For the first time in a little more than three months, we’ve refreshed our 2014 recruiting board. There’s once again movement near the top of the board and a couple of new faces since our last update, including a pair of highly rated backcourt players.
The latest version of the board, complete with updated player photos, national rankings, notes, school lists and links to recruit profiles, is available at the link below:
Will Sheehey hits a corner 3 against North Carolina, and the top offense in the nation punches the lead out to 31.
On the other end of the court, Indiana’s sixth man, the underrecruited, unheralded Florida native, once ranked just the No. 131 recruit in the nation by Rivals.com, fronts someone who came to the Tar Heels under a bigger spotlight: McDonald’s All-American James Michael McAdoo. Sheehey’s giving up size to the sophomore, but he knocks the ball out of McAdoo’s hands and out of bounds. Once inbounded, Sheehey and Indiana’s team defense force McAdoo into a turnover.
Two IU possessions later, the junior wing hits another 3-pointer, and he rollicks down the floor like a man possessed, banging his right middle, ring and pinky fingers against his right temple — the team’s symbol for “3” this season.
On the ensuing Tar Heel possession, Remy Abell fouls Dexter Strickland on a made lay-in. Sheehey’s about to be subbed out for the final time on the night, but he’s not done. He re-directs his body — with purpose, mind you — to get a shoulder into Strickland and says a little something into his ear for good measure.
By the time the buzzer sounds and Sheehey leaves the court, it’s a coronation. A jawing celebration with fellow junior Victor Oladipo and a high five and some spirited words from his coach Tom Crean — with both interactions maybe featuring a colorful word or two out of Sheehey’s mouth. More high fives and jacked-up celebrations come from IU’s entire bench, as Sheehey makes his way from the coaching staff down to the last player.
He finishes the night with 19 points, five rebounds, two steals and a heck of a lot of pointing and barking and vocal leading on the court.
After the game, a veteran member of IU’s press corps asks Sheehey where all the emotion came from after that 3-pointer.
“Will had a very similar role on our team that he has at Indiana,” Sagemont’s Adam Ross, Sheehey’s high school coach, said Tuesday morning from his office in south Florida. “He’s a high-energy guy. He brings an incredible amount of intensity and work ethic … Will was a leader.”
Hoosiers playing well, but the best is yet to come
Through its first nine games, Indiana has lived up to the preseason narrative that placed the Hoosiers at the top of the national polls.
They’ve done it by grinding out a pair of wins at the Barclays Center to win the Legends Classic, burying North Carolina in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge and pounding the six other opponents that have entered Assembly Hall.
And it’s not just the human polls who have anointed the Hoosiers the best team in the land. The computers bear it out, too, thus far.
As expected, Indiana’s offense is first in the country in efficiency according to KenPom.com. But that was to be expected given how the Hoosiers performed a season ago.
What was less certain is how this team would fare on the other side of the ball. So far, so good as it pertains to that question. Indiana ranks seventh in defensive efficiency and looks like a group who understands that defense is just as important if the goal is to play deep into the NCAA Tournament.
When combing through the roster, Indiana appears to have the most complete mix of talent and pieces in the land.
“They’ve got versatility, they’ve got shooters, they’ve got size,” CBS Sports analyst Clark Kellogg told me last month. “They’ve got perhaps the player of the year in Cody Zeller.”
Zeller is the country’s most versatile big man and is coming off his best game statistically of the season after a battle with asthmatic bronchitis. In the back court, Jordan Hulls is third in the country in effective field goal percentage (75.0). His running mate, Yogi Ferrell, boasts an assist rate of 28.4, good for fifth in the Big Ten.
On the wings, Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey have a legitimate case for being called the two most improved players on the roster. Oladipo is shooting close to 76 percent on his 2-point field goal attempts and has arguably been the Big Ten’s best defender. Sheehey, meanwhile, has perfected his old school midrange game and has morphed into an even bigger pest defensively.
And don’t forget Christian Watford, who already has a pair of 20-point games. Remy Abell has also showcased an improved offensive game and is a gritty defender.
But as Indiana rides the momentum of a 9-0 start and a No. 1 national ranking into Bankers Life Fieldhouse to face Butler on Saturday, there’s a sense that these Hoosiers could become much more dangerous in the weeks leading up to Big Ten play. That’s because freshmen Hanner Mosquera-Perea and Peter Jurkin have completed their NCAA-mandated nine-game suspensions and are eligible to play beginning this weekend.
It’s a challenging proposition for any team to blend in new pieces, but for a team that’s been steamrolling opponents like Indiana has, it’s an even bigger challenge to integrate Mosquera-Perea and Jurkin while avoiding interruption of what’s been working well.
“It’s not a wholesale, ‘well we’ll do this now because this guy’s back or that guy’s back.’ It doesn’t work that way,” Tom Crean said Monday evening on his radio show. “You’ve gotta blend it in. You don’t want to put your players in situations that they’re not ready for.
The Indiana staff has had a great deal of recruiting success on the East Coast recently, and they seem focused on continuing to hit that part of the country hard.
After scoring commitments from Troy Williams and Noah Vonleh earlier this fall, Crean extended an offer to 2015 New Jersey guard Malachi Richardson last week. Richardson, a 6-foot-6 prospect from Roselle Catholic High School, is ranked 20th in the 2015 class, according to ESPN.com.
Richardson already has offers from Cincinnati, Rutgers, Seton Hall and Miami (Fl.), and has also reportedly received interest from Connecticut.
Despite the interest from other schools, though, Roselle Catholic coach Dave Boff said Richardson has always had an interest in Indiana. The rising sophomore played his first high school season at Treton Catholic.
“They were always high on his list when he transferred to my school,” Boff said. “That was one of the school’s that he really was interested in and was hoping to get an offer from. He’s pretty in touch with what Indiana’s program is all about. I know he spent some time talking to Coach [Crean] over the past few weeks, so I think he has a pretty feel for what Indiana is doing out there and the things that are happening with the program.”
The main strength of Richardson’s game at this point is his shooting ability. Boff said Richardson has continued to gain more range, and his shot has developed remarkable consistency for his age.
“Right now, the only thing I think he has to do is, offensively, just fine-tune a few things,” Boff said. “He already shoots it fantastically, shoots out to 23-24 feet at this point. He can take it to the rim and dunk in traffic. His ability to create space off the dribble to get his own shot is as good as I’ve ever seen.
In his last four outings before Saturday night’s 21-point, 8-of-12 outburst against Central Connecticut State, senior Christian Watford was just 11 of his last 36, including a 1-of-9 performance against North Carolina and a 3-of-10 outing against Georgetown in Brooklyn.
Watford was helped along against the Blue Devils by getting three wide-open 3-pointers, all of which he hit. But he also showed some aggression in the halfcourt by flashing to open spots and getting some buckets in pick-and-roll action.
A look at four such plays in the latest edition of Film Session.
I. Watford misses his only contested 3-pointer of the evening:
Cody Zeller gets the rebound and sees Jordan Hulls on the right wing:
Hulls has the option to kick it back up top to Yogi Ferrell or hit Watford in the lane, who fills the gap there and calls for the ball. Hulls opts for Yogi:
The Blue Devils are able to recover out and get a body on Ferrell, but he quickly comes right and starts to turn the corner. Watford is still lurking in the paint. Victor Oladipo, on the left block, is also another open option here:
January’s games are highlighted with the 2013 Spalding Hoop Hall Classic on ESPN and ESPNU January 20-21. The event brings together top teams and players from across the nation and this year’s rosters includes: No. 1 Andrew Wiggins (No. 3 Huntington Prep) vs. No. 8 Noah Vonleh (New Hampton School), No. 61 Nick Emery and No. 76 Eric Mika (No. 10 Lone Peak) vs. No. 7 Aaron Gordon (No. 12 Archbishop Mitty), and No. 2 Jabari Parker (No. 1 Simeon) vs. No. 33 Troy Williams (No. 6 Oak Hill).
Notebook: Indiana preparing to blend in Mosquera-Perea, Jurkin
Indiana’s front line could receive a significant boost in Saturday’s game with Butler when freshmen Hanner Mosquera-Perea and Peter Jurkin will be eligible to play for the first time after serving a nine-game suspension from the NCAA.
With the Hoosiers sitting at 9-0 and No. 1 in the country while playing at a high level, it sounds as if both guys could be worked slowly into the rotation.
“We’ve been very cautious with them coming back because there’s been no pressing need for them to have to play in the games,” Crean said Monday on the Big Ten coaches teleconference. “So you want to make sure you’re doing a good job of letting guys get adjusted, be in the mix, not rush them and try to help build their confidence. The bottom line is you don’t want to put anybody in a situation they’re not ready for, especially in a situation like this where we’re already nine games in, going into game ten.”
Mosquera-Perea, who has battled a left foot injury for most of the fall that’s forced him to wear a walking boot at times, was healthy enough to play in recent weeks, but Indiana has remained cautious as he works his way back.
Crean wouldn’t say whether or not Mosquera-Perea is back to full strength.
“Full strength is a relative term. I don’t know if I would call it full strength, but he’s in a situation where he’s getting better all of the time,” he said. “He certainly would have been able to play, but as to what level and how long remains to be seen because we didn’t bring him back that way in the sense when this became the situation that it was with them having to sit out.”
The Hoosiers have yet to win a game by fewer than ten points despite having a relatively thin front court which has forced Will Sheehey and Jeremy Hollowell to log minutes at the four.
Getting Mosquera-Perea and Jurkin integrated should provide a major boost to IU’s athleticism and depth in the front court.
“I think the length that they bring is tremendous,” Crean said. “I think the fact that there’s a toughness around the rim, defensively, without question. Rebounding, without question. I think the scoring will come through the course of the offense, through the course of the game and then they’ll get integrated more and more into what we’re trying to do as far as plays and concepts and things of that nature. I think just the overall attack and aggressiveness on the defensive end and the rebounding is what will start it.”
+ Collin Hartman (Indianapolis Cathedral): Did not play due to a concussion in Cathedral’s 67-64 overtime loss to Indianapolis Tech on Dec. 7.
+ Devin Davis Jr. (Warren Central): 28 points and nine rebounds (video below) in a 57-54 overtime win at Fishers on Dec. 6 and 10 points in a 58-49 win over Avon on Dec. 8. Surpassed 1,000-point mark in the win over Avon.
+ Luke Fischer (Germantown, WI): 13 points (in limited minutes) in a 76-42 win over Grafton on Dec. 7.
+ Noah Vonleh (New Hampton Prep, NH): With Tom Crean in attendance, Vonleh scored 14 points and grabbed 15 rebounds as New Hampton snapped a 46-game home court winning streak for Brewster Academy, 66-58, on Dec. 5. Did not play in an 88-55 win over Proctor Academy on Dec. 8 as he reportedly returned home for personal reasons.
+ Stanford Robinson (Findlay Prep, NV): 15 points (in 16 minutes) in a 77-33 win over Las Vegas High on Dec. 7.
+ Troy Williams (Oak Hill Academy, VA): 14 points, nine rebounds, three assists, three blocks and a steal in a 58-50 win over Flora McDonald Academy on Dec. 4. Game-high 24 points and 15 rebounds in an 82-45 win over Kecoughton on Dec. 6. Fourteen points in a 56-54 overtime loss to Paul VI Catholic on Dec. 8.
+ James Blackmon Jr. (Ft. Wayne Luers): In front of Tom Crean, Blackmon Jr. poured in 44 points in a 79-63 win over Ft. Wayne South on Dec. 7.
Etherington out for the season with fractured patella
Indiana sophomore guard Austin Etherington underwent surgery this morning to repair a fractured patella he suffered late in the first half of Saturday’s 100-69 win against Central Connecticut State.
Etherington will miss the remainder of the season. He was averaging 1.9 points and 1.7 rebounds in 6.7 minutes per game so far this season.
Etherington went down in agonizing pain while attempting to take a charge late in the first half Saturday. He was immediately surrounded by the Indiana medical and coaching staff, and was eventually taken off the floor on a stretcher.
Etherington, an Indiana native, held up one finger to the crowd as he was wheeled off.
“Anytime you lose a valued member of your program it not only hurts the team, but also everyone’s hearts,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said in a release. “Austin has been doing an excellent job improving and now we have to help him overcome this setback and move forward.
“Our players have experience in this area and everyone is looking forward to helping him recover. As serious as his injury was, we are thankful that it was not worse. We have such an outstanding medical team I could not imagine going through something like this without them. We are fortunate to have them.”