Only ten days ago at Jan. 19′s Hoophall Classic, 6-foot-10 Worcester (Mass.) Academy senior Matt Cimino raised eyebrows with a 22-point, 8-rebound performance for his school in a loss to Cushing Academy.
One of those coaches that was made aware of his performance? Indiana’s Kenny Johnson.
Cimino spoke to Inside the Hall on Saturday and told ITH he and Johnson have maintained contact since Hoophall, and that he has plenty of interest in the Hoosiers at the moment.
“I have some pretty serious interest in them,” Cimino said. “They’ve been showing me some love the past couple weeks, telling me they need a big man. They don’t know if Noah (Vonleh) stays and they just had a transfer so they’re kind of running thin on big men. ”
At 6-foot-10, Cimino could certainly help fill that void. A self-described versatile player, Cimino said he feels comfortable playing both inside and outside, as well as defending either the four or the five.
Alex Illikainen, a class of 2015 forward from Grand Rapids (Minn.), will be in Bloomington this weekend for an unofficial visit. He confirmed his plans to visit to Inside the Hall in a text message on Thursday morning.
Indiana hosts Northwestern at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday afternoon.
Illikainen, a 6-foot-9, 215-pound power forward, is the No. 56 player nationally according to the 247Composite and has scholarship offers from IU, California, Creighton, Iowa State, Minnesota, Nebraska and a few others.
Indiana extended an offer to Illikainen after watching him in July and he spoke to Inside the Hall in August about his interest in the program.
“It’s a great place to go to school,” he said. “I want to go down and visit and just see what it’s like down there. Great tradition. And then it’s a great school academically. They also play in the Big Ten.”
Ryan Marable, the coach at Benedictine Preparatory Academy in Richmond, Virginia, has known and worked with IU class of 2014 signee Robert Johnson for several years. He’s watched as Johnson grew from a prospect with an early offer from UNC Greensboro to a top 50 player who was the subject of a major recruiting battle between Florida State, Indiana, North Carolina and Virginia.
Inside the Hall recently caught up with Marable for an in-depth conversation on Johnson and we discussed his growth in recent years, his toughness, the most underrated part of his game and much more.
Here’s a complete transcript of our conversation with Marable:
Inside the Hall: Can you talk a little bit about how Robert has grown since you first started working with him until now. Obviously there’s a lot of talk about his shooting, but where have you seen him grow the most?
Ryan Marable: I actually coached Robert in middle school, so I’ve known him since he was in the sixth grade. He’s always been in love with the game of basketball and he’s been one of those kids that kind of sits back and learns from other people’s games. He’s very mature in the fact that he can identify his weaknesses and then he goes out on his own or with a coach or his dad or whoever and works on his game on his own. He’s probably one of the hardest working kids that I’ve ever been around. And we’ve been around some really successful basketball players.
A little bit more than a third of the way through the 2013-2014 high school season, Indiana’s future backcourt duo of James Blackmon Jr. and Robert Johnson is setting a torrid scoring pace.
Blackmon Jr., who led Marion to an upset of No. 3 Hamilton Southeastern over the weekend in the Carroll Shootout in Fort Wayne, has scored 285 points in eight games. In the 83-81 win over HSE, Blackmon Jr. scored 37 points.
Earlier in the season, the future IU guard set the Marion single-game scoring record with 54 points in a win over Irvington Prep.
The Giants finished just 10-13 last season, but are off to a 5-3 start under James Blackmon Sr.
Marion went 3-1 over the weekend in the Carroll Shootout, beating East Noble, Homestead and HSE before falling to Fort Wayne Carroll in the game’s championship game on Saturday night.
Blackmon Jr., a leading contender for the 2014 Indiana Mr. Basketball Award, has six games of 30 or more points and is among the state’s leading scorers at 35.6 points per game.
For the second straight year, an Indiana signee will play in the Nike Hoop Summit.
As announced earlier tonight on his Twitter account, class of 2014 Marion guard James Blackmon Jr. has been named to the 2014 USA Basketball Junior Select national team.
“Blessed to have these opportunities, it’s an honor,” Blackmon said on Twitter.
The team is comprised of 11 of the best high school seniors in the country who will compete in the Nike Hoop Summit in Portland, Oregon against a team of the best 19-and-under players from around the world.
It was a highly productive weekend for a future member of the Indiana backcourt.
Class of 2014 Benedictine (Va.) guard Robert Johnson led the Cadets to three wins in the Bullis Holiday Classic in Montgomery County, Maryland and was named the MVP of the three-day event.
In Sunday’s championship game, Johnson scored 28 points and added five rebounds and four assists in a 76-73 win over Genesis Academy. Tom Crean and Kenny Johnson were both in attendance.
In Saturday’s semifinal, Johnson had 20 points, five rebounds and four assists as Benedictine beat the Westtown School, which features Maryland recruit Jared Nickens, 49-48.
In a Friday win over Archbishop Spalding, the future IU guard had 24 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
Class of 2015 Trenton Catholic (N.J.) wing Malachi Richardson is headed to the ACC.
The 6-foot-6, 191-pound five-star prospect announced his decision to attend Syracuse at his school on Friday afternoon.
Richardson is rated the No. 16 player nationally in his class according to the 247Composite. He also considered Arizona, Connecticut, Indiana, Rutgers and Villanova.
Indiana recruited Richardson diligently for more than a year and offered him a scholarship last December. He visited Bloomington twice for unofficial visits including most recently for Hoosier Hysteria in early October.