Nation’s elite pursue 2017 point guard Tremont Waters

One of the hottest names on the recruiting trail this spring is class of 2017 South Kent (Conn.) point guard Tremont Waters.

The 5-foot-11, 160-pound floor general has added offers in recent weeks from Duke, Kentucky and Kansas. But Waters is content with letting the process play out as his recruitment heats up.

Inside the Hall was at the second Nike Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL) stop in Westfield recently as Waters talked to reporters about his recruitment.

“I’m not committing to any list right now,” he said. “I’m just enjoying the process and letting everything come to me. I’m open to anything.”

Indiana has been keeping tabs on Waters for several years now as they first wrote him a letter as a seventh grader. He said the Hoosier pursuit has intensified in recent weeks.

“They did offer. They said that if I went there that I would be just like Yogi Ferrell,” Waters said. “I would go in and run the show like he does. They keep comparing me to him. After me watching him, I think I play just like him.”

As a junior at South Kent, Waters averaged close to 25 points, eight assists and five steals per game.

So far this spring on the EYBL circuit with Expressions Elite, he’s averaging 14 points, 4.9 assists and 4.3 rebounds in 29 minutes per game. At 4-3, Expressions Elite has work to do over the next two EYBL sessions to solidify a berth in July’s Peach Jam.

Teaming with another IU target – 2017 big man Nick Richards – has been beneficial for Waters as he continues to hone his point guard skills.

“It makes my job easier,” he explained. “I don’t have to shoot over 7-footers. I can drop it off to him for a dunk. It makes me look good.”

As for his game, Waters, who is ranked the No. 48 prospect in the 247Composite, said he’ll continue to focus on the things that got him to this point.

“Just becoming an elite guard — I can score the basketball,” he said. “Everyone says my shot is terrific. I have to keep working on it, though. Running the team. Defensively, I’m a pest on defense. That’s why they (the schools) keep coming.”

Ranking the importance of Big Ten NBA draft decisions

The NBA draft combine takes place next week in Chicago and the deadline for players who haven’t hired an agent to withdraw from school is now just three weeks away.

Ten Big Ten underclassmen have opted to test the draft waters without hiring an agent and each decision will have an impact on shaping next season’s conference race.

Here’s our look at each decision and a 1-10 ranking of each in terms of importance to next season’s Big Ten hierarchy.

(Note: Three underclassmen have hired agents and will not be returning to school: Michigan State’s Deyonta Davis and Maryland’s Robert Carter and Diamond Stone.)

10. Corey Sanders, Rutgers – Sanders is expected to return to school and play for new head coach Steve Pikiell, which would be a wise decision. But his decision will have very little impact on next year’s Big Ten race as the Scarlet Knights are nowhere close to contending after a dismal 7-25 season. With no invite to the combine, Sanders would be wise to return for his sophomore season.

9. Trevor Thompson, Ohio State – After an underwhelming sophomore season in Columbus in which he averaged 6.5 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game, Thompson isn’t exactly a game-changer for the Buckeyes. He was inconsistent and got dominated by some of the league’s other elite big men. The importance of him returning to school certainly increased when freshman Daniel Giddens opted to transfer, but Ohio State is unlikely to win the Big Ten next season regardless of his decision.

8. Andrew White III, Nebraska – White is crucial to Nebraska, but the Huskers are still rebuilding in the years after their surprising 2014 NCAA tournament appearance. If he doesn’t return to Lincoln, Tim Miles loses his best player and is probably headed for another Wednesday appearance in the Big Ten tournament. If he returns, Nebraska can likely improve upon a disappointing 6-12 league campaign last season.

7. James Blackmon Jr., Indiana – Blackmon Jr. seems to be using the process just to gain direct feedback from NBA teams as he wasn’t invited to the combine or even selected as an alternate. That’s a pretty strong indication of where he stands in terms of his draft stock right now coming off of an injury. If he leaves, it would mean more minutes for incoming freshman Curtis Jones, who is a top 50 recruit that is expected to be in next season’s rotation for the Hoosiers.

6. Vince Edwards, Purdue  Edwards is another player who is using the system to his advantage to gain feedback from the NBA, which is a smart move. His chances of actually getting drafted are meager, but with Rapheal Davis and A.J. Hammons moving on, his return to West Lafayette is pivotal to Purdue’s success next season. The Boilermakers have no comparable player on the roster at his position if he decides to stay in the draft.

5. Peter Jok, Iowa  The Hawkeyes are going to take a step back next season, but if Jok leaves, it could be a giant tumble. He’s without a doubt Iowa’s best returning player and will be in the mix for first team All-Big Ten honors if he can build on a strong junior season. Like several others on this list, he was not invited to the combine. So unless he’s just itching to play professionally somewhere, he’ll likely be back in Iowa City.

4. Troy Williams, Indiana – This is where the list gets a little more interesting. The top four players on this list all received combine invites. Williams is a player who can likely solidify himself a spot in the draft somewhere with a strong combine showing and the fact that he’s graduating this month makes him a stronger candidate to stay in the draft. While he would certainly boost Indiana’s upside if he returns to school, the Hoosiers have OG Anunoby there to soften the blow if Williams bolts.

3. Caleb Swanigan, Purdue  Swanigan is talking like a guy who is ready to go to the NBA, but is the league ready to welcome him? The combine and individual workouts are going to determine that. Right now, the DraftExpress and Chad Ford rankings suggest that Swanigan needs another year of school. If he leaves, Edwards probably slides to the four and Purdue becomes a little less deep on the frontline. If he returns, the Purdue frontline should once again be elite with Swanigan, Edwards and 7-foot-2 Isaac Haas.

2. Melo Trimble, Maryland – Trimble was a bit of a disappointment as a sophomore after earning preseason Big Ten player of the year honors, but he’s still an elite college point guard. Those aren’t easy to find and if he leaves, Maryland is going to miss him and will have to rely on Jaylen Brantley and freshman Anthony Cowan. But if he comes back? The Terps are probably a top 25 team with Trimble, Jared Nickens, Dion Wiley, Kevin Huerter, Brantley, Cowan and a solid, but unspectacular, frontcourt of Damonte Dodd and Michal Cekovsky.

1. Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin – If Hayes returns – and he has said that is the plan – the Badgers are in the discussion for Big Ten favorite heading into next season. His return would mean every notable player from a team that won 12 league games and reached the Sweet Sixteen would be back in Madison. If he leaves, it’ll be mean more responsibility for Ethan Happ, Vitto Brown, Charlie Thomas, Khalil Iverson and Alex Illikainen.

(Photo credit: Rey Del Rio/Getty Images North America)

Recruitment continues to grow for 2017 wing Justin Smith

Based on his play this spring for the Mac Irvin Fire, the recruitment of class of 2017 Stevenson (Ill.) forward Justin Smith is picking up steam.

The 6-foot-7, 205-pound forward is averaging 11.5 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.1 steals through seven games on the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL) circuit.

As a result, more schools have jumped into the mix for Smith, who is ranked the No. 134 prospect nationally by the 247Composite.

Villanova, Florida State, NC State, Stanford and Iowa State have all offered scholarships recently, joining a list that already included Indiana, Illinois, Northwestern, Purdue, Wake Forest, Wisconsin and others.

Indiana has been a long standing presence in Smith’s recruitment as the Hoosier staff has scouted him many times and has also hosted him for three unofficial visits in Bloomington.

The high scoring, up tempo offense at Indiana has caught the eye of Smith, who said he has no timetable for a decision or when he’ll make a list of finalists and begin taking official visits.

“Just the pace at which they play at,” Smith told Inside the Hall at the EYBL stop in Westfield. “They get up and down the floor, they move the ball around, they get good, open shots. I feel like that would fit my game.”

After playing in a supporting role as a sophomore at Stevenson next to Jalen Brunson on a Class 4A state championship team, Smith took on a much bigger role in his junior season of high school. He averaged 19 points and nine rebounds.

One of the keys to becoming more assertive has been improved confidence.

“Coming off of last year, I was a little shaky, up and down,” he explained. I’d say this year I’m more confident in what I can do and showcasing that. My decision making has gotten much better. And being able to get my teammates open along with myself has helped.”

When asked which schools he felt have been prioritizing him in their recruiting efforts for 2017, Smith mentioned Indiana, Wisconsin and Villanova.

But his focus over the next month s is helping Mac Irvin Fire turn things around from a 2-5 start on the EYBL to get into position for a berth in July’s Peach Jam.

Mac Irvin Fire also features Michigan commit Jordan Poole and forward Christian Negron, who has also visited Indiana. Smith is the only player for Mac Irvin Fire scoring in double figures in EYBL play.

“We just need to play bigger,” Smith said. “We’re an undersized team so we have to fight harder on the glass. We have to play team defense. We have the talent, we just need to play harder.”

Site News: We’re hiring an intern for the 2016-17 season

Andrew Vailliencourt just completed his first season as a contributor at Inside the Hall and in the fall, will be moving on to an internship at Sports Illustrated.

His departure and some changes in the current needs for the site have brought about some changes as to how we’ll be looking at the position that he, Jordan Littman, Justin Albers and Zach Osterman held before him.

We’ve excited to partner with The Assembly Call for a new internship position that will provide a well-rounded experience for a current IU media student to work with both sites and gain experience in a variety of areas.

While the position is not full-time, it is a tremendous opportunity for a student to gain experience covering a major college basketball program in a variety of capacities and also earn compensation.

In partnership with the Assembly Call, we’ve broken down the responsibilities of the position below by site:

For Inside the Hall

– Attending media availability sessions, all home games and potentially some road games. The primary responsibility here will be video, but there will also be opportunities to do some writing depending on the situation and the candidate’s experience.
– There will be a need in some instances for game recaps/notebooks, previews and potentially other features throughout the season.

For The Assembly Call

– Link roundups for the Assembly Call website for all road games.
– Special writing assignments for 50 Greatest Hoosiers series and other IU tradition content.
– Ongoing help compiling our anthology book.
– Opportunities for additional broadcasting where desired, on our student-run show and even on postgame show.

Requirements

– A passion to cover college basketball.
– Writing and interviewing experience covering sports.
– Working knowledge of Indiana basketball and the college basketball landscape.
– Dress and act professionally.
– Ability to be on time and meet deadlines.
– Schedule amenable to job demands (media sessions, games).
– An IU student that lives in the Bloomington area.
– Basic knowledge of using WordPress, YouTube and social media.
– Basic video editing skills or an interest in learning more about it.

How do I apply?

Send us an email at pabozich@gmail.com with your resume, at least two samples of your work (writing, audio, video) and anything else that we need to know about you and your interest in the position. There is no firm deadline to apply, but we will begin reviewing applicants immediately and work towards making a hire in the coming months.

POTB 127: Combine invites, Big Ten program rankings discussion

Podcast on the Brink is back for another episode with host Jerod Morris of The Assembly Call. The show is currently available weekly. You can access a full archive of episodes here.

In this edition of the show, Morris and Inside the Hall editor Alex Bozich discuss the NBA draft combine invites and the recent piece on the site which ranked the Big Ten programs over the last five years.

Among the topics discussed:

· Whether it’s a surprise that Yogi Ferrell was only an alternate for the combine
· What’s next for James Blackmon Jr.
· Background for the Big Ten rankings piece
· Whether it was a surprise Indiana was fifth on the list
· What surprised Jerod and Alex when looking at the results
· The consistency of Michigan State and Wisconsin
· Which programs are trending up in the league and which programs are trending down

And plenty more. As always, feel free to drop the show a note at jerod@assemblycall.com.

Listen in the audio player below, download the episode, subscribe via iTunes or subscribe to the RSS feed.

A ranking of the Big Ten programs over the past five years

Measuring success of a program over a set period of time is a difficult exercise because there are plenty of factors that belong in the equation.

Some would argue that NCAA tournament success is the most important ingredient. Others might argue for Big Ten wins. One particular program in the SEC might argue it’s NBA draft picks or recruiting that are most important. And someone who studies the numbers might look at something like a KenPom ranking as a way to measure the performance of a program.

Over the last few days, we put together an exercise to measure success of each Big Ten program over the last five years using all of the factors mentioned above. There were, of course, some challenges and a few things we had to work around with Rutgers and Maryland joining the league in that span of time.

But as you’ll see below, here is what we looked at as a part of the exercise:

· Regular season Big Ten wins over the past five seasons
· NCAA tournament wins over the past five seasons
· Recruiting class rankings over the past five signing classes (using the 247Composite rankings and including 2016, which is still ongoing)
· Players drafted by the NBA over the last five NBA drafts (2011-2015)
· Final KenPom ranking over the last five seasons

Why did we chose these factors?

· Big Ten wins are more relevant than total wins in a season because not all schedules are created equally.
· NCAA tournament wins are pretty self explanatory as they measure success in the season’s most important time.
· Recruiting rankings obviously are far from a perfect science, but they do at least provide a guide or a measurement of a program’s ability to identify and sign talent. Using a composite view of the rankings brings together all of the services to remove any potential biases.
· Players drafted to the NBA provides a snapshot of a program’s ability to develop players and get them to the next level. It obviously doesn’t look at NBA success, but once a player becomes a professional, his development is out of the hands of the program from which he came.
· KenPom’s rankings, in our opinion, are the best computer model to measure the complete performance of a team over a season and are far more valuable than any human poll.

Now, the caveats.

For Maryland and Rutgers, we had to use their conference wins in other leagues. For Rutgers, it didn’t matter too much. For Maryland, using ACC wins may have actually given a slight boost given that the Big Ten ranked ahead of the ACC in KenPom for each season affected (2011-12, 2012-13 and 2013-14).

For the NBA draft aspect, we only looked at players drafted, not players who have played in the NBA. For Ohio State, that means Deshaun Thomas and Jon Diebler, two guys who have never played in the league, are included. And for Iowa, it includes Aaron White, who also has yet to play in the league.

We also assigned more importance to some of the five categories. Here is how we weighted each category into the final equation:

· Regular season Big Ten wins over the past five seasons (30 percent)
· NCAA tournament wins over the past five seasons (30 percent)
· Final KenPom ranking over the last five seasons (25 percent)
· Players drafted by the NBA over the last five NBA drafts (7.5 percent)
· Recruiting class rankings over the past five signing classes (7.5 percent)

Why did we weight each category as such?

We wanted to assign the most value to winning conference games and NCAA tournament games. The KenPom ranking was also important because of the way it tracks the performance of a team over a complete season, but not as important as winning in the Big Ten or in March, so we assigned a little less value there. The NBA and recruiting factors definitely deserved a seat at the table, but you don’t hang banners for either one, so we assigned them just 1/4 of the value of winning in the Big Ten or the NCAA tournament.

Weekend notes: NBA combine invites announced, Niego to Hillsdale

Indiana will have just one representative at next week’s NBA draft combine in Chicago, according to a list compiled by Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com.

The NBA has not yet released an official list of who will attend the combine, but according to Goodman’s list, Troy Williams is the only Indiana player who was invited to participate.

Yogi Ferrell is listed as an alternate on the list of participants, which was also reported by Draft Express. Indiana junior guard James Blackmon Jr. is not on the list as a participant or an alternate.

The draft combine will take place from May 11-15.

Underclassmen who have declared for the draft but chose not to hire an agent will have until May 25 to withdraw their names and maintain their NCAA eligibility.

Niego heading to Division II

Former Indiana walk-on guard Harrison Niego has a new home.

The 6-foot-2 guard, who announced he was leaving Indiana in early April to pursue a Division I scholarship opportunity, has decided to go the Division II route.

Niego announced on social media over the weekend that he’s transferring to Hillsdale College in Michigan. According to reports, Niego will receive a full scholarship at Hillsdale.


In 25 games as a freshman for the Hoosiers, Niego scored 11 points and had 15 rebounds.

“Coming to IU and being part of the program has been one of the best experiences of my life,” Niego said at the time of his transfer. “After much thought, I have decided to look for opportunities that will allow me to have an expanded role on the court and one that will also pay for my education. I’m indebted to Coach Crean and the staff for believing in my ability and inspiring me every day to get better and to my teammates who will always be like family. It has been an honor to play for Indiana.”

Four-star wing Jordan Tucker on IU: “They really want me”

One of the top wing players in the 2017 class was in Bloomington earlier as Archbishop Stepinac (NY) took an unofficial visit to the IU campus.

The 6-foot-7, 205-pound Tucker is ranked the No. 31 player in the country according to the 247Composite.

Last weekend, he was in Westfield for the second Nike Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL) session where he teamed with five-star guard Hamidou Diallo on the New York Rens.

Formerly an adidas-sponsored program, the Rens are playing in the EYBL this year for the first time and Tucker made the move over from the New York Lightning, another EYBL program.

He mentioned Indiana as one of the schools most active in his recruitment in an interview in Westfield last weekend. The Hoosiers offered him a scholarship last May.

“They’re very high on me. They really want me,” Tucker told Inside the Hall. “They just want to get me into the program so that they can develop me. Tom Crean said I can be a special player so he wants to try to make it happen.”

On the EYBL circuit, Tucker is averaging 12.3 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game as the Rens are off to a 5-2 start and firmly in the mix for a berth in July’s Peach Jam.

In addition to the heavy interest from Indiana, Tucker mentioned Syracuse, Maryland, Villanova, Oklahoma, USC and St. John’s as some of the schools most involved in his recruitment.

Along with Diallo and Quade Green, Tucker is scheduled to take an unofficial visit to Syracuse today and the Orange have prioritized him on their list of targets.

“I’m a New York kid. They’ve been on me since I was a freshman,” he said. “They think I can fit perfect in their system as far as being a scorer, shooter and someone that can be very impactful in their zone.”

Tucker, who holds offers from more than 30 programs, hopes to use the rest of the spring and the summer to continue working on his game so that he’s ready to make a major impact when he begins his college career in the fall of 2017.

“I think just working on my athleticism and playing hard throughout the whole game,” Tucker explained. “Sometimes I miss shots and let it get me down, but I just need to keep going.”

(Photo credit: Jon Lopez/Nike)

Q & A: Catching up with 2017 IU commit Al Durham

Class of 2017 Berkmar (Ga.) guard Al Durham committed to the Hoosiers last fall following a trip to Bloomington and remains Indiana’s lone commitment in the class.

It’s been an up-and-down start to the spring for Durham, who is ranked a 3-star prospect and the No. 207 player in the country according to the 247Composite.

Through the first two sessions on the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL) circuit, Durham is averaging 13.7 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game, but is shooting just 30.5 percent from the field and is committing 2.9 turnovers per game.

Inside the Hall caught up with the 6-foot-4 combo guard at the EYBL stop in Westfield last weekend to discuss a variety of topics. Our complete Q & A follows:

How are things going so far this spring on the circuit?

“It’s going OK so far. We just had two tough losses at the beginning of this session. We’ve just got to come back and bring the fight that we had the first session over these next two games.”

What does it take to win in this league?

“Every possession counts. You can’t take one possession off. You’ve got to play defense. You’ve got to make sure you know your assignment and the rest will take care of itself. You have to play defense and score off the mistakes the defense makes.”

This last game against CP3 seemed to get a little chippy at times. Is that just competitors getting after it?

“Yeah, we know each other and we’ve been playing against each other forever. It’s just a little competitiveness during the game and wanting to win, the will to win.”

What are you working on most right now in terms of your game?

“Repetition on my shot because that always can get better. Working on coming off of screens, footwork, two-foot jumping, ball fakes, all of that.”

What are your conversations like with Indiana at this point? What do you talk about with them?

“We talk about the process of getting ready to go up there. They gave me hints and stuff on things to start working on now so I’ll be ready when I come in.”

What do you like about the program the most? What stood out to you watching them play this season?

“They all play together. I love their team chemistry. They move the ball and everyone plays for each other. No one is really selfish. Everyone is looking to pass the ball and move and then when it is your turn, you gotta go make a play.”

You talked about your shot, what are the things you can do to improve there?

“Just repetition. Just make sure I shoot the same way, squared, follow through, elbow under the ball and then letting it go at the highest point.”

Give us a synopsis of your high school season and how it went.

“My high school season went well, we fell a little shorter than we anticipated. We played in the Sweet Sixteen and lost a tough one there, lost a couple of players, but it was a good season. We played well, but we’re going to come back next year stronger and better.”

Did you notice opponents coming after you harder after you committed to Indiana?

“It’s a lot of fun. People get up when they play against someone who is committed somewhere big. Everyone got up, they double teamed, they tried to get me off my game, trying to get into my head, but it was fun. I liked it and I love the competitiveness and I’ve got to show them why I’m going to Indiana.”

What’s your relationship like with coach (Tom) Crean and coach (Chuck) Martin? What do you like about them?

“It’s going well. They’re more similar to the people around me. They want to help me get better. They care for me and they care for all of the kids at Indiana like they are their own. I really like that. That really stands out to me.”

Five-star point guard Darius Garland has IU offer, ties to the state

One of the top prospects in the class of 2018 has taken an interest in Indiana and he has major ties to the state.

Darius Garland, a 6-foot, 160 pound point guard who attends Brentwood Academy in Nashville, Tennessee, lived in Indiana until his seventh grade year.

Garland is the son of Winston Garland, who played at Gary Roosevelt and later in the NBA for seven seasons where he spent time with Golden State, the Los Angeles Clippers, Denver, Houston and Minnesota. The older Garland was named to the Indiana high school basketball hall of fame’s Silver Anniversary team in 2007 and also coached at Westside High in Gary until 2012.

Darius is building his own name as he’s currently ranked a five-star prospect by the 247Composite and is building major recruiting interest as he stars this spring for the St. Louis Eagles on the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL) circuit.

As a sophomore at Brentwood Academy, Garland led the program to its second consecutive Division II-AA championship and also won Division II-AA Mr. Basketball honors. He averaged 18.6 points, 4.3 assists, 2.5 steals and two rebounds per game in his third season playing varsity.

His stellar play has continued this spring in his first season with the Eagles as he scored 51 points over three games at the EYBL stop last weekend in Westfield. The Eagles are 5-2 and in good position to qualify for July’s EYBL Peach Jam finals.

“I like it a lot (playing with the Eagles). Have some good teammates, coaches and I think I can fit really well with them,” Garland told Inside the Hall on Saturday. “We have a lot of good wings with Jordan Goodwin and Tim Finke and some solid bigs. It’s been a good fit for me, so I like it a lot.”

Not surprisingly, recruiting interest continues to pick up steam for Garland, who visited Indiana on March 6 for the Maryland game and received a scholarship offer on the trip.

In addition to Indiana, he mentioned Texas, Ohio State, UConn, Kansas, Vanderbilt, Louisville and UCLA as some of the schools involved early on.

“Everyone is in the mix right now because I’m so young,” Garland said when asked about where things stand with the recruiting process. “I haven’t been thinking about it a lot. Meeting new coaches and everything, it’s a lot of fun.”

The early March trip to Bloomington was a positive experience for the five-star floor general.

“It was really good. The atmosphere was crazy because it was senior night,” he explained. “It was really fun. They say they’re going to be on me really hard and they are here watching this weekend.”

Combine his ties to the state and the fact that he’s already been on campus and Garland’s recruitment appears to be one the Hoosiers could be in for the long haul.

“My family is up here and I’ve been liking Indiana for a while,” he said. “They just started recruiting me this year and I’m really excited about that.”

(Photo credit: The Tennessean)