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Meet the favorites to win the 2011 NCAA Championship

Michigan State v Maryland

Yes, this is an Indiana blog. But since it’s mid-April and a slow time of year for news, I felt this information was worth passing along. Tom Izzo’s chances of going to a seventh Final Four in 13 years just got better today. Juniors Durrell Summers and Kalin Lucas will return next season:

“I think my guys were good enough to go and could’ve put their names in like everybody else,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo told the AP. “Even though I offered to do some checking for them, they had their mind made up to come back. I think it’s neat that they made educated, mature decisions.”

I must hand it to Izzo. He’s built a top five program without loading up on McDonald’s All-Americans each year. In fact, unless I’m missing someone, the Spartans haven’t had a player in the McDonald’s game since Brandon Cotton and Shannon Brown in 2003. Impressive.

Crean visits Jeremiah Davis; Teague to announce within a week

Just a couple of rather noteworthy things to report regarding recent recruiting developments (brought to you in alliterative form).

First, a source familiar with the situation confirmed to Inside the Hall that IU coach Tom Crean was up north today visiting with 2011 guard Jeremiah Davis. The Indiana Elite player is one of a number of talented Indiana prospects in the ’11 class prominently registering on IU’s radar, but I didn’t really need to tell you that.

We’ll try and get ahold of Davis some time this weekend and chat about this and other pertinent issues regarding his present and future.

Second, Evan Daniels of Scout is reporting via Twitter — or at least, that’s where I first saw it — that Marquis Teague will announce his college decision next Thursday, April 22.

So some wheels might start turning here soon.

Q & A: 2012 Pendleton Heights guard Kellen Dunham

Regarded as one of the best shooters in class of 2012, Pendleton Heights guard Kellen Dunham averaged 22.5 points in his sophomore campaign and led the Arabians to an 18-6 record. Inside the Hall caught up with the 6-5 junior-to-be, who is suiting up for Indiana Elite One this spring and summer, for a Q & A:

On his sophomore season at Pendleton Heights:

“I had a lot of fun this season. I think we could have been a little bit more successful in the sectional, we got to the championship game and lost to Muncie Central. I really feel like we all improved as players and our defense got a lot better.”

On the opening weekend of AAU at the IndyBall.com Shootout:

“There was some pretty good competition at IndyBall and hopefully there will be some good competition this weekend. We’re headed to Iowa.”

On his game extending beyond just being known as a shooter:

“I feel like I’m trying to set people up on the offensive end. And also working on my defense. It’s getting a little better. I’m not just a spot up shooter. I can take people off the dribble now, finish at the rim and pull up.”

On the progression of improving his jump shot:

“When I was little, I shot pretty well, but I definitely worked on my shot for a long time. I spent a lot of hours working on it.”

On his visits to Bloomington this past season and what he likes about the program:

“I went and saw the Purdue and Minnesota games at Assembly Hall and they’re showing some pretty good interest. I really like Coach Crean. He’s really fun to talk to, very knowledgeable about the game. Coach Buckley also is a very nice guy. I like the program.”

On the other schools showing interest:

“Xavier, Purdue, Butler, Michigan and Ball State.”

2011 wing Aaron Thomas high on the Hoosiers

Schools looking for a big-time scorer in the 2011 class are beginning to take notice of Cincinnati Aiken’s Aaron Thomas.

Thomas, a 6-4, 185-pound wing, was named the Cincinnati Metro Athletic Conference Player of the Year as a junior as he averaged 22.1 points per game.

He shot over 56 percent from the field, 82 percent from the foul line and had four games with more than 30 points. Aiken finished the season 14-8.

“My high school season went well,” Thomas told Inside the Hall. “I was second in the city in scoring, but we lost in the second round and didn’t go as far as we did last year.”

The Indiana coaching staff began to take interest in Thomas last summer as he suited up for the Queen City Prophets and the interest has continued to blossom from both sides.

While Thomas didn’t get a chance to visit Assembly Hall last season, he did visit Bloomington last fall for a football game.

“I’m pretty high on them,” he said of Indiana. “Coach Tom Crean has history. He taught Dwyane Wade. And basketball’s the biggest sport in Indiana. I’d like to be a part of that.”

Thomas noted that he hears mostly from Crean himself and is also being recruited by West Virginia, Michigan, Cincinnati, Louisville and Ohio State.

He does not, however, have a timetable for a decision.

Indiana fans will have several opportunities to watch Thomas this spring and summer as the Queen City Prophets are expected to participate in the adidas May Classic (Bloomington), adidas Invitational (Indianapolis) and the Kentucky Hoopfest (Louisville).

(Photo credit: Rivals.com)

An update on 2013 Jeffersonville guard Darryl Baker

Darryl Baker is back.

After missing his entire freshman season at Jeffersonville with a broken bone in his right leg, the 6-2, 190-pound Baker returned to the court this past weekend at the IndyBall.com Shootout in Indianapolis.

And Baker and his teammates did not disappoint as Team Southern Indiana Red, coached by former IU guard Sherron Wilkerson, took home runner-up honors in the Silver Bracket (16U). The 15-year old guard scored 27 points in his first game of the spring.

“He played really well,” Wilkerson told Inside the Hall of Baker’s effort in his return. “I think he’s still gotta get his conditioning back and also, mentally, he has to retrain himself to trust that leg again. I think that’s probably something he fights for a while, but it just depends on the individual how quickly it dissipates.”

Baker, who is regarded as one of the top class of 2013 prospects in the state and has visited Bloomington several times over the past year, recently received his first scholarship offer from Xavier.

He’s also hearing from the Hoosiers, Purdue, Michigan State, Ohio State and Butler and will likely split time this spring and summer between the point and off-guard positions.

But ultimately, his greatest potential might be creating opportunities from the wing, according to Wilkerson, a former Mr. Basketball and McDonald’s All-American who coached this past season at Herron in Indianapolis.

“I really like to say that he would be deadly on a wing,” Wilkerson said. “Maybe a 2 or 3. That being said, he could potentially play some point guard. But I think his strongest attribute is being able to catch it while he’s moving. I think that any time a person of his athleticism and of his strength can catch it and catch it on the move, it makes them that much more difficult to guard and it doesn’t allow the defense to set up as quick.”

Indiana pursuing former Iowa recruit Cody Larson

Indiana’s pursuit of a big man for its 2010 class continues to roll on full steam ahead.

The latest target is 6-9, 230-pound Sioux Falls (SD) forward Cody Larson, who was released from his Letter of Intent with Iowa on April 9.

Larson, who committed to the Hawkeyes and former coach Todd Lickliter in September of 2008, met with new Iowa coach Fran McCaffery last Thursday and requested his release.

“Anytime you have a new coach, you have a whole new program,” Larson told Stu Whiney of The Argus Leader of his decision to re-open the process. “When I committed, I did it because of Coach Lickliter, and it was hard to see him leave. I just want to make sure I find what the best option is for me.”

On Sunday, the final day of the April 8-11 contact period, Tom Crean, Tim Buckley and Bennie Seltzer visited Larson in South Dakota, according to a source familiar with the situation.

Larson, who has four official visits remaining, is not speaking publicly about his recruitment at this time, but is expected to take some time to work through the recruiting process before making a decision. The spring signing period begins this Wednesday and concludes on May 19.

As a senior at Roosevelt High School, Larson averaged 19.9 points, 7.8 rebounds and 4.1 assists, but was suspended near the conclusion of the season. Details of the suspension were not made public.

Larson’s game, which is described as a mix between a three, four and a five, reportedly has similarities to Mike Miller, who came through the same AAU program, the Dakota Schoolers. Scout.com lists Larson as a four-star prospect and the No. 23 power forward in the country while Rivals.com lists Larson as a three-star.

(Photo Credit: Rivals.com)

Catching up with Austin Etherington

Bleary-eyed reporters covering seemingly-endless hours of basketball with the Final Four 51 weeks away can only mean one thing: AAU season is officially on rock-and-roll.

Our good friends at the H-T, being both intrepid and equipped with constitutions of steel, were all over the IndyBall.com Shootout this weekend at North Central High School, where they got a look at plenty of prospects, including Bloomington South’s T.J. Bell, Muncie Central’s Jeremiah Davis and Hamilton Heights wing Austin Etherington.

Now IU’s lone commitment in the class of 2011, Etherington made an impression with 12 points against a Spiece team that Indiana Elite defeated 73-72. (By the way, I’m getting these stats from the venerable Hugh Kellenberger, via the above-linked post. I was covering Notre Dame baseball all Sunday.)

A busy summer lies ahead of Etherington, who said he’s pretty much willing to go wherever his Indiana Elite program wants him to, and he’ll do so in good company. Sunday at IndyBall, he plied his trade with many of the usual premiere Elite players, including Matt Carlino, Davis and Cody Zeller.

Despite the long layoff since his high school season ended on March 5 , Etherington said everyone felt good playing together pretty quickly.

“It didn’t take long for us to start playing together and get used to each other,” he said, noting that his Elite squad won the Shootout championship in overtime of the title game.

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