BLOOMINGTON -- Indiana's latest basketball recruiting buzz -- fueled by the program's best ever NBA draft showing and the success of Yogi Ferrell and Will Sheehey with the U.S. World University Games team -- hasn't changed the focus.
How do we know this?
Assistant coach Kenny Johnson is spreading the word.
“It's not always a highly credentialed player that we're seeking,” he said. “We're seeking the best people that fit into what we're trying to accomplish here.”
Accomplishments gained national attention when Victor Oladipo went No. 2 in last month's NBA draft, two spots ahead of Cody Zeller. That highlighted the Hoosier program's ability to develop players, whether they are highly rated (Zeller was a top-20 player coming out of high school) or not (Oladipo was No. 144).
Yes, Johnson said during Tuesday's media gathering at Cook Hall, that can give Hoosier recruiting a boost.
“Does their success give us a few more options out there for some people we might not have reached out to?” Johnson said. “Potentially, but that's not what's driving us. What we're doing in recruiting, we're plugging away at it the same way.”
Plugging never stops, but it takes on added significance during this month's three five-day evaluation periods. Coaches can't talk to recruits during this time, but they can watch them play in a series of national events that match up most of the nation's travel teams, making themselves highly visible to recruits in the process.
Events kicked off Tuesday night with EYBL Finals/Peach Jam in South Carolina, although the main action begins tonight and runs through Sunday for the first evaluation period. Other key events this week are the Adidas Invitational in Indianapolis and the Reebok Breakout in Philadelphia.
Orlando's Super Showcase and Milwaukee's Under Armour Summer Jam will run July 17-21. The Las Vegas Super 64 & Fav 48, Orlando's AAU and Fort Wayne's GRBA Nationals will run July 24-28.
So what are IU coaches looking for?
“It's definitely an important period for us,” Johnson said. “It's truly an evaluation period where we're able to get out and take a look.
“We recruit versatile players. That's been a strength. That bears out when you watch us play, the versatility of our players. We never have to go into it that we really need a point guard or a shooting guard or a small forward, because we recruit versatile players.
“As anyone in the country will tell you, if a highly skilled big man is out there who fits into our culture, sure we're interested. If you take a look at what we've lost in the last two years, that gives you an indication of what we might be looking for.”
Key losses in the last two years include guards Verdell Jones, Jordan Hulls and Oladipo, and forwards Christian Watford, Derek Elston and Zeller.
“It all starts with who meshes, who is competitive and willing to learn,” Johnson said. “That's what we've had. That's what we have this year coming in (with the six freshmen); that's what we're looking for -- people who are willing to learn, who are versatile and who will mesh with what we have.”
IU brings in a top-10 class this year with center Luke Fischer, forwards Noah Vonleh, Troy Williams, Devin Davis and Collin Hartman, and guard Stanford Robinson. It has just one commitment in the Class of 2014 -- former Bishop Luers standout James Blackmon, who will play his senior season at Marion.
Possibilities to join Blackmon (rated No. 33 by Rivals.com, a national Internet recruiting service) in next year's freshman class include Indianapolis Park Tudor small forward Trevon Bluiett (No. 46), Virginia forward Devin Robinson (No. 24), Australia combo guard Dante Exum, Maryland shooting guard Phil Booth (No. 78), Georgia guard Ahmed Hill (No. 55) and Massachusetts center Goodluck Okonoboh (No. 32).
“We're pretty clear about the type of player we look to bring into this program,” Johnson said. “Nationally it's pretty well understood what our core values are. That doesn't change. What it does is the exposure (Zeller and Oladipo) have gotten maybe brings a little more attention to us …
“We have a great understanding of what we're looking for. If anything maybe it puts more emphasis on why you come to school -- for your education, for your player development, for a family environment that will sustain you, not for the next four years, but for the next 40. It gives us an opportunity to maybe answer more questions rather than presenting the facts. People now have an understanding of what Indiana is based on.”