Even though the start of the season is months away, July is a critical month for college basketball.
Over three, four-day periods this month, the first of which begins later today, coaches will pound the pavement across the country to evaluate prospects. New names emerge. Old names can move up the priority list or fall off entirely.
And when it ends, coaches hope to have a clearer idea of which players will fit best with their program.
For Indiana, which is coming off 56 wins in two seasons, two top four picks in the 2013 NBA Draft and its first outright Big Ten title in 20 years, the understanding amongst the coaching staff for what it seeks is well established.
“What we’re searching for, what we’re looking for, even in this recruiting period, we have a great understanding of what we’re looking for,” assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Kenny Johnson said Tuesday at Cook Hall. “And if anything, maybe it puts more emphasis on why you really come to school — for your education, for your player development, and the family environment that’s not going to sustain for the next four years of your life, but the next forty years.”
With a strong culture that’s been built over five years, Indiana won’t make any sacrifices on the type of player it seeks to recruit. The program has signed three five-star players over the past three seasons, but just produced a three-star player who graduated in three years and went to Orlando with the No. 2 pick in Victor Oladipo.
The commitment and subsequent signing of Oladipo drew little fanfare at the time, but was one of the most important developments in IU’s recruiting under Tom Crean. Not only did Oladipo help establish the aforementioned culture, he also showed that IU can produce pros who don’t come in with McDonald’s All-American accolades.
“It’s not always going to be a “highly credentialed player,” that we’re always seeking,” Johnson said. “We’re seeking the best people that fit into what we’re trying to get accomplished here.”
Indiana already has a strong start to its 2014 class with the commitment of James Blackmon Jr., the No. 25 player in the country according to ESPN.com.
BOO WILLIAMS (TROY’S UNCLE): “Troy got into basketball at an early age, I’d say between eight and nine years old. He was tall, but he wasn’t that tall. He was unorthodox. He was the kind of kid that was always around basketball because he would travel with us. He traveled with the girls team. My mom traveled with the girls team. She was the, I don’t want to say team mom, but she did all the paperwork, she kept the books. She was like the top assistant. My mom’s been in basketball for years. I played at St. Joe’s and she was in basketball there, and then my brother played football at West Point, and my other sister coached at Auburn and played basketball at Penn State. He grew up with basketball. When we used to travel all summer, he used to travel with us. He was a ball boy and he did all that stuff.”
TROY WILLIAMS: “I was about five years old. My uncle made this one team for us, it was like an 8 and under, or 9 and under team. Most of the kids were like 5 and 6 and 7, and we were all playing for that. During that time though, I was also playing football and baseball, but I wasn’t really interested in those two by the time I got to fourth grade. I started focusing on basketball, but I wasn’t too serious about it. Then in middle school, I played for the middle school team my sixth and seventh grade team. I started to gain interest in it, started to watching the NBA and college teams more.”
BOO WILLIAMS: “We tried to get him to play football but he hated football.”
TROY WILLIAMS: “Every time before practice, I used to cry because I never wanted to go. I used to always complain and be like, ‘It’s too hot’ or ‘the equipment’s too heavy.’ I just never liked it.”
PATTY WILLIAMS (TROY’S MOTHER): “That boy, he cried every day going to practice. I promised him he did not have to play the following year. Well, while we were in Florida at one of the AAU tournaments, and I came back and Boo had signed him up for football again. And I told Boo, ‘You gonna come over here and take him to practice every day because I can’t listen to this boy crying about going to practice.’ Troy said he didn’t want to hit nobody and he didn’t want nobody hitting him.
“But once he did get into basketball, he always did like it. I remember he was four years old and he said, ‘Mommy, if I sleep with a basketball in the bed it’ll make me play better.’ I said, ‘OK.’ So he did this for a couple of years. He kept the basketball in the bed with him all night long. So when he got to about six years old, one night I said, ‘Look, let me take this basketball out this bed.’ And I took the basketball out of the bed. And Lord, that child came into my bedroom screaming about four o’clock in the morning, talking about where is his ball. So I guess it helped.”
MS. WILLIAMS (TROY’S GRANDMOTHER): “Every time we would go in the gym, he would come out with a basketball. I ended up with more basketballs here. I would tell him before we went to the gym, ‘Troy, don’t you pick up another basketball.’ Somehow, eventually another one would end up at the house when he came home.”
Assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Kenny Johnson, freshman Hanner Mosquera-Perea and junior Victor Oladipo met with the media on Tuesday to preview Wednesday’s game with Mount St. Mary’s at Assembly Hall.
Watch and listen to the press conferences in the embedded media players below:
Indiana junior Will Sheehey, junior Victor Oladipo and assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Kenny Johnson met with the media Wednesday to preview Thursday’s game at Assembly Hall with Sam Houston State.
Watch and listen to all three press conferences in the embedded media players below: