Indiana adds “transformative” piece in Thomas Bryant

  • 04/22/2015 3:23 pm in

Indiana coach Tom Crean believes the Hoosiers finally have their big man.

Speaking on Wednesday afternoon at Assembly Hall, the Hoosiers coach couldn’t hold back his enthusiasm and excitement about the future.

Thomas Bryant, a 6-foot-10 center from Huntington Prep (W.V.), had officially signed his National Letter of Intent with Indiana.

“It’s a transformative sign for us,” Crean said. “Going into another part of the country and getting a guy that is not only an excellent player, but getting somebody that comes in here with an infectious attitude and an infectious energy, that’s exactly what we needed.

“We needed the presence of an inside player. That’s obvious. But he’s so much more than that.”

Just one day prior to Crean’s announcement on Wednesday, the Hoosiers’ coach and assistant Chuck Martin were in West Virginia, meeting with Bryant. It completed the long recruitment Indiana committed toward Bryant, one that Crean said he was fully invested in from the first time he saw Bryant on tape.

Yes, this 6-foot-10, 225-pound center “pounded the ball,” whether it be dunking or blocking the ball. Yes, he was a highly rated recruit. What stood out to Crean more than anything, though, was his demeanor on the court.

“In Thomas’s case, it was how excited he got for his teammates,” Crean said. “Watching the game tapes and watching how he was with his teammates, watching how he responded to coaching, it all started with a tape.”

Throughout last summer, Crean said he made it a commitment to watch Bryant. In Las Vegas. In Augusta, Ga. In Colorado Springs, Colo. “We didn’t miss a thing that he did,” Crean said.

He saw Bryant as someone that could bring “personality and energy to this program.” Someone that was just as excited by his teammates’ successes as his own.

“You’ve got to find something that makes you passionate about them, and it shouldn’t just be their talent, it shouldn’t just be their size, it shouldn’t just be that,” Crean said. “There’s got to be something, because you’ve got to have a reason to separate yourself from them, as well, on how you’re going to make them better.

“And we saw a guy that we thought we could really, really help get where he wants to go.”

As excited as Crean was to land a player with an “infectious” personality like Bryant’s, he admitted the addition meant so much more to the Hoosiers.

He said Bryant, with his size, can run the floor and through the middle of the court — something he said the Hoosiers haven’t been able to do since the days of Cody Zeller. He said Bryant gives them a shot blocking threat in the paint — meaning the Hoosiers can utilize the press more. And he said Bryant provides energy — a quality Crean wants in all of his players.

“He comes in with an ability right off the bat because he’s a winner, because he’s got an attitude of improvement and because he’s got an attitude of winning,” Crean said. “And he’s got that infectious personality and energy that you want in people.

“I think he’s going to migrate to these guys right away. I think that he already has in some ways because they’re going to see he is a great teammate.”

Before Crean spoke with the media on Wednesday, just hours after his return from Huntington Prep, he spent time with former Hoosier Victor Oladipo, who is in town for the week. He reminisced about not only how good of a basketball player the current Orlando Magic starting shooting guard is, but also how great of a teammate he was at Indiana.

As he revelled in the signing of Bryant, a player who Crean believes will be “transformative”  for the Indiana men’s basketball program, he couldn’t help but already compare the two.

Crean was elated. And he was not shy about it, either.

“I just finished up meeting with (Victor), and when you get around those personalities that are infectious like that and make everybody that much more excited to be doing what they’re doing, that’s what Thomas is like,” Crean said. “And I was with him yesterday, and that’s exactly how it is when you’re watching him play or sitting there talking with him about what he needs to get better at.

“He’s a great teammate. … People just gravitate to him. And I think that’s going to be exciting for all the people here.”

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  • Hoosier Hall

    I’m getting anxious for the season already. If Yogi and JBJ make what I would consider “the wise decision” and return, we are going to be a tough team to beat. Thomas Bryant is a game changer for us, make no mistake about it.

  • SCHoosier

    Thing I like is that he is a basketball player..not a project, or coming from another sport or just an “athlete. Doesn’t matter that he can’t “jump out of the gym”.TB’s b-ball instincts are very good..he knows how to play the game and what it takes from a leadership and effort standpoint to get the job done. Now if he can influence the defense accordingly..Mr Bryant will be worth all the hype and more.

  • N71

    At one point in the season this past year our front line was Collin Hartman. Next year we’ll have Thomas, Hanner, Devin, Emmitt, Juwan, and then throw in our wings in Troy, Collin, and OG and yow, what a change.

  • Olde Hoosier

    SC, your response was spot on. No other comment necessary 🙂

  • Zach

    I’ll start getting excited about the season when I know we have our backcourt returning *fingers crossed*. Oladipo made an appearance at the Big Sean Little 500 concert last night to pump up the crowd. It worked as usual haha

  • Bill Graham

    Honestly I have to agree with Crean on this one. (WHAT! Pick up your pitchfork Graham!…alright alright but hear me out)… After talking to a player who was on our 2012-2013 team and I’m not going to shoot you any names… I found out that (not surprisingly) the new recruits CTC was hosting had some confidence issues that were unappreciated. This probably has surfaced in some ways in our off court issues and lack of leadership in 2013-2014. This person noted that CTC seemed to be straying from his typical pattern of recruiting good guys. So its awesome to have guys coming in like Bryant who are raised right and care more about their teammates doing well. I think there is something to say for those kind of kids who just flat out work for the TEAM… Guys like Vic don’t just succeed because they stay hungry…they also succeed b/c they stay humble.

    I think Bryant fits that mold.

  • hoosier93

    Malik Newman is reportedly going to commit to Mississippi State over Kentucky.

  • Hoosier Hall

    Where did you hear/read that? Not doubting it, just want to look into it.

  • IUPatrick

    I will try not to be a Donnie Downer… since there is nothing to dislike about this kid. What concerns me is when Thomas is out of the game due to foul trouble, rest or GOD forbid injury etc… because he WILL be out of the game and at times possibly large stretches. When that happens – will we revert to the Indiana of this last season? As we saw over and over again no inside game caused us to become predictable offensively and leave a wide door open defensively. I realize that these players will be one year older and hopefully one year wiser… but until someone (and not CTC) teaches how to prevent guard penetration we will still give up loads of points. And even with TB in the game there are only so many shots he can block or alter. Keeping in mind once a guard gets past the first man he has options – layup, dump off low or pass to a wing. TB can’t be everywhere. Additionally and I personally think, more importantly, we should not forgo inside scoring when TB is sitting. We didn’t have an inside game last year because CTC chose not to have an inside game. There were numerous occasions where Emmitt had his man sealed off 3 feet from the basket without even receiving a look let alone a pass. And I can probably count on two hands the # of times we threw into the post all year. When we go into our shooting lulls which happened quite often and when TB is out we need to keep the defense honest and continue to feed the inside even if it’s only occasionally.

  • SCHoosier

    Agree that if IU gets no improvement on perimeter/wing defense…TB will be at foul risk. I do think Hanner and Emmitt provide adequate back up. TC also mentioned that the Hoosiers be able to” play with more length next year.” Don’t know if that means he will go with a more traditional line up of two guards and 3 bigs..or if he intends to use TB and HMP/Holt at the same time..or both. Doesn’t matter much who is in the post if IU’s team defense isn’t significantly improved in the off season.

  • IUPatrick

    Agreed and you bring up an excellent point. Would love to see TB in with another big when needed. Especially against teams with serious height. Rarely did we see HMP and EH in at the same time. If they were it lasted about a minute. And I understand the liabilities when that happens but there will be times in a game when we cannot stop the bleeding in the paint and (2) bigs are a must.

  • JacksonCounty

    I suppose this signing is transformative in some respects as it stops the notion that Crean cannot recruit bigs consistently. The problem hasn’t been getting one post player consistently but adding depth to the front line. One talented player in the front court at a time doesn’t lend itself being at the highest levels.

    How is coach defining transformative? Is the expectation now that Indiana will compete for a conference and national championship? I think if that is the definition of transformative then that’s a heavy load to place on one freshman post player. If transformative is that it moves IU in the right direction again, then I agree, this signing helps a lot.

    I hope the recruiting continues to be transformative, along with team defense. Congrats to coach and IU on this signing. Keep it going 🙂

  • I’d like to be that confident about Devin returning, for his sake, but I’m still at the point where I’m more concerned about his general health than whether he plays basketball for IU. I can’t imagine he’ll be ready, unless his injury was less severe than I’ve thought.

  • marcusgresham

    Unless they’re good actors I don’t think there has been anyone on the team in recent times that didn’t seem like a good guy. I know a couple of them got busted/caught doing some goofy stuff, but they still seem like good kids (cue the Tim Wilson bit about Bobby Bowden for those who have heard it.)

  • TomJameson

    I agree with that entirely. I would also add that Bryant seems to have a great work ethic and will fit into the team chemistry very well.

    As far as the defensive part, CTC said that there wasn’t one player or one coach that didn’t know how important it was to improve their defense. To me, that is stating pretty strongly that there’ll be a lot of focus, individually and team wise, on the defense. In the words of Austin Powers … “Yeah baby!!!”

  • TomJameson

    I think the extra length comes from the 2 new wings, both being athletic and “long”. I also understand that both OG and Juwan are defensive minded already.

    Also, I mentioned this in a comment earlier, CTC and team will be focusing on defense this year … and he hinted at more pressing as well. Can’t wait to see this team in action, no matter how the recruiting and transfers transform the team. Think there is a great core in place right now.

  • TomJameson

    Hahaha … I think it simply means that we lacked an important key to our team last year. Important enough to go with the “small ball” experiment. I truly believe that there will be a more traditional lineup next year, with the overlap built into a “positional-less” mindset.

    Bryant truly will transform this team in so many ways, but don’t anybody forget about OG and Juwan who will both add a lot of Troy-like athleticism and length.

  • marcusgresham

    Now to get him to Bloomington (and into the weight room) ASAP.
    I see a lot of similarities to Vonleh from a physical standpoint. They’re almost identical in height and weight (when Vonleh signed,) and I’d like to see Bryant pack on the 15 pounds or so of muscle that Noah did in the summer before his freshman year.
    Sure hope the new strength coach is as good as Jackson was.