2014 point guard Ja’Quan Newton draws IU interest

072413hasWASHINGTON — Although Indiana has not offered him a scholarship, Ja’Quan Newton of Neumann-Goretti (Pa.) is a player the Hoosiers are beginning to show some interest in.

A 6-foot-2 point guard in the class of 2014, Newton said at last weekend’s Nike Global Challenge that Indiana has been in touch with his high school coach, Carl Arrigale, and his Team Final AAU coach, Rob Brown.

“They just gave my head coach a call saying they like me and they want me to talk to the head coach and that they really like me a lot,” Newton told Inside the Hall. “They didn’t offer yet, but I think they’ll offer soon.”

Newton said that he has not yet spoken with a coach from the Hoosier staff, but that is more a matter of circumstance than lack of effort on IU’s end.

“[An Indiana coach called], but when he called me I wasn’t able to pick up the phone because I was getting my hair cut actually,” he said.

Newton said that IU is indeed a school that he “would be interested” in because of the style of play, the fact that it is a winning program and Tom Crean.

“He’s a great coach,” Newton said. “I don’t know him personally, but as from [what I can tell] on TV and all that, he’s a great coach.”

As for his recruitment as a whole, Newton listed offers from Miami, Villanova, Temple, Cincinnati, SMU, Minnesota, USC, and Syracuse. In addition to IU, Newton said UCLA is another school expressing interest that has yet to offer.

He noted that Villanova, Miami, USC, Minnesota and Cincinnati are recruiting him the hardest at this point. He’s visited Villanova and Temple, two local schools, unofficially thus far and will begin taking more visits after trimming his list of schools to five. That will come after July.

Indiana jumping into the race late doesn’t necessarily mean that Newton won’t the Hoosiers for a visit.

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Continued improvement of Ferrell, Sheehey is key for IU

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If Indiana is to contend for another Big Ten championship in 2014, the Hoosiers will rely heavily on seven newcomers to do so.

But as important as guys like Noah Vonleh, Troy Williams and Evan Gordon, among others, will be next season, the offseason progress of Will Sheehey and Yogi Ferrell might loom larger.

That’s why it was important that Ferrell and Sheehey maximized the time they spent with USA Basketball over the last month in Colorado Springs, Colorado and Kazan, Russia preparing for and participating in the 2013 World University Games.

The natural reaction to Ferrell and Sheehey, the only two returning players to have logged significant minutes in the program, leaving for a month during a pivotal offseason time was to wonder how it might affect their teammates who remained in Bloomington.

The early returns suggest that Ferrell and Sheehey both return from the experience as better players, which should ultimately trickle down to improving the program overall.

“He (coach Crean) told me to go over and enjoy the experience and learn how they play, internationally, and bring back what I can to the program here,” Ferrell said Tuesday. “And to try to help some of the young guys out and the other guys that weren’t over there by sharing my knowledge about what we need to do to be successful this year.”

What Indiana is going to need to do to be successful is replace four 1,000 point career scorers, two of whom were NBA lottery picks, and two other players who decided to transfer.

How quickly and effectively Ferrell and Sheehey can step into more prominent roles with their production and leadership will be the foundation of that process.

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IU among schools in heavy pursuit of Robert Johnson

071413WASHINGTON – Robert Johnson of Benedictine (Va.) is a player who has seen his stock rise significantly over the past month. The class of 2014 combo guard has started to reel in high-major offers and he includes Indiana among that group.

At the Nike Global Challenge, Johnson said he has offers from Marquette, Villanova, Indiana, Florida State, Miami, Wake Forest, and Alabama, among others. North Carolina and Syracuse have also expressed interest, but have not offered.

The 6-foot-3, 185-pound guard, who plays for Boo Williams, talked about what he is looking for as he surveys his options.

“Just somewhere I would fit style of play-wise and go in and have an opportunity to play,” he said.

Location will not be a factor for Johnson, but the style of play will be near the top of his priority list.

“Where they let their guards play,” Johnson said, “ball screens, high-tempo offense, things like that.”

There are five schools that Johnson feels are coming at him the hardest right now are Alabama, Villanova, Florida State, Indiana, and Miami.

Johnson has been on unofficial visits to Virginia, Wake Forest and Villanova, but does not have any other trips set up right now. Earlier this month, Johnson said he would “definitely” visit Indiana.

A four-star prospect according to ESPN.com, Johnson has no timetable for his choice. The increased exposure as a result of his play in July has been nice, but also tiring at times.

“It’s been fun. At the same time, I’m starting to kind of get exhausted a little bit,” Johnson said. “So, I’m just [going to] try to cut down my list and then make a decision as soon as I know what school is good for me.”

Johnson said he is not sure of how many schools he will trim his list down to or of any schools that are sure to make the cut. He’s planning to cut his list of schools after July.

Indiana offered Johnson after the Peach Jam where he averaged 20.2 points and shot 46.2 percent on 3-pointers. Johnson had three double figure scoring games at the Nike Global Challenge.

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Ferrell, Sheehey prepare to lead Indiana together

070813chxWhen basketball season rolls around, the Indiana program will no longer be run by guys like Jordan Hulls, Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller. Those former Hoosier standouts will be replaced by senior Will Sheehey and sophomore Yogi Ferrell, two guys that will likely carry the leadership torch into next season.

Sheehey and Ferrell haven’t always had the greatest relationship. Sheehey thought Ferrell arrived on campus last summer a little bit “too Hollywood” and tried to put him in his place early in the season.

The duo learned to work together as the year progressed, and they just got back from the World University Games in Russia, where they were teammates and roommates.

The Hoosiers have a lot to replace from last year’s Sweet Sixteen team, and much of their success this season will likely depend on how well Sheehey and Ferrell can lead the team together.

“Well, we still don’t like each other,” Sheehey said Tuesday with a smile on his face. “So that’s about it.”

After a pause, Sheehey continued.

“Obviously Yogi and I were excited to make the team. We both wanted to and he was playing absolutely fantastic in Colorado so I knew he was a lock. It was more me that was on the fence. It was a great experience for both of us.”

Sheehey returns as the only senior on the roster to play his entire career at Indiana. He’s been through both the good times and the bad, the winning and the losing.

Ferrell hasn’t ever seen the other side. Indiana is 29-7 with a Sweet Sixteen appearance and a Big Ten championship since Ferrell arrived on campus.

Ferrell was a highly ranked recruit. Sheehey wasn’t. Ferrell started from day one. Sheehey has always played off the bench. Ferrell is an Indiana native. Sheehey is from Florida.

The differences are evident. But the similarities are more important. Both players have been through it before, and both are hungry to take the program a step further.

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HD Video: Will Sheehey, Yogi Ferrell talk USA Basketball experience

Indiana senior Will Sheehey and sophomore guard Yogi Ferrell met with the media on Tuesday afternoon to discuss their experiences in Kazan, Russia with USA Basketball for the 2013 World University Games.

Watch and listen to both press conferences in the embedded media players below:

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IU offers 2017 prospects Paul Scruggs and Zach Gunn

072313Since taking the Indiana job in April of 2008, Tom Crean has taken a relentless approach in pursuing the top players in the state of Indiana at an early age.

James Blackmon Jr. committed to the program before his freshman season back in September of 2010. Eron Gordon, the younger brother of former Hoosier Eric Gordon and current IU guard Evan Gordon, received an offer before his freshman season.

Indiana’s aggressive approach has continued into the class of 2017 as the Hoosiers offered scholarships to Paul Scruggs (pictured) and Zach Gunn, a pair of AAU teammates for the Indy Hoosiers, on Monday.

Scruggs, a 6-foot-3 guard, will play next season at Southport for Kyle Simpson and Gunn, a 6-foot-6 forward, will enroll at Hamilton Southeastern to play for Brian Satterfield.

Both players took an unofficial visit to Indiana in June and the staff has tracked both players since last year.

“We kind of saw it and thought that something like this would happen early because of their size and their ability,” Mike Peterson, the coach for the Indy Hoosiers, told Inside the Hall on Tuesday. “You can sometimes look at a kid and see that they’re special and project them out to be pretty good. It wasn’t all that shocking to me.”

Peterson described Scruggs as “the ultimate slasher” who has continued to improve his perimeter shot and Gunn as “probably the best shooter in the country” who can also defend the post and drive the ball.

Indiana is the first school to offer both players, but the duo has also received interest from Xavier, Purdue, Notre Dame, Michigan State, Ohio State and Memphis.

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Class of 2016 forward T.J. Leaf drawing interest from IU

072213T.J. Leaf might be one of the top young players on the west coast, but he’s very familiar with Indiana.

That’s because Leaf’s father, Brad, played at Lawrence North in the 1970’s and at Evansville from 1979-1982.

Brad Leaf, who was named one of the top 15 players in Evansville history back in 2007, was drafted in the fourth round by the Indiana Pacers in 1982 before going on to play for Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv for 18 seasons.

So it probably shouldn’t be a surprise that the younger Leaf, a 6-foot-8, 200 pound forward who will be a sophomore at Woodland Hills in California, is familiar with the Hoosier state.

“I’m there every summer for a week or two. I know a lot about it,” T.J. Leaf told Inside the Hall. “And obviously my dad has told me stuff about it. I didn’t grow up there, but I almost grew up knowing that. It was pretty much like I grew up there.”

As a freshman, Leaf averaged 22 points, 12 rebounds and close to four blocks per game while playing for his father. This summer, his play for the Compton Magic has drawn the attention of several high major schools, including Indiana.

While many of the top class of 2016 prospects have been on the radar for a couple of years, all of the attention is relatively new for Leaf.

“It’s definitely kind of overwhelming at times, but it makes me want to keep working and keep working,” he said. “It’s very encouraging because it shows that all of your hard work is starting to pay off so it makes you want to get in the gym right away and work harder and harder.”

UCLA was the first major offer for Leaf and Portland, San Diego State and San Diego have also offered. Arizona, California, New Mexico, Oregon and USC have also shown interest. In June, Leaf was one of 30 players selected to participate in USA Basketball’s training camp for the men’s developmental national team.

This summer, he’s looking to diversify his game and move out onto the floor.

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