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COLUMN

Eighth-grader has what Indiana's Tom Crean wants

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For more on Indiana athletics, follow Pete DiPrimio via Twitter at pdiprimio.

Hoosiers coach also targets Carroll's White

Thursday, April 19, 2012 - 5:27 am

Recruiting youth doesn't scare Tom Crean. Indiana's perpetual-motion coach continues to target the basketball young and talented, and it's paid off.

The Hoosiers reached the Sweet 16 of this past NCAA tourney, are very early No. 1 picks for next season and are bringing in a top-five recruiting class for the fall.

You figure Crean knows what he's doing.

But is offering an eighth-grader a college scholarship too much?

Not, it seems, if you're good enough, and the belief is Eron Gordon will be plenty good enough by the time he's a college freshman. The fact he's four months from entering Indianapolis North Central High School is just a number.

Crean doesn't recruit numbers as much as potential. And Gordon, the younger brother of former Indiana All-America Eric Gordon, a former Indiana Mr. Basketball now playing in the NBA, has plenty of potential.

The 6-2 Eron played up a year in last weekend's Indyball Shootout event and scored 52 points in his first two games for the Eric Gordon Central Stars 2015 team. He led his Indianapolis Westlane Middle School team to a 53-0 record over the past two years.

He might even jump over tall buildings in a single bound and rescue little old ladies trapped in burning buildings, but we don't want to press the issue.

Indiana, Purdue, Michigan State, Butler and Michigan are among the high-profile programs that sent coaches to watch the younger Gordon's middle school games.

Crean offered a scholarship over the weekend. Purdue coach Matt Painter is expected to offer soon.

Eron Gordon might not be a one-and-done player like his brother, which could be good for whichever college lands him. He figures to be at least a good college guard, and that's saying a lot.

This is not a risky offer for Crean, who has gone young before. Bishop Luers guard James Blackmon and Indianapolis Tech forward Trey Lyles hadn't yet started high school in the summer of 2010 before they committed to the Hoosiers as part of the Class of 2014.

Crean also likes tapping into the Fort Wayne-area talent pool. He's taking a long, hard look at Carroll freshman guard Chandler White, who's part of the Class of 2015.

White has been to several Indiana games, including the January win over Iowa and a regular-season-ending victory over Purdue, which is also interested in White. So are Michigan State (yes, the same program that beat out the Hoosiers and the Boilers to get Indiana Mr. Basketball Gary Harris last fall), Butler and Xavier.

White, who also plays football at Carroll, averaged almost 16 points a game this past season. He will play for Indiana Elite in travel ball this spring and summer.

Crean isn't done with recruiting. He never is. He reportedly is set to offer junior college All-America Jameel McKay a scholarship for the Class of 2013.

The 6-8 McKay averaged 14.6 points and 7.7 rebounds while shooting 62 percent from the field this past season for Indian Hills in Iowa. He led Indian Hills (33-4) to seventh place in the national junior college tourney, averaging 15.3 points and 12.5 rebounds in four national tournament games. He was one of 10 players named to the National Junior College Athletic Association All-American first team.

McKay, who will play again for Indian Hills next season, will have two years of eligibility remaining for whatever four-year college he picks.

Marquette, Iowa State, Arkansas and Wichita State also have reportedly offered scholarships to McKay.

Crean also flew to Washington, D.C., to see DeMatha center Beejay Anya (rated No. 20 in the Class of 2013) and was set to fly back to Indiana to evaluate East Chicago guard Hyron Edwards for the Class of 2015.

As far as committed players, the latest rankings are out by Scout.com and Rivals.com, a pair of national Internet recruiting services.

Scout released its new Class of 2012 ratings. Small forward Jeremy Hollowell of Indianapolis Lawrence Central is the highest-rated incoming Hoosier, at No. 28. Point guard Yogi Ferrell is at No. 30. Power forward Hanner Mosquera Perea is at No. 49.

Rivals' 2013 ratings showed Warren Central forward Devin Davis at No. 107, Indianapolis Cathedral forward Collin Hartman at No. 110 and Wisconsin forward Luke Fischer at No. 134.

Add it up and Crean shows he's committed to ensuring Indiana retains its national relevance for as long as he's around, and beyond.

If that means offering more eighth-graders, deal with it. As for seventh-graders, well, we'll get back to you.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Pete DiPrimio at pdiprimio@news-sentinel.com.