Posted: 8:39 a.m. Friday, Aug. 16, 2013
The Hoosiers and their faithful are certainly feeling down about the 2014 recruiting class. In 2010, we had locked down two commits that were going to help power Indiana once again into the top 3-5 of the national team rankings for classes. Trey Lyles and James Blackmon Jr. were very good and to add one more blue chipper to those two would have been in the conversation for Crean's best class ever. Which is saying a lot after consecutive 2012 and 2013 seasons pushing that discussion. Alas, it wasn't meant to be. At least not with them two leading the class.
As we all know, Lyles decomitted last year under the chatter of some shady happenings. The moment he decomitted it was UK or bust and though time and smoke screens have been a plenty there, it's still pretty obvious he's going to wind up at Kentucky. The question is whether Blackmon is going to follow him.
Blackmon's decommitment, at least on the surface, has appeared much more above board. We're actually watching this unfold with some transparency and his father James Blackmon Sr. (UK alum) has been very forthcoming with a lot of information on his process. Usually when something behind the scenes is going on, the recruit's circle goes silent. We aren't seeing that with Blackmon, which at least gives me a notion that IU may actually still have a chance in this like the Blackmon camp is saying. But, you know better, I know better and history knows better. He gone. Still, despite Blackmon being perfect for Indiana, it stings less knowing that Indiana isn't getting scammed.
But where do we stand going forward? Despite the fans going into sky is falling mode, the Hoosiers staff is just chugging right along and rolling with the punches. Crean and company almost immediately reached out to some high quality prospects after the Blackmon decommit and it appears they're serious contenders. First and foremost on this list of newly targeted recruits is Isaiah Whitehead. #20 and a 5 star in 247Sports newest updated rankings, Whitehead has been tabbed as the next big thing to come out of New York since he was in middle school.
Because of that pressure it is thought that his mother wants him out of the city and away from those pressures. New York has a history of corrupting and ruining their young talent before they ever get the opportunity to thrive, so it is positive to see that Whitehead's mother seems to have the biggest say in a lot of his recruitment. The Hoosiers though late have already got Whitehead working on scheduling an official visit in September. However, IU is going to have to work hard to beat out the favorites in Syracuse who have been recruiting Whitehead for much longer. Luckily, with case studies like Noah Vonleh and Troy Williams, you know Tom Crean and Kenny Johnson can make a big impact quickly in a recruitment.
Speaking of big impact and quickly, another key target that Indiana has been in on for the better part of a year now is former AAU teammate of Noah Vonleh, Goodluck Okonoboh. Okonoboh is another elite prospect who is still rising in a lot of eyes. He went from #19 to #15 in 247's rankings (passing Trey Lyles in the process) and Indiana appears to be right up at the front of the pack with him. Through twitter we know that he's recently spent some time with Vonleh, while IU players were on break and if Vonleh's shocking physical transformation doesn't provide some influence on an athletic shot blocker like Okonoboh, I don't know what will. Right now, everyone thinks he's IU's to lose, but Duke and Kentucky will be coming hard and fast in the next few months. Okonoboh is probably the most important guy to land for Tom Crean and Indiana in 2014. He's the real deal and would provide immediate presence in the lane.
The third guy that we're going to look at closely is what looks to be the focus of a showdown between Illinois and Indiana. The Hoosiers and Illini have made the final four cut for #38 Leron Black. Many have had him as an Illinois guy for quite some time, but his actions point to the idea that this isn't a done deal yet. He's just recently set up an official for Indiana at the end of September and we'll likely know soon after that what his decision is. Black's a bit of a tweener as a 6-7 PF, but his mid-range game is impressive. If he can improve his handles, we may have a 4 year menace to the Big Ten on our hands and if anything is better than a one and done it's a four and terrifying.
Some other guys that Indiana is looking at in 247's top 150 are, #51 Quentin Snyder (recent Louisville decommit), #53 Robert Johnson, #54 Trevon Bluiett (although it sounds like he's headed to UCLA), #78 Lourawls Nairn Jr., #84 Michael Humphrey (very intriguing, 6'10" quarterback of his football team), and #117 Riley LaChance (Luke Fischer's high school archrival).
Overall, despite our concerns with the recent de-commitments of several strong Indiana prospects, the Hoosiers are still in very good shape. If they can land three of the 10 listed here, or even just two, it would be a very quality supplemental class at the very worst. If they can land the top end targets then we're talking another top 5 recruiting finish. All is not lost Hoosier Nation, but things are going to be moving quickly.