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IU's best-ever NBA draft will boost program

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Follow Pete DiPrimio via Twitter at www.twitter.com/pdiprimio

Recruiting, player development will benefit

Saturday, June 29, 2013 - 1:03 am

The greatest NBA draft night in Indiana history -- Victor Oladipo went No. 2 to Orlando; Cody Zeller went No. 4 to Charlotte -- has the basketball program buzzing. Yes, coach Tom Crean is already making the most of it.

“It gives us a bigger dose of energy,” Crean said. “This program has a lot of energy.”

While Crean spent much of his time during Thursday night's draft on the phone talking with NBA officials about Oladipo and Zeller, as well as undrafted Christian Watford and Jordan Hulls, Hoosier assistant coaches were working the recruiting hot line.

“I was on the phone a little bit with recruiting,” Crean said, “but the assistant coaches were on the phone a lot. That was important. There was a lot of texting going back and forth. A lot of phone calls going back and forth.”

Over the last couple of years IU has developed into a recruiting juggernaut that consistently lands top-10 classes. The latest group of freshmen -- forwards Noah Vonleh, Troy Williams, Devin Davis and Collin Hartman, guard Stanford Robinson and center Luke Fischer -- ranks sixth nationally by Rivals.com, a national Internet recruiting service.

Having two players go in the top four in the draft (IU's previous best was in 1976, when Scott May went No. 2 and Quinn Buckner went No. 7) should only enhance that recruiting success, especially at a national level.

For instance, while NCAA rules prohibit coaches from commenting on unsigned recruits, 6-8 Virginia forward Devin Robinson, ranked No. 24 in the Class of 2014 by Rivals.com, tweeted during the draft that he had received a scholarship offer from IU.

“We're already recruiting in the sense of trying to win as much as we can,” Crean said. “I don't think it's going to change the person we're recruiting. What it signifies, and I talked to the coaches about this, it shows you don't have to deal with entitlement or any enlightening guys to make them think this is a great program. This is a great program.

“If you're soft or selfish, you won't make it here. It doesn't work. Those guys (Zeller and Oladipo) were tremendous representatives of what it means to be great people and to be absolute competitive nightmares on the floor. I think that's what they are. That's what we want to continue to recruit.”

While both players improved while at IU, Oladipo's rise was especially impressive given he was a draft non-factor before his junior year. He was ranked No. 144 in the Class of 2010. The reason for his improvement, Crean said, was a second-to-none work ethic.

“In the three years he was here, there might have been two days he took off, and one of those I told him not to come in. He worked not just after a game or before a game or on a day off. I mean every day he came to work.”

Current Hoosiers -- especially the freshmen -- figure to benefit from that example.

“We had our workouts (Thursday) and we don't have Yogi Ferrell and Will Sheehey (both are in Colorado Springs this week trying out for the U.S.'s World University Games team), a couple guys were banged up with injuries, and our level of energy inside a workout was so good,” Crean said. “It was great. People were anticipating what was going to happen (Thursday) night. The energy will continue to grow.”

As far as Oladipo and Zeller going so high in the draft, Crean said it had just as much to do with the quality of their character as it did the excellence of their play.

“The fact they both went the way they did speaks volumes about their work ethic and their character. The intensity and competitiveness they have. In my mind as a coach, the greatest thing they have going for them is the upside.

“Victor just turned 21. Cody won't be 21 until October. There is a tremendous amount of growth in those guys that we've had the privilege to be a part of.

“The coaching staffs and fan bases in Orlando and Charlotte are going to be really excited about not only what they do on the court, but blown away by what those guys are capable of in making people feel invested and part of the program and the way they'll be in their communities.”

Zeller's NBA growth, Crean added, will include showcasing a perimeter game.

“He's got an incredible mind. He has as much mental toughness as anybody I've ever coached. When he gets comfortable with moving his game away from the basket as far as shooting from the perimeter and shooting it with range and in games … the skill set is there. There's no doubt about that.

"He has to get the comfort level. Once he does it will take off. He's going to be a multi-dimensional player because he can drive it, shoot it and score it in the post. He can really pass. There's no question he'll get better.”