Hello again, friends

HAMPSTEAD, MD — I had expected the taunting texts from friends in the Indiana press corps, the ones remarking about the coincidence that as soon as I left the beat, news started happening. In my final days as the sports editor of The Herald-Times, Peter Jurkin committed to join the class of 2012. A few days later, Ron Patterson said he’d join the same class. James Blackmon Jr., one of the better players right now in the class of 2014, came a while later.

There’d been a spell of weeks without news. And while that sometimes means you don’t have to work as many hours in a week, it generally leaves reporters antsy.

A few of the Indiana fans I’d gotten to know during my four years in Bloomington had a different thought. They linked my leaving with the lifting of a curse. I’d covered, of course, all of the events that decimated the Indiana basketball program, as well as the death of football coach Terry Hoeppner and even the backslide of the men’s soccer team into mere above average-ness.

And maybe Tom Crean thought I was something of a jinx, too, as he mentioned to me that a few dominoes fell in conjunction with my departure.

So I’m sorry to say it, but I’m back. Sort of.

Here’s the thing: It’s hard enough to leave any beat you’ve covered thoroughly, even if the stories you wrote were fairly standard. It’s not that when you dive into a world and try to explain it to readers you become a part of it. You don’t. Not if you’re a journalist. But you do everything you can to understand all the people you’re dealing with — the administrators and coaches and players and recruits and fans. You’ve got to report about what happens, sure. But the best reporters and columnists explain what it means. They work to put things in context and assure people that those in power are doing what they say they’re doing.

As with many jobs, you invest a lot of yourself. So it’s never easy to let that go.

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Q & A: 2012 Lawrence Central wing Jeremy Hollowell

2012 Lawrence Central wing Jeremy Hollowell is among the top players nationally in his class and visited IU on Saturday to meet with the IU coaching staff and academic advisors from the university at Cook Hall.

He’ll also make a return trip in two weeks for the IU-Michigan football game. Inside the Hall caught up with Hollowell on Sunday evening to get an update on his visit, his recent ankle injury and his recruitment:

On the trip to Bloomington:

“It was real good. We came down and talked with the coaches and the academic people in the office all day. My mom was asking questions about the academics and other stuff. Her and my brother (James) talked and he gave her some questions to ask and things like that since he’s already been through it.”

On who he met with during the visit:

“All of the coaches – Coach Crean, Seltzer, McClain and Buckley. They were all in there.”

On his trip to Ohio State the previous weekend:

“I went down for the Miami (FL) football game. I was supposed to play in open gym, but I was still hurt. So I just went down and watched open gym, hung out with the players and the coaches, went to the football game.”

On whether IU and Ohio State are still his top schools and if he’s still open to other schools:

“They’re not my final two, they’re just two schools I like. They’re not the only two I’m picking from. I’m still open to all schools.”

On the schools that have visited him at Lawrence Central in recent weeks:

“The first day Ohio State and Vanderbilt were there. Iowa came one day, Illinois came. I think that’s about it.”

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ITH Super Happy Fun Time All-Big Ten Preview: Kalin Lucas

SPOKANE, WA - MARCH 21: Kalin Lucas #1 of the Michigan State Spartans walks on the court against the Maryland Terrapins during the second round of the 2010 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Spokane Arena on March 21, 2010 in Spokane, Washington. Michigan State defeated Maryland 85-83. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)Hoosier Hysteria is on the horizon and it’s time for Inside the Hall’s preseason All-Big Ten team. Today: Michigan State’s Kalin Lucas.

Unlike the William Buford selection, giving the nod to Kalin Lucas for the All-Big Ten team required little thought. The torn left achilles tendon Lucas suffered in last year’s NCAA Tournament run not only hurt the Spartans’ chances of cutting down the nets in Indianapolis, it also ended any chance the 6-0 guard would declare forgo his senior season.

And so he returns to East Lansing with a legitimate shot at another Final Four, a Big Ten championship and conference player of the year accolades (an award he already won once as a sophomore). He’ll also be out to prove to NBA scouts that he’s worthy of being selected in next June’s draft.

Lucas’ 2009-2010 numbers: 14.8 ppg, 3.9 apg, 1.9 rpg, 35% 3PT, 45% FG, 77% FT. His 80 turnovers (2.4 per game) led Michigan State.

All signs point to the recovery and return of Lucas being on track. He’s scheduled to return to the court sometime this month and barring any setbacks, should be ready for the start of practice next month.

The uncertainty, much like in the case of Maurice Creek’s knee, lies in how long it will take Lucas to become 100 percent comfortable making explosive moves on his surgically repaired achilles tendon. The hope for both Tom Izzo and Michigan State fans is that no setbacks occur as the Spartans face a tough non-conference slate that includes a trip to Maui, Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium for the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, Syracuse at the Carrier Dome and Texas at home. In a word: brutal.

Assuming Lucas is able to return to his pre-injury form, it’s hard to deny the impact he’ll have given his versatility and experience playing at a high-level. The combination of his ability to distribute, penetrate, pull-up and knock down perimeter shots makes him one of the toughest guards to prepare for in the country. And even if Lucas needs a couple of months to return to form, if he’s anywhere close to 100 percent when the Big Ten rolls around, he’s a good bet for his second conference POY in three seasons.

Athlon Sports picks IU to finish 8th in Big Ten

This photo has already circulated around the Web, but Athlon Sports passed along their season preview cover with Maurice Creek, Purdue’s Robbie Hummel and Butler’s Matt Howard.

The Hoosiers were picked to finish 8th in the Big Ten and Verdell Jones was listed on the third team All-Big Ten. Here’s their complete Big Ten finish prediction: 1. Purdue, 2. Michigan State, 3. Ohio State, 4. Illinois, 5. Wisconsin, 6. Minnesota, 7. Northwestern, 8. Indiana, 9. Penn State, 10. Michigan, 11. Iowa.

Video: IU basketball fall workouts

The follow popped up on the IU Athletics YouTube channel earlier today (looks like the sound got removed for copyright reasons, but it’s definitely worth a look):

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ITH Super Happy Fun Time All-Big Ten Preview: William Buford

INDIANAPOLIS - MARCH 12: Guard William Buford #44 of the Ohio State Buckeyes looks to pass against the Michigan Wolverines during the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament at Conseco Fieldhouse on March 12, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)Hoosier Hysteria is on the horizon and it’s time for Inside the Hall’s preseason All-Big Ten team. Today: Ohio State’s William Buford.

Recently I was asked recently by the editor of a publication that will remain nameless (for now) for my All-Big Ten teams for the 2010-2011 season. Four names, which will all be identified in the coming days as this preview rolls along, came to mind immediately.

The fifth, however, required extra thought.

When asked to assemble an all-league team, it’s easy to fall into the trap of making sure all positions, 1-5, are filled. But in this instance I listed the five players I felt would have the biggest impact on the upcoming season. And so we begin with Ohio State junior guard William Buford.

First, a look at his 2009-2010 numbers: 14.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 3.1 apg, 38% 3pt, 43% FG, 75% FT. Stellar across the board and also solid at avoiding turnovers (just 26 in 18 Big Ten games).

The departure of Evan Turner, the No. 2 pick in the NBA Draft, leaves Thad Matta without the league’s best playmaker and without a go-to scorer. Buford is unlikely to replicate Turner’s ability to carry the Buckeyes on his back through the Big Ten. But he is capable of assuming the role of being Ohio State’s go-to-guy if he’s able to expand his game beyond knocking down shots from the perimeter.

The challenge, however, will be finding opportunities to score without being set up by Turner. Ohio State is extremely thin at the point guard position and Buford’s bread-and-butter during his first two seasons has been catching and shooting. Super freshman Jared Sullinger should command attention in the paint, helping free up Buford and senior Jon Diebler for open looks.

The next step for Buford is shoring up his midrange game and attacking the rim more often. His talent level indicates he’s capable, but he’s not an exceptional athlete and isn’t particularly great off the dribble, either. A summer to work on his game and a positive experience with the USA Select team in July might be just what he needed, but ready or not, Ohio State will be counting on Buford in order to contend in a loaded Big Ten.

2012 Recruiting Board: Post-Summer update

(Photo Credit: Jack Arent/adidas)

It’s been nearly two months since the last update of our 2012 Recruiting Board and a lot has changed in the final weeks of summer.

The Hoosiers picked up two commitments — Peter Jurkin and Ron Patterson. Guards D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Gary Harris narrowed their list of schools and IU made the cut for both. Yogi Ferrell (pictured) took an unofficial for IU football’s season opener. Hanner Perea transferred to LaPorte La Lumiere. Jeremy Hollowell named his leaders: IU and Ohio State.  Two recruits formerly on the board, Kenny Kaminski and Matt Costello, both committed to Michigan State. And Rivals and Scout both updated their rankings.

Continue to the 2012 Indiana Basketball Recruiting Board »

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