A quick update on Cincinnati Aiken’s Aaron Thomas

Aaron Thomas, a 6-4, four-star guard from Aiken High School in Cincinnati, is one of the top prospects Indiana expects at this weekend’s Elite Camp in Bloomington.

The Elite Camp, which is closed to the media and the public, will take place on Saturday and Sunday.

Tim Johnson, one of Thomas’ coaches on the Queen City Prophets, told Inside the Hall on Thursday night that the Cincinnati native is looking forward to the weekend.

“He loves coming to Bloomington,” Johnson said. “He likes Coach Crean. He definitely loves the new facilities. He’s always looking forward to competition. He’s pretty excited.”

After Thomas told a group of assembled media at last month’s adidas May Classic that Indiana had offered a scholarship, there were later conflicting reports that an offer had not been officially extended by the IU staff.

Johnson, however, believes the offer is indeed on the table.

“It’s my understanding that he he has an offer from Indiana,” he said.

Thomas, who averaged 22.1 points per game as a junior at Aiken and was named the Cincinnati Metro Athletic Conference Player of the Year, does not appear to be any closer to a decision than he was a month ago.

“He’ll definitely wait until July,” Johnson said.

In case you missed it, here’s the video interview with Thomas from last month’s adidas May Classic:

Just another ordinary day in June …

Actually, not really. I’ll keep this quick, but a couple of notes to pass along:

+ Kyle Neddenriep of The Indianapolis Star is reporting that North Central guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera will not transfer to St. Benedict’s Prep. This, if you haven’t been following the story, is good news because former assistant Roshown McLeod is running the show at St. Ben’s.

+ The momentum for Tom Izzo to the Cleveland Cavaliers continues to pick up steam. Citing sources (surprise!), ESPN is reporting that if Cavs owner Dan Gilbert offers the position, Izzo is likely to take it. This seems like a huge career gamble for Izzo if he’s not guaranteed that LeBron will return (and he’s not), but the opportunity to coach at the next level and work for Gilbert apparently has him intrigued.

+ The Indiana Junior all-stars, led by Marquis Teague and Cody Zeller, knocked off the All-Stars in an exhibiton game at Rushville. Mike Pegram has a free game-wrap (link) with some quotes from Zeller.

+ The Pac-10 officially announced that Colorado will join the conference, making the Buffaloes the first new member since 1978. Goodbye, Big 12.

+ The Detroit News has an update on Hamilton Southeastern guard Gary Harris and Steve Hanlon of the Times of Northwest Indiana reports that Branden Dawson may not return to Gary Lew Wallace.

Happy Thursday, everyone.

Hello, Nebraska

I’ve gotten on the train a little bit later than some news outlets not too far from here, but that train — the one with “EXPANSION” written on the side and barrels of money tucked away in the hold cars — is barreling toward Chicago nonetheless. Nebraska appears ready to board.

Obviously, no one is surprised by this. Of the umpteen million purported combinations and scenarios relating to Big Ten expansion, Nebraska and, along the way, Missouri joining sooner rather than later is perhaps the most popular. And if the above report or the dozens like it circling like sharks around the wounded Big 12 are to be believed, sooner rather than later is about to become right now.

Nebraska makes sense on a number of levels. Big state school, tradition-steeped football program, lots of fans and, most importantly, boosters with deep pockets.

So how would this work?

1. The Big Ten must formally invite any team that wishes to apply first. It is unimaginable that the Big Ten would invite anyone with any intention or expectation of being turned down or turning anyone down. So expect an invitation to basically be a pre-acceptance formality.

2. The invitation and subsequent acceptance would have to be voted on by the Big Ten’s Council of Presidents/Chancellors. What we learned, among other things, last weekend in Chicago was that the COPC can vote without being together, either by phone or e-mail. So that restriction does not exist.

3. We haven’t heard as much on Missouri in all this as Nebraska, but the Cornhuskers are the big fish. Commissioner Jim Delany said Sunday that the Big Ten could “act, and then act again” with regard to expansion, as opposed to staying put or doing everything all at once. This report from Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune suggests that’s exactly what will happen. So maybe Nebraska (and perhaps also Missouri) now, and who knows what’s coming down the track.

4. So what happens to Notre Dame? Well, it depends on what you believe. There are those who report that the Irish will preserve their independence at any cost, even at the risk of ending up on the outside looking in when all the dust settles. There are others who say Notre Dame would only join the Big Ten if it were the only entrant, not wanting to share dollars or the conference spotlight any more than would be necessary. The second of those now appears untrue. It remains to be seen — and could even take years to decide — whether not joining a conference will marginalize Notre Dame if the dominoes fall in the form of “super conferences” that stretch from the East Coast to Omaha and L.A. to Dallas.

There’s a lot more to this, we could seriously go on for hours. And it’s going to take years to decide once and for all what the ramifications of the coming days, weeks and months will be on the college sports landscape. In the meantime, I’d run down to your local Walgreens and grab a greeting card, the Big Ten family looks like it’s getting bigger very soon.

Is Tom Izzo leaving Michigan State for the Cavs?

INDIANAPOLIS - APRIL 02: Head coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans looks on during practice prior to the 2010 Final Four of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium on April 2, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)The answer to that question differs depending on who you ask. Dick Vitale says no. But The Cleveland Plain-Dealer, citing sources, published this story earlier this evening, indicating that Michigan State players believe Tom Izzo is close to accepting the Cleveland Cavaliers job. The details:

Sources have told The Plain Dealer that Michigan State players left a meeting with Tom Izzo Tuesday night believing he was going to leave to accept Gilbert’s offer to become the next Cavaliers coach. Izzo didn’t tell them that, he called the meeting to acknowledge reports that he’d been offered the job, but players left afraid they were about to lose their coach.

Several other sources, however, indicated Izzo hadn’t made his final decision as of Wednesday afternoon.

Delvon Roe’s father, Delvon Blanton, told The Lansing State Journal that the Tuesday meeting lasted two hours and Izzo explained the situation to his team. (Blanton’s comments don’t offer much evidence he believes Izzo will stay in East Lansing, either.)

This, my friends, is the problem with sources. Everybody seems to have them. But until the source of the news is Gilbert, Michigan State AD Mark Hollis or Izzo himself, you should continue to hold out hope that college basketball won’t lose one of the best in the business to the NBA. It’s possible if Izzo leaves for Cleveland that the Hoosiers could be in better position to land Muncie Central guard Jeremiah Davis, who is listing Michigan State among his top schools.

IU avoids penalty with improved APR score

Among the various landmines Kelvin Sampson left in Bloomigton was an APR (Academic Progress Rate) score that was, in a word, unacceptable. Let’s go to the archives from May of 2009:

The NCAA released its Academic Progress Rate (APR) scores this afternoon and the result was a public notice for IU baskeball in response to a score that, well, isn’t pretty. To put it into perspective how low the figure is, the other 23 athletic programs at IU all had scores well above the NCAA benchmark of 925. The men’s basketball program checked in at 866.

“We take this public notice very seriously,” Indiana Athletic Director Fred Glass said. “The poor academic performance for which we’re being cited all occurred under two coaches who are no longer at IU.  We are confident that under Coach Tom Crean’s leadership and commitment to academics, responsibility, and character, we will soon be able to put our previous academic issues fully in the past. Coach Crean’s outstanding academic record at Marquette, including the graduating of all of his senior players, speaks for itself.”

Fast forward to June 2010 and the APR is headed in the right direction.

This PDF report, released by the NCAA, shows the APR score for men’s basketball jumped to 975 for 2008-2009. The multi-year score also jumped 12 points to 878.

The multi-year figure is still the lowest among all IU sports. But the improvement, coupled with the fact that IU already self-imposed the loss of two scholarships during Crean’s first season, means that no additional penalties will occur.

Hey, look, Roshown McLeod can recruit

After two disappointing seasons on the IU staff led to his dismissal in early March, former assistant coach Roshown McLeod was announced as the head coach at St. Benedict’s Prep on April 20. And since that time, McLeod has been in hot pursuit of North Central’s D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, who visited St. Benedict’s over the weekend.

But a tweet last night, courtesy of Evan Daniels, revealed that McLeod landed the top 2012 prospect in Kentucky, Jaylen Beckham, which may be an indicator that Smith-Rivera will not make the move to St. Benedict’s. Beckham, who has IU listed on his Rivals.com profile, plays the same position as Smith-Rivera: point guard.

Here’s the tweet from Daniels:

Jaylen Beckham will transfer from Lexington Catholic to play for Roshown McCloud @ St. Benedicts

Smith-Rivera, one of IU’s top recruiting targets in the 2012 class, has scholarship offers from Cincinnati, IU, Louisville, Purdue, Tennessee and Xavier. But a move to St. Benedict’s to play for McLeod could be a crossroads in the pursuit of the North Central guard, who is considered one of the top prospects in the state regardless of class.

Report: Jeff Watkinson leaving Indiana

According to Chris Korman of The Herald-Times and The Hoosier Scoop, Jeff Watkinson, the men’s basketball strength and conditioning coach for the past four seasons, is leaving the program to train former IU guard Eric Gordon.

Watkinson joined the program under former coach Kelvin Sampson and received his master’s degree in exercise from IU in 1996. He also worked at Missouri, Clemson, Charlotte and College of Charleston.

Here are the details of his departure, according to Korman:

Jeff Watkinson, the highly respected strength and conditioning coach for IU basketball, has accepted a job working with former Hoosier Eric Gordon. He’ll be a personal basketball development coach for Gordon, who plays with the Los Angeles Clippers.

According to his bio on the IU Athletics site, Watkinson specializes in strength training, athletic development, conditioning and nutritional guidance. And by the way, this probably explains this tweet by Maurice Creek.

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