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Indiana basketball top recruits: Early 2000s just produced more chaos in Bloomington

Indiana University men's basketball fans hold signs, making light of the situation in which the Hoosiers' basketball coach, Kelvin Sampson, was embroiled at Assembly Hall in Bloomington during the coach's brief tenure with the program. (By The Associated Press)

When Mike Davis took over the Indiana University men’s basketball program in the fall of 2000 it was the most chaotic time period in the history of the Hoosier period. It probably remains so, but not by much, as that designation perhaps didn’t make it through the next decade.

Davis was fired after six seasons, which by the way were far more successful than the previous eight led by the legendary Bob Knight, and Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson was hired to lead Indiana back to its much sought-after glory days.

“Our new coach is the right man to maintain and build upon IU’s long and storied traditions,” Indiana University president Dr. Adam Herbert said upon hiring Sampson. “IU basketball is an elite program that plays by the rules and graduates its student-athletes. There is no question that wins and losses are very important to members of the Hoosier family. Equally important to us are high academic expectations and the core character values of the university.

“I am convinced that our new coach understands fully and is determined to meet Indiana University’s high overall expectations.”

And on that note…

Sampson didn’t even make it through two seasons before he was fired – in the middle of a season – for significantly lacking in the areas of “high academic expectations and the core character values of the university.”

Tom Crean replaced Sampson and restored – eventually – the Hoosier program to a degree.

With the Hoosiers seeking to finalize their 2018 recruiting class Monday with the (hopeful) signing of New Albany High School standout Romeo Langford, News-Sentinel.com college basketball reporter Tom Davis will take a daily look at the top 10 Indiana recruits of each decade (in no particular order).

Today’s Hoosier recruiting list: 2000 to 2009

Coming Wednesday: 1990 to 1999

JARED JEFFRIES

Jeffries was a tremendous addition to the Indiana program after earning the 2000 Indiana Mr. Basketball honor out of Bloomington North High School.

He spent two seasons with the Hoosiers and was named as the Big Ten Freshman of the Year and was First Team All-Big Ten as a sophomore (and Big Ten Player of the Year) and Second Team All-American.

He averaged 13 points as a freshman and 15 as a sophomore before turning pro.

Jeffries was selected with the 11th pick in the 2002 NBA Draft by Washington and played over a decade in the league with four different teams.

BRACEY WRIGHT

Davis signed Wright out of Texas in 2002 and the 6-foot-3 guard was a very productive player for three seasons.

As a freshman, Wright burst onto the scene by averaging 16 points per game and increased that to 18 in each of his next two seasons.

He was named First Team All-Big Ten as a junior and turned pro.

Wright was a second-round selection by Minnesota in the 2005 NBA Draft and played 26 games over the next two seasons before being cut.

MARSHALL STRICKLAND

The guard out of Maryland had a solid, if not spectacular, tenure in Bloomington.

The 6-foot-2 point guard led the Hoosiers in assists in his sophomore and junior seasons and averaged in double figures as a sophomore and senior.

Strickland improved as a shooter during his time with the program and hit nearly 48 percent of his 3-pointers as a senior.

D.J. WHITE

Davis tapped into his Alabama roots and landed White and it was a great find.

White was a two-time Indiana Most Valuable Player and was the 2008 Big Ten Player of the Year.

After averaging 13 points and four rebounds per game as a freshman, White missed all but five games as a sophomore with a broken foot (twice).

He bounced back to start 65 games over the next two seasons, which culminated in him averaging 17 points and 10 rebounds as a senior.

He was a first-round selection in the 2008 NBA Draft by Detroit and played six years with three different teams.

ROBERT VADEN

The Indianapolis native was productive throughout his career but left the Hoosiers to follow Davis to UAB after he was fired.

As a freshman, the 6-foot-5 guard 10 points and four rebounds per game and started all 60 games in his career in Bloomington.

He increased those numbers to 13 and five as a sophomore and dished out nearly four assists per game.

He closed his career with the Blazers by averaging 19 points per game over two seasons and was a second-round selection by Charlotte in the 2009 NBA Draft, though he never played in the league.

MARCO KILLINGSWORTH

Killingsworth began his career at Auburn before transferring to Indiana for one season.

As a senior, he was really productive, as the 6-foot-7 athlete led the Hoosiers with a 17-point-per-game average and nearly eight rebounds.

ERIC GORDON

Like Killingsworth, Gordon’s time with the program was brief but productive.

The 2007 Indiana Mr. Basketball spent just one season in Bloomington, but averaged over 20 points per game and was named First Team All-Big Ten.

The Indianapolis native was selected with the seventh pick in the 2008 NBA Draft by Los Angeles and has spent 10 years in the NBA, often battling injuries, but being productive when healthy.

VERDELL JONES

Crean recruited Jones out of Champaign, Illinois in early May of his senior year in high school and it ended up being a strong signing.

Jones started 25 games as a true freshman and was second on the team in scoring at 11 points per game.

Jones earned All-Big Ten honorable mention as a sophomore and started all 31 games. His 463 points scored (14.6 per game) led the Hoosiers. Jones was ninth in the league in assists (3.4 per game).

Jones started 24 of the 28 games in which he saw action as a junior and then started 23 of 30 games as a senior.

He finished his career as the 23rd best scorer in Hoosier history and ninth all-time in assists.

He injured his knee in the Big Ten Tournament to end his career.

CHRISTIAN WATFORD

Watford was one of three four-star recruits for Indiana in this class (along with Maurice Creek and Derek Elston) and he certainly showed why throughout his career.

The 6-foot-8 Alabama native was honored as the Big Ten Freshman of the Year after starting all 31 games and averaging 12 points and six rebounds.

As a sophomore, he started 28 of 29 games and fought through breaking his hand in the season. He averaged 16 points per game that season.

Over the course of his final two years, Watford averaged 12 points and six boards and started 71 of 72 games.

Watford was honored as Third Team All-Big Ten as a senior and finished his career as the ninth most productive scorer in Hoosier history.

JORDAN HULLS

Hulls was a solid player for Indiana throughout his career, which began with 17 starts in 31 games as a freshman.

He averaged six points per game that season and shot over 40 percent from 3-point range.

Over the next two seasons, Hulls increased his scoring to 11 points per game and that dipped to just fewer than 10 as a senior.

He averaged just under three assists per game for his career and made over 44 percent of his 3-pointers in 135 games.

Hulls started all 104 games over the final three seasons of his career.

He was Academic All-Big Ten each of his final three seasons and earned the national Senior CLASS Award.

For more on college basketball, follow Tom Davis on Twitter at Tom101010 and on Facebook at Thomas Davis.

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