Consistency key in IU’s pursuit of Robert Johnson

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Victor Oladipo was an All-American in his junior season at Indiana and the No. 2 pick in June’s NBA Draft. His meteoric rise was one of the stories of college basketball a season ago.

So when Oladipo returned to Bloomington a couple of weekends ago to host Tom Crean’s Basketball ProCamp, it was perfect timing for Indiana, which was in the midst of a huge recruiting weekend. One of the major guests was Robert Johnson, who was making his first official visit and receiving his first up close look at a program that has pursued him relentlessly for months.

Oladipo’s message to Johnson, a late riser from Richmond (Va.) in the class of 2014, was straightforward according to his father, Robert Sr.

“Victor talked to Robert and I met with him and talked with him,” Johnson Sr. told Inside the Hall. “He just told Robert how Indiana is a great school and gave him his blessing that if he decides to go there, he can wear No. 4.”

One of the themes of IU’s pursuit of Johnson, who is still considering six schools, has been consistency. The family has known assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Kenny Johnson for a couple of years and the IU coaching staff has been diligent in making sure Johnson knows he’s a priority.

“He really likes coach (Tom) Crean, coach Kenny (Johnson) and the relationship he’s built with them,” Johnson Sr. “And the consistency with the way they’ve been. They haven’t wavered with the information on telling him how he’ll fit in the program and how much they need him. He was able to see it. They showed him some footage of Victor when he was a freshman and sophomore and then as a junior and how he developed into the player he is now.”

Prior to the visit to Bloomington, Johnson Sr. told Inside the Hall that he had several pieces of criteria that he would look for on all of the family’s visits this fall.

Besides the basketball piece, Johnson Sr. wanted to learn more about the education, culture and environment of each prospective school. The Indiana visit, according to Johnson Sr., answered a lot of questions.

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2016 forward T.J. Leaf on Indiana: ‘It’ll be hard to say no’

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Before 2016 Foothills Christian (Calif.) power forward T.J. Leaf planned his first-ever visit to Indiana University, he heard the hype from his parents.

He heard the most about IU from his father, Brad, who grew up in the Indianapolis area and played at Evansville from 1979 to 1982. He heard how beautiful the campus was; how great the lifestyle was.

“But once we set the visit, he kind of kept quiet and waited for me to actually go there to experience it,” Leaf told Inside the Hall on Wednesday evening after finishing a one-day, unofficial visit to IU earlier in the day.

His thoughts after experiencing the IU program for a day?

“It’ll be hard to say no to that.”

Leaf, a 6-foot-8 prospect, was tracked heavily by the IU coaching staff while playing on the Compton Magic during July, but came to Bloomington without a scholarship offer. On Wednesday morning, when Leaf and his family arrived on campus, IU’s coaches took him straight into a meeting in a conference room.

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Big Ten’s Top 25 Players: 10-6

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With the official start of practice less than four weeks away, Inside the Hall and UM Hoops have partnered to bring you a preseason breakdown of the top 25 players in the Big Ten for the 2013-2014 season.

Our selection process involved much deliberation to arrive at a list that we hope will provide plenty of reaction and debate. The series will be broken into five parts (25-2120-16, 15-11) and our third installment of players 10-6 is available below:

10. Yogi Ferrell, Indiana (6-foot-0, guard, sophomore)
28.1 mpg, 7.5 ppg, 4.1 apg, 2.8 rpg, .8 spg, 45.3 eFG percentage

Ferrell’s freshman stats may not warrant a spot in the top ten, but his placement is based on a potential role shift and increased production as a sophomore. Ferrell started every game at point guard last season for Indiana and helped lead the Hoosiers to their first outright league championship in 20 years. His role, however, was mostly a distributor (25.7 assist rate) who was asked to fit into a team with an already established rotation. With seven players moving on from last season’s team, Ferrell, a former McDonald’s All-American, is now Indiana’s second most tenured player in terms of minutes played in Bloomington and is expected to take on a much larger offensive role. After a summer where he averaged double figures for the USA in the World University Games, look for a more confident and experienced Ferrell to make a major leap forward as a sophomore.

9. Andre Hollins, Minnesota (6-foot-1, guard, junior)
30.1 mpg, 14.6 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 3.4 apg, 1.1 spg, 52.7 eFG percentage

If first-year head coach Richard Pitino has any chance of keeping the Golden Gophers out of the bottom third of the Big Ten standings, he’ll need Hollins to build on a terrific sophomore campaign. Offensively, there wasn’t much that Hollins didn’t do well last season. He shot nearly 42 percent on 3-pointers, drew 4.5 fouls per 40 minutes, posted an assist rate of 25.3 percent and among Big Ten players that used at least 25 percent of their team’s possessions, his offensive rating ranked below only two players: Trey Burke and Cody Zeller. With Trevor Mbakwe and Rodney Williams moving on, the Golden Gophers are likely to become more perimeter oriented in 2013-2014 and Hollins will be the clear cut go-to guy in Minneapolis.

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Big Ten’s Top 25 Players: 15-11

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With the official start of practice less than four weeks away, Inside the Hall and UM Hoops have partnered to bring you a preseason breakdown of the top 25 players in the Big Ten for the 2013-2014 season.

Our selection process involved much deliberation to arrive at a list that we hope will provide plenty of reaction and debate. The series will be broken into five parts (25-21, 20-16) and our third installment of players 15-11 is available below:

15. Drew Crawford, Northwestern (6-foot-5, wing, senior)
31.8 mpg, 13.5 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 1.7 apg, 1 spg, 47 eFG percentage (10 GP)

Crawford had improved steadily throughout his career at Northwestern and appeared to be on his way to a big season when he was forced to undergo season ending should surgery in December. When healthy, he’s proven that he’s one of the more reliable wing guards in the conference with career per game averages of 13.5 points and 4.6 rebounds. He’s a capable finisher at the basket and shot over 41 percent from long range in his last full season. While his role in new head coach Chris Collins’ remains to be seen, Crawford sounds excited to play in Collins’s new system. “I enjoyed playing the Princeton offense. It’s a really unique way of playing basketball,” Crawford told ESPN. “But Coach Collins has brought us back to the fundamentals, and it’s brought me back to playing basketball the way I did before I was in college. It’s definitely an exciting time.”

14. Will Sheehey, Indiana (6-foot-6, wing, senior)
22.2 mpg, 9.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 1.3 apg, .8 spg, 54 eFG percentage

Sheehey had his most efficient season as a junior but was decidedly second fiddle to superstar teammates Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller. He brings a little bit of everything to the table on both ends of the floor. He can knock down the three (35 percent), get to the basket (55 percent 2-point shooting), draw fouls, and he doesn’t turn it over. While he was the best sixth man in the conference last season, it remains to be seen whether he’s ready to be relied on as a focal point of the Hoosier offense. He’s always excelled playing off of the ball and spotting up on the wings but it’s easier to do that when opponents are game planning for your teammates. After participating in adidas Nations and the World University Games in Russia, Sheehey looks like a player ready to take the next step in his development as a senior.

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2016 G Tyus Battle ‘not in a rush’ with his recruitment

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Tyus Battle has visited Indiana twice already this year, most recently arriving in Bloomington last Tuesday and leaving last Friday afternoon. The Gill St. Bernard’s (N.J.) sophomore shooting guard told Inside the Hall after his most recent visit that the Hoosiers are “definitely one of the leaders. Indiana is probably recruiting me the hardest right now, too.”

But that doesn’t mean he is close to a decision. As his father, Gary, noted, Tyus “is not in a rush to grow up.”

“He is truly 15. He plays video games, he hangs out with his friends, and he really likes doing those things,” Gary Battle said. “As a family, we really expect him to develop and grow up, but at the same time, we like who he is. I think that sort of makes him unique. I think a lot of kids grow up a little too fast.”

As much as Gary Battle likes to think of his son as a typical high school sophomore, Tyus Battle is not.

Regarded as a five-star prospect and the No. 7 overall recruit in the 2016 class, according to ESPN.com, Battle’s recruitment has taken off. Indiana offered him a scholarship in February when he visited for the Hoosiers’ game against then-No. 1 Michigan on ESPN’s College GameDay. The 6-foot-5 guard also holds offers from Ohio State, Miami (FL), Connecticut and Villanova, among others.

Since he has garnered so much interest and is in no rush to make a decision, his family has been open to taking as many visits as possible. Battle has plans for trips to Michigan (Sept. 7) and Ohio State (Sept. 21), and he also expects to take visits to Syracuse and Villanova, though those dates aren’t planned yet.

“He really likes hanging out with his family, which is why it’s important for us to get out see these schools a little bit farther away,” Gary Battle said. “He seems to be pretty comfortable with leaving home, so I don’t think that’s going to be an issue for him.”

In the Battle’s three-day visit to Bloomington last week, Gary said they got a “pretty good feel” for how Indiana runs things and how Tyus would fit into the Hoosiers’ system of play.

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Notebook: IU freshmen adjust to college conditioning

NV004Meeting with the media for the first time as part of the Indiana basketball team Friday afternoon, IU’s freshmen agreed on what aspect of the college basketball life had surprised them most.

“The conditioning,” Troy Williams simply put it.

Though they are only one week into their first fall semester, IU’s freshmen players have been on campus since early June, adjusting to the conditioning demands of the Indiana basketball program. And it wasn’t easy, especially under strength and conditioning coach Je’Ney Jackson.

“You find out you’re not in shape like you thought you was,” Williams said.

“It’s been pretty tough,” Devin Davis added. “You have to get your mind right for every workout. You can’t come in and just think you’re going to get by. You really have to push yourself.”

It hasn’t gone unnoticed. Each player said they feel as if they have significantly improved in both strength and speed since they arrived in Bloomington.

And at the Amar’e Stoudemire and LeBron James skills academies this summer, other players took notice of Noah Vonleh’s particular transformation, who has gone from 215 to 240 pounds.

“A lot of guys I played high school basketball and camps with were saying I got a lot bigger and a lot stronger, this and that,” Vonleh said. “I just feel like I’m continuing to get better.”

‘You can follow in their footsteps’

In late June, Indiana’s entire team, including the newcomers, watched from their locker room as former Hoosiers Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller were selected in the top four of the NBA draft.

“We all saw the faces on Cody and Victor,” Davis said, “and we just realized how much hard work they put in to get to their dream.”

Now, only two months from the start of their freshman season, IU’s newcomers have seen how they can get to the next level from Bloomington: mainly, through a strong work ethic.

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HD Video: Freshmen discuss workouts, college adjustment

All six Indiana freshmen – Collin Hartman, Devin Davis, Luke Fischer, Noah Vonleh, Stanford Robinson and Troy Williams – met with the media on Friday afternoon to discuss their progress since arriving in Bloomington earlier this summer.

Among the topics discussed: The biggest adjustments from high school to college, leadership, Indiana’s youth as a team next season, gains in the weight room and more. Both press conferences are available below:

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