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Success puts IPFW on recruiting map

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For more on high school basketball and recruiting, follow Justin Kenny on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/jkenny_ns

Prep talents not overlooking program any longer

Wednesday, July 16, 2014 - 4:16 am

Winning 25 games and coming within one victory of an NCAA Tournament appearance has done wonders for the IPFW men's basketball program.

It has upped local interest in regards to fans, helped broaden the scope of the team outside of Northeast Indiana and raised the expectations of a program that has gained traction in Division I over the last few years.

But perhaps most important of all in terms of the continued success of the Mastodons is how the impressionable minds of high school basketball players are being swayed.

In some instances, IPFW's success is the tipping point for some prep talent to be fully invested in checking out Coach Jon Coffman's program.

In others, it is simply getting the school on the map.

“I didn't even know Fort Wayne had IPFW until the season they had,” said Winchester junior guard Kiante Enis, who is being recruited by the Mastodons.

After a pair of visits to campus, Enis now has significant knowledge about the program and the university, but without the year IPFW had on the court, that door does not open.

“People are taking our calls now,” Coffman said. “They are interested because we are playing on ESPN, they know what happened and how we played in the CIT and won 25 games.

“When (recruits) know who you are, that helps.”

Homestead senior Dana Batt has picked up significant IPFW interest in addition to Patriot League and Ivy League schools. The 6-foot-9 forward recently picked up his first scholarship offer from Colgate, but hopes to earn a good look from the Mastodons.

Mid-major talents from Northern Indiana used to shy away from IPFW, looking at it as a school that at one point lacked a conference and lacked the ability to compete at the Division I level.

Not anymore after last year's 25-11 campaign that followed up a 16-win season in 2012-13.

“That just shows me that they are for real as a basketball program,” said Batt about his impressions from IPFW's season. “Growing up in Fort Wayne, you kind of think, 'Oh, that's just IPFW' and you see the other big schools like IU and Purdue and they are doing big things.

“But especially with (last) season and the success they had, that really puts them on the map, like 'Wow, they were minutes away from playing in the NCAA Tournament' and that really shows the job that Coach Coffman and (Coach Tony Jasick) before him have done in building this program and making them a legit contender.”

Coffman understands that even in indirect ways prep players hold the key for continued success. Positive word of mouth about the IPFW program has never been higher in its dozen years in Division I. Sometimes, a tweet or Instagram post can do more for public perception amongst impressionable teenagers than any amount of discussion from a coach.

“What I've seen change in 16 years (of coaching) is that things can change more rapidly because of social media,” Coffman said. “Kids may not have seen what IPFW was doing 10 years ago, but with Twitter or on Facebook … what we were able to do last year resonates with people.”

The key now is for IPFW to continue to be successful and grow as a program. The minds of teenagers change rapidly, but as long as the Mastodons are turning heads on television and in the media, interest will remain upon the growing program.

“They are definitely much more prominent than they were in the past with that recent success they've had,” Batt said. “It's really put them on the map in a lot of kids' minds.”