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COLUMN

Indiana's Class of 2017 already shaping up to be big

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For more on high school basketball and college recruiting, follow Jonathan Batuello on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/jcbatuello

Sophomore class is loaded with talent

Wednesday, July 16, 2014 - 1:24 am

It may be a foolhardy charge to give to college coaches nowadays. The concept to “lockdown the state” is consistently echoed as a way to stay competitive, specially for Purdue and Indiana coaches that reside in one of the most talent rich states in the country.

Still, the college basketball recruiting game has changed. National events, skills academies, social media, video, national TV coverage and more have drastically altered it from 10 or even five years ago. Coaches in regional areas no longer have the advantages they once had over players in their state seeing them play and growing up with their traditions.

That doesn't mean Tom Crean, Matt Painter, Notre Dame's Mike Brey and Butler's Brandon Miller (if they are still in charge of their programs in a few years) won't be implored to take care of the state as the next big recruiting class starts to gain notoriety.

The next big thing is already on the radar.

The Class of 2017 in Indiana will include multiple top 50 guys on top of other players that will likely be ranked in the top 100 or top 150. These are 4-star and 5-star players coming up that are getting ready to begin their sophomore seasons in high school.

It may seem premature, but recruiting starts early, and Indiana and Purdue are already on board and focused on once again trying to keep in-state kids within Hoosier State borders.

This group includes multiple players that helped the Grind Indy Hoosiers win the adidas Invitational 15U division over the weekend. Two of them, North Central's Kris Wilkes and Southport's Paul Scruggs, already hold offers from Indiana and Purdue.

Add to that Hamilton Southeastern's Zach Gunn, who has an offer from Indiana and Butler interest, and Pike's Justin Roberts, who had coaches from various schools watching him over the weekend.

Another player on the radar in the Class of 2017 is Snider's Malik Williams. The 6-foot-10 center didn't play at the adidas Invitational but has impressed scouts during the summer circuit.

This talent-rich class is the next in line to have impact players as soon as they enroll in college. The question everyone will ask is if the major state basketball programs can change the recent trend of talent exiting Indiana and just how important that is to their programs.

It's easy to recognize the elite players that have gone elsewhere for college, including players like DeShaun Thomas of Bishop Luers, Gary Harris and Zak Irvin.

Even this past recruiting cycle saw the top programs miss out on a class loaded with talent. The only player of the top Indiana kids to stay in-state is James Blackmon Jr., with guys like Trey Lyles and Trevon Bluiett spurning Indiana programs to go to Kentucky and Xavier, respectively.

So the question is can Indiana, Purdue, Butler and Notre Dame change this trend? Can they reverse the exodus of players or does it even matter anymore?

Certainly, all the programs want to keep top-talent in-state, but they have also begun to change their recruiting patterns. Since his arrival at Indiana, Crean has tried his best to grab the top in-state players, but has put a renewed emphasis on having a national recruiting presence.

In the last few years, Painter at Purdue has begun to recognize the need to look beyond the state's borders. Miller and Brey have always looked outside of Indiana for talent while trying to reel in homegrown players that slipped past the top programs.

This doesn't mean it won't be important for all of them to grab hold of the state again as the younger kids start to blow up recruiting rankings. Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State, Kentucky and Louisville have seemingly made a home in Indiana, making the Hoosier State their own recruiting ground.

This next great class is a chance for state coaches to reclaim their territory.