Indiana Basketball Recruiting: Hoosiers' 5 Top Targets in 2014 Class
Pictured: Tom Crean hustling. It's a fitting metaphor for a coach working the recruiting trail and finding himself in the mix with several of the top high school players in America.
With the 2013 class all but signed and sealed, the Indiana coach already has some major irons in the fire for his 2014 crop. According to VerbalCommits.com, the Hoosiers are still in the mix for 11 of the top 50 players in the nation.
The interest level of those players already offered may vary, as some appear much more intent on playing collegiate ball elsewhere. Still, there are plenty of great prospects still on Crean's radar.
Here are five of the biggest stars who could don the candy-striped warmups in the 2014 season.
NOTE: This slideshow does not include the already-committed guard James Blackmon Jr. Players are listed in the order of their overall class rank on Verbal Commits.
A consensus top-20 prospect, 6'6" forward Theo Pinson (Greensboro, NC) drew Tom Crean down to Tobacco Road to watch him clinch a state championship. The holy trinity of Carolina college ball—UNC, Duke and NC State—have all offered him a scholarship, but didn't check out his semifinal and title game victories. IU coaches arrived for the quarterfinal and stayed for trophy presentations.
Pinson took an official visit to Indiana back in February, and that's still the only such trip Pinson has made, according to 247 Sports. Crean's full-court press may pay off, as schools like Kentucky, Georgetown and the aforementioned in-state programs are putting a noticeably inferior effort into Pinson.
CBS Sports' Jeff Borzello reported this week that Pinson intends to trim his list this month with an eye toward making his decision before he begins his senior season.
Similar to 2013 Hoosier signee Troy Williams, Pinson can penetrate against anyone and score in the mid-range, but his perimeter shot needs to be a point of improvement.
Evansville (Ind.) guard Jaquan Lyle fully intends to take his time with his college decision.
“I'm going to use all five official visits,” Lyle said at the Hampton EYBL, as reported by CBS Sports' Jeff Borzello. With seven schools on his list, that means there will be a few potential suitors left out.
Lyle expanded his list to include UCLA and new coach Steve Alford after taking an unofficial visit in late April. Louisville's Rick Pitino, Ohio State's Thad Matta and Cuonzo Martin of Tennessee all visited Lyle's home in the past week and change.
The 6'4" combo guard averaged more than 15 PPG in Hampton, reminding observers that although he's listed as a point guard, his scoring will be a feared weapon against top opposition once he hits a college court.
IU has a lot of competition for Lyle's signature. One mark in the Hoosiers' favor is his status as a Spiece Indy Heat teammate of IU commit James Blackmon Jr.
Still, the fanbase and coaching staff should hunker down for a long courtship, since Jaquan's not going to be rushed into anything.
Montverde (Fla.) Academy guard D'Angelo Russell helped his team to the title at the National High School Invitational, and a host of schools took notice.
247 Sports reports 11 scholarship offers for Russell, while ESPN lists 14. The two services agree on blue-blood programs like Ohio State, North Carolina and Louisville being in play for the 6'4" shooter.
IU and all the other competitors have a major attachment to overcome to land Russell. The player happens to be a Louisville native.
According to Steve Jones of Louisville's The Courier-Journal, Russell counts current Cardinals Russ Smith and Kevin Ware as friends, and Russell's cousin dates graduating U of L point guard Peyton Siva.
Cardinal coach Rick Pitino sees Russell filling Luke Hancock's shoes as Louisville's primary perimeter option. That kind of trust from a newly minted Hall of Famer is a tough selling point for Tom Crean or any other coach to outdo.
At 5'11" and 160 pounds, Etiwanda (Calif.) point guard Jordan McLaughlin makes Yogi Ferrell look burly by comparison. Still, he's shifty enough to attack the rim against any defender, and his highlight film depicts a player who's just as comfortable threading passes and pulling up for his own potent jump shot.
That Loyola team McLaughlin's squad crushed in the video was led by top-25 prospect and Arizona commit Parker Jackson-Cartwright. Holding any team with that caliber of prospect to only 24 points in a game is an impressive night at the office.
Indiana is dueling with several of McLaughlin's home-state institutions, including USC, UCLA and San Diego State, as well as fellow powers like Kansas and UConn. New UCLA coach Steve Alford was recruiting McLaughlin to New Mexico, and has carried his efforts over to Westwood.
The aforementioned schools are all in McLaughlin's recently chosen top seven, and he may be another who takes his time and takes his visits before making an informed decision.
For those assuming the elite basketball talents view their studies as merely a waste of valuable practice time, observe the case of Augusta (Ga.) guard Ahmed Hill.
Like many top prospects, Hill transferred high schools. Where others merely seek a better basketball fit, though, Hill left Peach County HS after his freshman year. The move was academically motivated, with Hill seeking to get his grades up at the respected Aquinas High.
“I knew I was going to get recruited by major programs, so I wanted to get up here and get my grades up,” Hill told the Augusta Chronicle. The GPA has improved, and his game has flourished, to the point that he was named the Chronicle's Georgia Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
IU was the first major program to visit Hill last year, and Inside the Hall reported that he still holds Tom Crean and Indiana in great regard. The 30-PPG scorer is in no hurry to make his college decision, however. Schools like UConn, Kansas, Marquette and NC State have all joined Indiana in the flood of schools out for Hill's signature.
For more from Scott on college basketball, check out The Back Iron. This week: NBA Draft Early Entry Winners and Losers.