IU, Evansville to play 3-game series

The following release just popped into our inbox:

(EVANSVILLE, IN) – The last time they faced off in Evansville was December 20, 1995. Today, Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel had the pleasure of announcing that the University of Evansville’s Purple Aces will take on the Indiana University Hoosiers at Evansville’s new downtown arena in November 2011. The exact date is still pending.

“We couldn’t have chosen a better collegiate basketball matchup to tip off the inaugural season at our downtown arena than the Aces and the Hoosiers. I know many hours were put into making this happen and I am very glad both teams were able to reach an agreement,” said Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel. “The fans are going to be thrilled to see these teams hit the hardwood right here in Evansville and what a showcase the game will be for our new arena.”

The new 290,000 square-foot Evansville arena will be the home court for the University of Evansville Aces men’s and women’s basketball teams. Opening in late 2011, the arena will be the region’s center for sports and entertainment, designed to host basketball, hockey, concerts, exhibitions and shows for audiences as large as 11,000. The arena’s primary architect’s, Populous, Inc., work includes the Mizzou Arena at the University of Missouri, Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, the new Yankee Stadium, Reliant Stadium in Houston, PETCO Park in San Diego, and the new TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, the largest project in collegiate sports history.

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Indiana Class of 2012 Rankings

Joe Eberhardt is a high school sports blogger and writer in Indiana. He created Indy Hoops Blog and contributes to the Hoosier Hoops Report. You can follow him on twitter at @IndyHoopsBlog.

The state of Indiana is known for producing a plethora of Division 1 talent and the class of 2012 is no exception. This class features at least 10 high-major players and plenty of other players who could make an impact for mid-majors and low-majors. Direct any questions to the comment section and I’ll be glad to answer all of them.

15. Harry Wills 6’3 PG (Ben Davis) - Wills is a sleeper in this loaded class. He’s very quick, has good vision, and good passing ability, making him a strong floor general. He’s a tough defender who won’t give up any easy buckets or plays to his man. Wills is a good athlete and can finish against bigger opponents at the rim. He needs to develop his jump shot and could be a big steal if he improves his shooting.

14. Nick Osborne 6’8 PF (Muncie Central)
– An extremely athletic big man with a great nose for the ball, Osborne excels at fighting for tough rebounds and earning points on the offensive glass. Osborne is very strong and is able to out-muscle and out-hustle opponents for loose balls and rebounds. He needs to expand his offensive game some, but he can knock down the open jumper if tested.

13. Ronnie Johnson 5’9 PG (North Central) – Ronnie is an ultra quick left-handed lead guard with great vision and supreme passing skills. He’s not a great shooter, but has a knack for hitting the mid-range floater and can score buckets at the rim. He’s the kind of player who can impact a game without scoring a single point. He needs to get stronger and improve his shooting, but he could be a big time coup for a mid-major program.

12. Kellen Dunham 6’4 SG (Pendleton Heights) – He’s arguably the best shooter in the state. He can knock down shots off the dribble, catch and shoot, or in transition. His ball-handling is improving and he’s showing increased ability to get to the rim and score. Dunham’s also one of the best free throw shooters in the state, converting at a rate of 89 percent during the high school season. He needs to get stronger and quicker to help transition to the college game, but he’s the kind of player you can see excelling at Butler.

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adidas Nations interview: Christian Watford

INDIANAPOLIS - MARCH 11: Guard Michael Thompson #22 of the Northwestern Wildcats defends against forward Christian Watford #2 of the Indiana Hoosiers during the first round of the Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament at Conseco Fieldhouse on March 11, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)IU sophomore Christian Watford is a college counselor at adidas Nations this weekend in Chicago. I intercepted him for a quick interview while he was on his way over to chat with IU commit Austin Etherington, who was taking in the action of the United States 2011 vs. United States 2012 game earlier this evening.

Here it is:

Talk a little bit about the new guys.

Guy-Marc Michel: He’s progressing. He came in a little out of shape, but now he’s getting it together. I feel like he can be a real key asset to the program. Defensively, and he can also score inside. He gives us an inside presence that we need.

Victor Oladipo: Vic is a real athletic guy. He’s strong. He can shoot the ball and he’s going to be able to help us a lot also.

Will Sheehey: Will, he’s an energy guy. He always around the basketball. Always seems to find the right spots. So he’s going to help us as well.

A couple of your teammates met with the media on Thursday and talked about gaining weight and said you’re bigger. Do you agree with that?

Oh yeah, I agree with that. I’ve been working hard and putting on weight.

Talk about Cook Hall. Has it been easier for you guys to train a little more?

It’s been easier. Being able to get in there any time of day helps a lot. We’re going to access it to the full potential.

Is there anything specific you’ve been working on this summer?

Strength, and my outside game more. I’ll be playing more of a 3 this year.

Interview: Cody Zeller, Yogi Ferrell at adidas Nations

Just walked back up to my place after brief chats with IU recruiting targets Cody Zeller (2011) and Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell (2012) at the Swissotel here in Chicago in conjunction with adidas Nations.

First up: Mr. Zeller.

Let’s get this out of the way first. You’re down to three schools now: Butler, IU and UNC. What are liking about each of them?

Butler: Butler is known as a mid-major, but I don’t think they get recognized for how good they are. This year, they obviously went to the National Championship which put their name out there a bit more. Coach [Brad] Stevens is one of the best young coaches in the country. I’ve known him since they were recruiting Luke [Cody’s older brother]. It’s a great university.

IU: Coach [Tom] Crean is one of the best coaches. He seems to be turning around the program right now. They just built the new Cook Hall, which is a great practice facility. They got one of the best business schools in the country.

UNC: At Carolina, they have one of the best coaching staffs in the country with coach [Roy] Williams and his staff. The tradition down there is unreal.

What’s the experience like for you coming into a tournament like this where it’s not your AAU or school team and you’re not as familiar with your teammates?

The talent is unreal here. I just try and do whatever the team needs. You’re not going to score 20 points like [you would on] your AAU team. It’s a lot different role but it’s fun playing with such talented teammates.

Does the rest of your summer start winding down after this with school looming soon? Is this your last event?

This is the last one. School starts on the 16th. My brother [Luke] gets married next weekend, so that’s what I’m doing with [my time]. The summer’s gone by fast.

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Five minutes with IU guard Matt Roth

INDIANAPOLIS - MARCH 12:  Matt Roth #2 of the Indiana Hoosiers drives against Danny Morrissey #33 of the Penn State Nittany Lions during the first round of the Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament at Conseco Fieldhouse on March 12, 2009 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)After missing the majority of the 2009-2010 season with a broken fifth metatarsal in his right foot, Matt Roth, arguably Indiana’s best pure shooter, is 100 percent healthy.

Inside the Hall went one-on-one with the junior guard on Thursday about a variety of topics including offseason workouts, Cook Hall, competitiveness for playing time and more. The transcript of our Q & A is below:

On his individual progress this offseason and the team’s offseason progress:

“It’s been a real good summer. I took classes both summer sessions. I’ve been working out, trying to get back to playing like I did before my injury and playing much better. It’s been a good summer for me and a great summer for the team. We’ve really made a lot of strides and built a lot of good relationships within the team. That’s something you definitely need going into the season.”

On the competitiveness for playing time in the backcourt:

“I think it’s going to be very competitive and I think everybody kind of knows what they bring to the table and what they’re going to have to bring every day to practice. And that’s going to be a great challenge coming into practice knowing that we’re going to be as competitive as we are both in practice and certainly on the court when the games come around.”

On what he learned last season missing time with an injury:

“It was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever gone through with basketball. It’s been such a huge part of my life and not to have it be something I could physically do was very difficult for me. But it also opened up a lot of great opportunities for me to learn and take different aspects and outlooks on life. It really made me cherish the game would be a way to put it. It means just as much now as ever, but it just kind of revamped my love for the game. I was able to learn a lot of things. It was very difficult, but it’s something I’m going to look back on someday and be grateful that I had the opportunity to recover, learn and move forward.”

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Video: Returnees meet with the media

We were unable to make today’s availability, but IU Media Relations posted the following videos of Verdell Jones, Bobby Capobianco, Jordan Hulls and Derek Elston meeting with the media at Assembly Hall:

Report: Cody Zeller down to three

According to a report by the Washington Times-Herald, 2011 Washington (IN) forward Cody Zeller has trimmed his list of schools to three.

And as expected, there are no surprises: Zeller’s final three are Indiana, Butler and North Carolina:

“It was a hard decision, but those three were in front by a lot. I have five official visits I could take, but I didn’t want to lead anyone on,” Zeller said.

“There is all the tradition at Carolina and that is special. Coach (Tom) Crean has done a great job turning things around at Indiana and Butler is such a good team year-in-and-year-out. They have one of the best young coaches in the country. All three coaches are great people,” Zeller added.

Not much to add here beyond the obvious, but despite what has been written elsewhere, IU’s chances to land Zeller are certainly as legitimate as UNC’s or Butler’s. The next step, if Zeller sticks to his original plan, will be to set up official visits in the fall before signing a National Letter of Intent in November.

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