BLOOMINGTON -- Youth is not wasted on the Indiana Elite 2016 basketball young, and if it doesn't possess a superstar such as Eron Gordon (who got scholarship offers from Indiana and Purdue as an eighth grader), does that matter?
Not to coach Mark Adams. He's got a group of high school freshmen who, if they develop and work and maintain perspective, will win big for the next three years and generate enough college scholarship offers to rival almost any powerhouse travel ball program in the country.
Could that mean offers from Indiana, Purdue, Notre Dame, Butler, and more?
Perhaps, but first, a little perspective.
Yes, that means defense.
We stand in the Bloomington South High School gym. Indiana Elite has just finished an 88-79 victory over the Southern Indiana Kings, a squad that can't match Elite in talent, but spends most of Saturday afternoon's game nearly matching it on the scoreboard.
“We've played a lot of good games,” Adams says. “That wasn't one of them.”
He laughs. He can afford to laugh. His team is 25-0. It has won four tournament titles, including last weekend's Run-n-Slam event at Fort Wayne's Spiece Fieldhouse. It almost certainly will win more -- it is the favorite in today's adidas May Classic tourney round -- before the travel ball season ends at the end of July.
“Last week at Spiece, there were some of the top 10 teams in the country,” Adams says. “We were battling with 6-8, 6-9, athletic kids from King James and Ohio Red.”
Indiana Elite didn't battle out-gunned. It has size, speed, talent and lots of energy. Its players are willing to learn from mistakes.
For instance, a few hours later in Saturday's pool play, Indiana Elite hammered the Illinois Gold Red Tigers 78-41.
Yes, the defense was much better.
Indiana Elite has players from all over the state. There are guards D.J. Wilkins from Merrillville, C.J. Hedgepeth from Evansville North and Tucker Blackwell from Bloomington South. There are forwards Joey Brunk from Indianapolis Park Tudor, and the Murphy twins from Griffith, Anthony and Tremmell.
Brunk is 6-9 with the potential to surpass 7-feet. The Murphy twins are 6-4, but with a father who is 6-8 and a mother who is 6-foot, they likely aren't close to being finished growing.
Blending it all together is Adams, a veteran travel ball coach who has developed powerhouse teams and players for years.
“We have great guards,” he says. “We've got four to five who might be high-level guards in college if they keep developing. We have some height with it -- the Murphy twins are 6-4, 6-5 players who can jump quick. They can rebound with anybody in the country.
“Throw in some good role players and we've got a little bit of everything, and that includes great chemistry, too. They normally love to play defense.”
“We had a little bit of a glitch there.”
Glitch or not, Indiana Elite is gunning for an unbeaten season, a difficult task given the competition they'll face during Memorial Day weekend in Chicago, and then during July's evaluation period with tourneys in Indianapolis and Las Vegas, and perhaps Milwaukee.
“These guys are only freshmen,” Adams says. “If they stop growing, that won't be good. As long as they continue to grow and work on perimeter skills and shooting, they can really develop into a good team. They have all the makings to be really good once they get older because they have the height with the skills.”
The 6-2 Blackwell had 20 points against the Southern Indiana Kings and 13 against the Tigers. He's a solid outside shooter with the ability to drive inside.
“He's probably been our leading scorer,” Adams says. “He's really been vital in getting us going. He gets his hands on balls all the time. He rebounds. He has a really high basketball IQ.”
The 6-1 Hedgepeth is a point guard who can shoot, pass, make good decisions and plays hard.
“C.J. is one of the best point guards in (the Class of 2016),” Adams says. “He gets everybody involved in the offense. He can score, but he doesn't have to score as long as everybody plays. He usually plays great defense and is a good leader as far as sharing the ball and getting everybody where they need to be.”
Wilkins can play point or shooting guard.
“D.J. is a combo guard who can put the ball in the basket,” Adams says. “He can shoot it. The better the competition, the better he plays, which bothers me sometimes. He can really play well against great competition, and he can play great D.”
Brunk missed Saturday's action because of a previous commitment, but is expected to play in today's tourney action.
“He's 6-9 with soft hands and good footwork for a guy that young and that tall,” Adams says. “He has a big body. He's helped us tremendously. We miss him in the middle when he's not here.”
The Murphy brothers are not polished players, but few are as freshmen. The potential is obvious.
“They can rebound with anybody in the country,” Adams says. “They are really good.”