LOUISVILLE, Ky. — While it was only a summer league game played in front of less than 100 people on a Wednesday night in June, Louisville Trinity (Ky.) coach Mike Szabo was still working the sidelines and coaching his top player, rising senior Raymond Spalding.
Trinity reached the final four of the Kentucky state tournament last year, falling to Scott County 62-56 at Rupp Arena.
To get back there again in 2015, the Shamrocks need a big summer of improvement out of Spalding. Adding strength, becoming more aggressive on the glass and continuing to become more comfortable shooting away from the basket are just a few of the areas where Spalding can continue to grow.
“As a player, I need a coach like that to develop and be after me every minute of the game,” Spalding told Inside the Hall on Wednesday. “I think he does a great job in practice, workouts and in games to push me.”
A 6-foot-10, 210 pound post player, Spalding is a priority recruit for Indiana, which offered him a scholarship in March after scouting him frequently during his junior season.
Spalding took an unofficial visit to Bloomington last season for for IU’s win over Michigan in early February.
“I’m a big priority to those guys. It’s great, I love hearing stuff like that,” he said. “In that program I feel like I can fit in well. Coach (Tom) Crean, he’s a great guy. Coach (Tim) Buckley does a great job. They’ve done a great job recruiting me.”
The Hoosiers, however, have plenty of company in their pursuit of the No. 82 player nationally, according to the 247Composite.
Class of 2015 center Stephen Zimmerman is one of 12 players who was selected last week for USA Basketball’s U18 team that will compete beginning tomorrow in Colorado Springs, Colorado in the FIBA Americas U18 Championship.
The 7-foot, 241 pound big man from Las Vegas, Nevada, who is rated as one of the top five players in the country, is viewing the experience as an opportunity to represent his country and grow his game.
“It’s a huge honor to be noticed for my play,” Zimmerman told Inside the Hall. “I’m very happy to be here with all of these great players and be able to push myself and compare myself to the other bigs that are here and the other players.”
The U18 team roster, which was finalized last week, includes a mix of incoming college freshman and rising high school seniors. The group is being coached by Florida’s Billy Donovan, Arizona’s Sean Miller and Ed Cooley of Providence.
“There are great coaches here as well,” Zimmerman said. “They help us out and coach us through this. I don’t think you’ll find any better competition than being here.”
Joining Zimmerman in the frontcourt on the U18 roster are his high school teammate at Bishop Gorman, Chase Jeter, as well as Texas signee Myles Turner.
Battling in workouts and scrimmages with Turner, one of the top players in the class of 2014, is a chance for Zimmerman to measure himself against a player who is expected to be one of the top freshmen in college basketball next season.
Class of 2015 Waynesville (Mo.) forward Juwan Morgan wasn’t expecting to see a fanbase that has an uncommon passion for its basketball program when he arrived in Bloomington.
When his visit was over, it was clear the support he saw for Indiana basketball over a two-day unofficial visit surpassed his expectations.
“Yes (it met them) and more, actually,” he told Inside the Hall on Tuesday evening. “At first I thought the fanbase was just like any other fanbase. But after seeing videos and things like that of games and the fans going crazy, it’s like you could feel it while you’re sitting there watching it on the screen.
“The whole place was nice and the people who were around the campus love the basketball team. Even just riding around the campus, there were people walking past the (golf) cart saying, ‘Go Hoosiers,’ and things like that. It was just a great experience.”
Rated the No. 98 prospect nationally by the 247Composite, the 6-foot-8, 210 pound Morgan has become a major priority for the Hoosiers in recent weeks.
Indiana scouted him with his MoKan Elite team in the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL) session in late April in Sacramento and in late May, began making a strong push in his recruitment.
Shake Milton, a class of 2015 guard from Owassa (Okla.), had his first opportunity to experience Indiana basketball up close on Monday.
It’s fair to say he came away impressed with his unofficial visit to Bloomington. Milton, the Gatorade player of the year as a junior in Oklahoma, recapped the trip in an interview with Inside the Hall on Monday evening.
“I knew it was a basketball tradition (type of) town,” he said. “But when I got here on campus, I could actually see it in person. It was crazy. The facilities were really nice.”
Milton toured the campus with Tom Crean, associate head coach Steve McClain and the coaching staff. McClain previously recruited a lottery pick in Alec Burks from Morgan’s AAU program, MoKan Elite, when he was at Colorado.
Indiana is recruiting Milton as a true combo guard as the staff views him as being able to handle either backcourt position.
Sunday was a busy day in college basketball recruiting across the country as it marked the first full day that schools could begin unlimited contact with class of 2016 prospects.
One of the new names that has emerged on the radar for the Hoosiers is class of 2016 Christ the King (N.Y.) guard Rawle Alkins, a 6-foot-4, 185 pound guard. Alkins plays with the NY Rens, an adidas based AAU program.
New Indiana assistant coach Chuck Martin reached out to Alkins yesterday and the four-star guard recapped that conversation in an interview with Inside the Hall.
“Actually yesterday was the first time I’d heard from them,” Alkins said. “It was coach (Chuck) Martin. He just let me know that he’s a NYC guy that used to work with the Oklahoma City Thunder this past year.”
According to Alkins, the Indiana coaching staff watched his film from the recent Mary Kline Classic, where he scored a game-high 36 points, and his play caught their eye.
“Freshman Focus” is an Inside the Hall series on each of Indiana’s five incoming freshmen. Over the next couple of weeks, we will examine what kind of an impact each player can have for the Hoosiers next season. Today: Max Hoetzel. (Previously: Robert Johnson, Jeremiah April.)
Less than a year ago, rising high school senior Max Hoetzel packed his bags and left his hometown of Calabasas, California, for the unfamiliar, yet promising Wilbraham, Massachusetts. After three years of playing high school basketball in the Los Angeles suburb, Hoetzel decided to transfer to Wilbraham and Monson Academy for his senior year.
It was his best chance to gain exposure, and perhaps college scholarship offers, before graduation, playing under head coach Chris Sparks and with five-star prospect Goodluck Okonoboh.
Indiana fans might be familiar with the latter name. The Hoosiers aggressively recruited the 6-foot-9 power forward, who ultimately committed to and signed with UNLV last fall. But during one recruiting visit to WMA in late September, Sparks convinced Indiana coach Tom Crean to watch his new, and coincidentally fast-rising player, as well. That player was the 6-foot-8 Hoetzel. And he had new offers, already, from St. John’s, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania.
“I actually had study hall, and my dorm parent was like, ‘No, he’s not leaving. He has to do his homework,’” Hoetzel told Inside the Hall on April 17. “I was like, ‘Come on, you’ve got to let me shoot for coach Crean.’ They finally did, and now I’m here.”
“Freshman Focus” is an Inside the Hall series on each of Indiana’s five incoming freshmen. Over the next couple of weeks, we will examine what kind of an impact each player can have for the Hoosiers next season. Today: Jeremiah April. (Previously: Robert Johnson.)
On April 18, a trio of Indiana basketball signees for the class of 2014 were participating in two prestigious spring all-star games. James Blackmon Jr. was in Brooklyn at the Jordan Brand Classic while Max Hoetzel and Robert Johnson were in Louisville, Kentucky for the Derby Festival Basketball Classic.
By the time the evening was over, the performances of all three, while notable, would become secondary to the interest in a name that wasn’t even on the radar at the beginning of the day for Indiana fans.
As both all-star games got underway, word began to spread via social media that the Indiana staff had just secured a commitment from a big man in Arizona.
The name of the prospect? Jeremiah April.
A quick Google search revealed little about April, a 6-foot-11 center who had just completed a postgraduate season at Westwind Prep in Phoenix. YouTube also yielded little on April. He was a rarity in today’s world of recruiting coverage in which information is readily available at a second’s notice — a true mystery man.
The first call I made was to April’s coach at Westwind Prep, Jai Steadman. A former NBA D-League head coach and college assistant, Steadman explained that Tom Crean and Steve McClain had just left the school, where hours earlier following a meeting, April gave a commitment to Indiana.