.
The ability to sell recruits on something other than Indiana’s past successes or the general enthusiasm surrounding the program seems to have set Woodson apart from his predecessors, even considering the relative success Tom Crean and Archie Miller had early in their Indiana tenures.
Before Tom Crean’s and Archie Miller’s respective coaching deficiencies became common knowledge to the world of basketball recruiting, each of Indiana’s last two coaches were able to attract talented players by promising to bring Indiana back to national prominence.
Crean landed two top-50 players in his first class with Christian Watford and Maurice Creek, plus two in-state top-150 players, Derek Elston and Jordan Hulls. When he was able to return Indiana to the national spotlight (very briefly) in 2012 with the preseason No. 1 ranking, he was able to cash in on the notoriety with the No. 4 class in the nation in 2013.
In each of these recruiting classes, commitment stories featured talk of Indiana being back, or “staying alive,” as Maurice Creek put it when he committed to Indiana in August of 2008.
Of course, with guys like Victor Oladipo going from largely unknown recruits to lottery picks, he was able to sell himself as something of a development guru to guys like Noah Vonleh, but, as with everything Crean, this perception did not last.
While underrecruited, OG Anunoby and Victor Oladipo’s NBA careers have established that it would have been harder to keep them out of the NBA than to get them drafted.
Archie Miller also benefitted from Indiana’s name brand and fanbase early in his tenure, bringing Romeo Langford to a game to demonstrate how the fans considered him a Damon Bailey-like figure.
Significantly, five of Archie’s first seven commitments were from the state of Indiana, thus already familiar with the program’s history and fandom across the state.
By emphasizing his NBA experience, Mike Woodson has been able to elevate Indiana’s recruiting profile in a way that neither Crean nor Archie could do. Woodson’s first class, the class of 2022, has an average rating of .9683, per 247 sports.
This bests both Crean’s (.9478) and Miller’s (.9563) best classes, and should set Woodson up well in the recruitment of future classes.
Kwame Evans, the No. 2 player in the class and teammate of Indiana commits Malik Reneau and Jalen Hood-Schifino, has Indiana among his finalists.
In addition to his NBA experience, Woodson got the Hoosiers to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2016, a feat which garnered national attention from people like Doc Rivers, and seems to be closer to bringing Indiana back to national prominence than either of the last two Hoosier coaches.
Woodson’s also been able to use the state’s basketball history to his advantage with recruits like Gabe Cupps, who were raised by coaches and parents with immense respect for Indiana hoops, the movie Hoosiers, and anyone who may have been around Bob Knight for any period of time.
With the talent that Woodson is bringing in on the recruiting trail, Indiana should be set to make runs in the tournament once again, which only attracts more elite talent. As Andy pointed out a few years ago, recruiting success does correlate positively to winning in most instances.
Coaching ability was never the question with Woodson, either. The biggest critics of his hire questioned whether he would be able to relate to young players and attract talent to a school that had failed to live up to its name for nearly a decade.
So, what’ll they say next?