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Cheaney might return to IU

Former Hoosier great in talks to join basketball staff.

Thursday, June 23, 2011 - 1:37 pm

BLOOMINGTON — Calbert Cheaney, the greatest player in the last great Indiana era under Bob Knight, might return to his basketball home.

Indiana coach Tom Crean wants Cheaney to join his staff, probably as director of basketball operations, and the former Hoosier All-America is interested. If it happens, the greatest scorer in Big Ten history will join Crean's efforts to return the program to national relevance.

Nothing is official yet, but an announcement could come soon.

Cheaney was an assistant coach for the NBA's Golden State Warriors this past season. The head coach was another former Hoosier, Keith Smart, who was fired after the season.

The 40-year-old Cheaney, an Evansville native, played 13 seasons in the NBA and scored 7,826 points for five teams before retiring after the 2005-06 season. He was the 1993 national player of the year and the No. 6 overall pick by Washington.

Before that, he was a sweet-shooting forward for the Hoosiers who scored 2,613 career points, a Big Ten record that might not be broken in this era of players leaving early for the NBA.

While at IU, Cheaney was the leader of one of the great teams in Big Ten history. The Hoosiers went 17-1 in league play in 1993 and won the conference championship. They were ranked No. 1 for much of that season but lost to Kansas in the Elite Eight. Losing forward Alan Henderson to a knee injury that season was a huge blow.

Cheaney arrived at IU as perhaps the least heralded of a strong recruiting class that included Indiana Mr. Basketball Pat Graham, Greg Graham and Lawrence Funderburke (who transferred to Ohio State). He made instant impact by leading the team in scoring with a 17.1 average as a freshman. He scored 20 points in his college debut.

The Hoosiers went 87-16 in Cheaney's last three seasons. As a junior he helped lead them to the 1992 Final Four, where they lost to Duke in the semifinals. As a senior he averaged 22.4 points and 6.4 rebounds for a 31-4 team. He finished with a 19.8 career scoring average.

Cheaney was a good but not great pro. He averaged in double figures five times, with a best of 16.6 points, and finished with a 9.5 career scoring average. He also played for Boston, Denver and Utah and retired when he was 34.

IU's director of operations job opened recently when Drew Adams left to take the same position at New Mexico. The job involves administrative duties, including summer camps. While the job has no recruiting responsibilities, Cheaney also could talk to current players about what it takes to make it in the NBA. That's an indirect recruiting advantage with high school players who have pro aspirations.