Dante Exum leaning toward Indiana, attending college in states

011812Class of 2014 guard Dante Exum, who took an official visit to Indiana in early January for the Minnesota game, told Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com at the adidas Eurocamp in Treviso, Italy that the Hoosiers are the favorite to sign him.

“Australian SG Dante Exum, a rising star, tells me Indiana U in the recruiting lead to sign him for 2014-15. His only visit so far,” Howard-Cooper tweeted today.

Exum, who could be eligible for the 2014 NBA Draft, also told Cooper that he’s planning to attend college.

“My gut tells me right now I’m going to college,” Exum told Howard-Cooper.

Many draft experts had suggested in recent months that Exum, who plays at the Australian Institue of Sport in Canberra, could forego college altogether and enter the draft.

His performance at the Nike Hoop Summit in Portland in April fueled that speculation when he scored 16 points (6-of-8 FG, 3-of-5 FT) to go along with three rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block in a 112-98 win for the World Team over Team USA.

After his visit to Bloomington, Exum told Inside the Hall that he was very impressed by the IU program.

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HD Video: James Blackmon Jr. perfect from field in Junior All-Stars win

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — 2014 Marion guard and IU commitment James Blackmon Jr. went a perfect 5-for-5 from the field on Saturday night as the Indiana Junior All-Stars beat Kentucky 86-73 at St. Xavier High School.

Blackmon Jr. finished with 13 points and with a total of 40 points in two wins over Kentucky, a team-high. Watch all five of Blackmon Jr.’s buckets from Saturday in the embedded media player below:

Freshman Focus: Noah Vonleh

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“Freshman Focus” is an Inside the Hall series on each of Indiana’s six incoming freshman. Over the next couple of weeks, we will examine what kind of an impact each player can have for the Hoosiers next season. Today: Noah Vonleh.

Of Indiana’s six incoming freshmen, Noah Vonleh figures to have the biggest role, responsibilities and impact right away.

Vonleh, the last of the 2013 recruits to commit, is the prize of the class. He’s a 6-foot-9, 230-pound power forward with a 7-foot-4 wingspan and a skill set not common for someone his size and age. He’ll turn 18 in late August.

Vonleh, ranked 13th in the 2013 class by ESPN.com, has an above average post-up game and also possesses the ability to go out on the perimeter and knock down a 3-pointer. Oh, and he averaged 11.8 rebounds per game as a senior at the New Hampton School (N.H.) and he plays defense, too.

“He fits the physical characteristics already to play at that level,” said Vin Pastore, Vonleh’s mentor and AAU coach for Mass Rivals. “He can rebound at any level, anywhere right now. He’s going to be able to do that immediately at Indiana. If you look at his skill set, you’ll see he’s polished for a big guy. He handles the ball extremely well, he has great touch.

“Have you shaken his hand yet? Go shake his hand. It’s as hard as a catcher’s mitt. And usually when a kid’s hands are like that, you don’t have the touch. But he defies everything.”

Vonleh is already on campus and began working out with some of his Indiana teammates on June 3. He’s also currently taking summer school classes. Indiana coach Tom Crean has continually raved about Vonleh on his Twitter account ever since he arrived in Bloomington, marveling at his desire to get better and his commitment to stay in the gym.

Crean tweeted that he believes Vonleh will soon be a ‘365 day’ guy for the Hoosiers and said he’s a McDonald’s All-American “with no entitlement issues”.

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James Blackmon Jr. perfect from field as Indiana Juniors sweep Kentucky

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The Indiana Junior All-Stars needed overtime to fend off the Kentucky Junior All-Stars on Friday night at Greenfield-Central.

On Saturday night at St. Xavier High School, a more focused and sharp group showed up and easily dispatched of the Kentucky Juniors, 86-73.

Indiana commitment James Blackmon Jr. shot a perfect 5-of-5 from the field and finished with 13 points, bringing his total in the two-game series to 40 points, a team-high.

“Yesterday we didn’t start out with intensity. We just came out kind of stiff,” Blackmon Jr. said. “Today I thought we picked up our defense and that brought our offense along.”

The Indiana Juniors shot 53 percent from the field and had five players besides Blackmon Jr. with eight or more points, including Tech’s Trey Lyles (18 points), Plymouth’s Mack Mercer (10 points), Park Tudor’s Trevon Bluiett (8 points), Greensburg’s Bryant McIntosh (8 points) and Guerin Catholic’s Aaron Brennan (8 points).

The next test for the Juniors will be a pair of exhibitions against the Indiana All-Stars beginning on Monday at Sullivan.

The two teams will also square off Wednesday night at Tipton.

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Freshman Focus: Luke Fischer

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“Freshman Focus” is an Inside the Hall series on each of Indiana’s six incoming freshman. Over the next couple of weeks, we will examine what kind of an impact each player can have for the Hoosiers next season. Today: Luke Fischer.

It’s hard to dominate the high school game more than Luke Fischer and his Germantown teammates did in the state of Wisconsin over the last two years.

With Fischer leading the way, Germantown won 56 consecutive games and two straight state championships, winning the most recent one by a 57-28 margin.

Fischer, who will report to Bloomington later this month, scored 17 points in that game and averaged 21.3 points and 9.5 rebounds per game as a senior.

With Cody Zeller’s departure for the NBA after last season, Fischer’s arrival is even more important for Tom Crean and the Hoosiers. Fischer’s stock has risen consistently since he signed with the Hoosiers, and his game continues to improve.

“Luke is coming in looking at everything as an opportunity,” said Justin Litscher, Fischer’s AAU coach with Wisconsin Swing. “He’s gonna fill whatever role they need him to, if that’s starting or if that’s coming off the bench. I know he’s excited. If he had the choice, I think he probably would have left right after state for Indiana.”

It’s certainly too early to know, but Fischer figures to be a strong candidate to replace Zeller as Indiana’s starting center when the season begins. He’s not as tall as Zeller was — he’s listed at 6-foot-10 — but Litscher said Fischer’s strength helps him to play bigger than that.

“Luke’s really developed his lower half and his ability to just seal,” Litscher said. “Once he seals, it’s over, he’s gonna score. His lower half is so strong, and people just look at him and say, ‘He’s gotta add strength.’ But from the waist down, he’s a strong kid. I mean very strong.”

While there’s no doubt Fischer would have gained a great deal from having Zeller to learn from when he arrived on campus, there are still things Fischer brings to the table that you can’t teach. He’s a proven winner, for one, and he possesses a work ethic that rivals some of the Indiana players responsible for building the culture that’s currently in place.

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Jordan Hulls works out for Pacers, Bulls

IUPUITH0003Former Indiana guard Jordan Hulls isn’t anywhere near ready to say goodbye to his basketball career.

Hulls, who earned his Masters Degree in May and exhausted his NCAA eligibility this past season, is in the process of working out for various NBA teams ahead of this month’s draft. Hulls worked out for the Indiana Pacers on Monday and the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday.

He said he and his agent have three or four more planned for the coming weeks, though he’s not sure when and where those will take place.

“I’m just doing as many workouts as I can and see what happens with that,” Hulls told Inside the Hall on Thursday. “The plan is to try to get on a summer league team. If I’m fortunate enough to have that happen, that would be great. Make a roster, awesome, I get to stay here. But if not, I’ll go overseas and play and make some money that way. Playing basketball is not too bad of a gig in my mind.”

In his interview with Inside the Hall, Hulls also talked about the way last season ended for he and the Hoosiers. Hulls injured his right shoulder in a third round win against Temple, and he struggled in his last collegiate game against Syracuse in the Sweet Sixteen.

Hulls was held scoreless on 0-of-6 shooting in a 61-50 loss to the Orange, and he was frustrated and disappointed afterward about the way he went out.

On March 30, Inside the Hall reported that Hulls played through a level 1 AC shoulder separation against Syracuse. Speaking about the injury for the first time since the season ended, Hulls admitted he wasn’t nearly himself after the injury.

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HD Video: Tom Crean addresses media at Huber Farms

STARLIGHT, Ind. — The IU Tailgate Tour rolled into Huber Winery on Wednesday night with an estimated crowd of 900 fans.

Before taking the stage, Tom Crean met with the media and talked about his team’s APR recognition from the NCAA, Will Sheehey and Yogi Ferrell trying out for the World University Games, leadership on next season’s team and much more.

Watch and listen to Crean’s comments below:

Crean: “We’ve got to have collective leadership”

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STARLIGHT, Ind. — When Indiana takes the floor next fall, the Hoosiers will be without two likely lottery picks in Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo and two four-year, 1,000-point scorers in Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford. Will Sheehey will be the only four-year player in the program and seven new players, including six freshman, will be counted on to play significant roles.

From a depth perspective, Indiana could be stronger top to bottom than it was last season, but losing four starters also leaves a potential void in leadership.

But just as the Hoosiers had different players lead throughout the 2012-2013 season, Tom Crean said Wednesday night at the IU Tailgate Tour stop at Huber Winery that next season’s team might not have a definitive leader.

“I don’t know if this is a team that you say, ‘this is the one leader,’ Crean said. “We’ve got to have collective leadership. I don’t think this is a thing where it’s going to be one or two guys that we bestow the leadership mantle to in the summer.”

The Indiana players currently on campus have already started summer workouts and all seven newcomers are expected in town by the end of next week.

While much of the offseason dialogue will be centered around what Indiana lost to early entries to the NBA and graduation, the opportunity to mold a new group of players into a team is exciting for Crean.

“It’s really going to be important that so many of them can step in and play,” he said. “I think we have a chance to have a deeper team. I think our athleticism is going to be really strong. The glass half empty is that we lost a lot of people. The glass half full is we’ve got such a young team and they’re going to have that much more of a chance for growth.”

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