Indiana Basketball: Strengths and Weaknesses of 2013 Recruiting Class

Scott HenryFeatured ColumnistFebruary 20, 2013

Indiana Basketball: Strengths and Weaknesses of 2013 Recruiting Class

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    In the midst of a tremendous season for Indiana basketball, it seems presumptuous to look ahead to the encore. However, coach Tom Crean has leveraged IU's lengthy tradition and the improved product on the court to reel in a 2013 recruiting class worth looking forward to.

    No player or group of players is perfect. They all have flaws in their games. As a group, however, the members of ESPN's No. 4 recruiting class have some overriding strengths that make them great fits for Crean's up-tempo style.

    Check out the incoming talents and decide which of their features and flaws are most important to you.

Strength: Length

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    The young man sticking a ball in your face is 6'8" forward Noah Vonleh of Haverhill, Mass. The picture doesn't quite do justice to the impressive length of his arms, but it should still be noticeable.

    Vonleh's wingspan has measured at 7'3", comparable to a 2012 Big Ten lottery pick named Meyers Leonard out of Illinois. Leonard stands a legitimate seven feet tall.

    Classmate Devin Davis, a 6'6" forward out of Indianapolis, also has a highly impressive span for his size. At 6'11", Davis' spread matches that of the tallest member in the IU class, 6'9" forward Luke Fischer of Germantown, Wis.

    Long arms and big hands will help the Hoosier freshmen rack up deflections, a favorite statistic for Tom Crean's program. Experience will improve instincts, better instincts will lead to more steals and more steals often lead to highlight reels loaded with dunks.

Weakness: Muscle

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    Standing 6'9", Luke Fischer (pictured) is a vertical obstacle for his opponents, but his 210-pound frame can be muscled around in the low post. Current IU pivot Cody Zeller is hardly an earth-mover himself at 240, but he's proven capable of surviving the Big Ten wars.

    Fischer has some similar skills to Zeller, so if he can keep his quickness with extra weight, he can play an integral role sooner rather than later.

    Vonleh, at 6'8" and 220 pounds, is already solidly built, but the potential is there for his frame to add another 20. Again, he can't sacrifice the athleticism and handle that makes him a special frontcourt prospect, but a 240-pound man with dribble-drive skills will be a handful for Big Ten defenses.

    Devin Davis is 6'6" and 200 pounds, a build that cries out for the small forward position. He's an aggressive rebounder and remedial shooter, however, and those traits could push him inside to the four. Big Ten power forwards can floss their teeth with a 200-pounder.

    A true small forward, Troy Williams of Oak Hill Academy (Hampton, Va.) stands 6'7" and 190. He has an occasional perimeter stroke, but Tom Crean most lauded his rebounding ability in his class announcement. An extra 10 to 15 pounds would serve him well in crashing the glass.

    IU strength coach Je'Ney Jackson should be licking his chops in anticipation of this group's arrival. The crew has tremendous upside and skill, but nearly all of them will need additional bulk to adapt smoothly to the college game.

Strength: Penetration

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    Last month at the Hoophall Classic, Troy Williams (pictured) had himself a strong day, despite his Oak Hill team falling to Jabari Parker's Simeon (Ill.) squad. Impressive drives and a strong alley-oop finish highlighted his 11-point, eight-rebound effort.

    Vonleh and Davis are also quick players with strong handles, capable of reaching the tin in a heartbeat.

    While Fischer isn't quite in Zeller's league as pertains to creating his own finish in the half court, he is athletic enough to run the floor with the guards and capitalize on fast-break opportunities.

    Shooting guard Stanford Robinson out of Findlay Prep (Nev.) likes to use his athletic gifts even more on defense than he does on offense, but he's more than quick enough to break an opponent down himself. The knock on Robinson is a deferential nature that leads him to games like a two-point night at the Hoophall Classic. His team still won, though, and Robinson's very much a wins-conscious player.

Weakness: Shooting

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    There's one guy in this class who's considered a dangerous outside shooter, and you're looking at him: Collin Hartman, a 6'5", 200-pound forward from Fishers (Ind.). There's a reason, though, that his first mention comes four slides in.

    Hartman's shot is his strength, and he falls a bit short in the other categories that we've highlighted here. He's primarily a catch-and-shoot guy who will struggle against more athletic players, kind of a very, very poor man's Jordan Hulls. Unlike Hulls, though, Hartman's not signing with a scuffling program, and he's going to find a host of obstacles in his path to playing time.

    Of the other prospects, Williams can hit hot streaks out to around 22 feet. Robinson can flex a solid perimeter stroke, but getting him to shoot is the difficult part.

    Vonleh could take some development on his shot outside of about 15 feet. If his stroke extends out to the arc, comparisons to Jamal Mashburn may turn out prophetic.

    As alluded to earlier, honing a jumper will help Devin Davis fit in as a small forward, a position that currently appears the better fit for his body type.

Strength: Versatility

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    If Cody Zeller decides to bolt for the NBA, a team already lacking in reliable post presence could suffer even more. This recruiting class, however, could feature two members capable of sliding into Zeller's shoes: Vonleh and Fischer.

    Vonleh's still-growing frame could blossom into that of a capable part-time college center. Once Fischer puts more meat on his bones, he could prove a capable rebounder from either interior position.

    Williams and Robinson both appear capable of alternating between the 2 and the 3. While Robinson lacks small forward size, he has enough athleticism to overcome bigger matchups, similar to Victor Oladipo's tremendous improvement. A more consistent shooting stroke would make Williams a matchup nightmare at the 2 in a bigger lineup.

    On the flip side, Devin Davis (pictured) could serve as a power forward in a smaller lineup, using his impressive rebounding instincts and offensive quickness to thrive against bigger players.

    When the 2013 class arrives in Bloomington, Tom Crean will have fun experimenting with all the different ways he can utilize his new pieces. There's plenty of talent and flexibility in this group, and it's not unreasonable to expect better production than what arrived in 2012.

     

    For more from Scott on college basketball, check out The Back Iron, home of the exclusive Back Iron Index and Bracketometry, telling us which teams SHOULD be in the NCAA tournament come March.