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April 26, 2012

Recruiting talk

During his first offseason update with the media this week, Indiana coach Tom Crean talked at length on recruiting strategy, the type of player targeted, handling the oversign issue, Matt Roth's situation, offering scholarships to young players and the potential benefit of being ranked at the top of the polls. Catch what he had to say.

Summary in Q&A form of what Tom Crean had say on the recruiting front during Tuesday's press conference:

On how early preseason No. 1 helps in recruiting:

"I think that the perception of that is really good. I don't think that there is any question about that. I think it just helps. I think a lot of people saw us play. A lot of recruits had a chance, and their coaches and families had a chance to watch us play. Indiana is always going to have a lot of exposure, but I think it was the magnitude of the exposure this year and the success that we had with it. So I don't think there is any question that that helps. I look at some of those polls. The one last night that I looked at in-depth last night was the Dick Vitale one. The only one I don't get in any of those polls is how far down they have Wisconsin. I wouldn't be good at the polls I guess because I'd have them in the top 3 to 5 and that's where I think they are at.

"But Vitale obviously has got Kentucky on there, he had us, he had Michigan, Michigan State, we could potentially see NC State or North Carolina potentially in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge then you've got Wisconsin down the line, you've got Butler in that group. We could see UCLA, we could see Georgetown, we could see Georgia. The people that we could end up playing, and that doesn't include Ohio State, who's going to be a highly ranked team. When you really start to think about it we are in the mix, I'm glad we are in the mix, but we are in the mix with a lot of really good teams.

"Again, it's the off-season and it's the expectations that they have in each other, for one another, and because of each other that I think really drive your team. It's one thing that you expect something out of yourself or you expect something out of a teammate because you're together and those expectations rise that's another level. I think we are heading there. Again, it's the work they are willing to put in but as far as recruiting there is no question, it doesn't hurt."

Handling the oversign issue - Indiana has nine scholarship players expected back next season and five signees. That addes to 14 scholarships. The NCAA only allows 13 scholarships for men's basketball....

"There is not a big plan and there really isn't a timetable. Those things work themselves out, they always have. It's just the way that it is. It's certainly something that's on the horizon but there is not a timetable to it." On whether it's better to see a recruit during an AAU game or a team practice: If I had my druthers, it'd be to see as many practices as you could, high level practices. But it doesn't work that way. Because you can't do it this time of year but usually when teams are practicing we are practicing. When we can hit an occasional practice, I always like to do that. I think it's the more real competition you can see them against, the more different competition.

"During the season I always want to see them at home. I want to see them on the road. I want to see them in at least one rivalry game and I also want to see them a lot of times in a game maybe where they are suppose to do well. Maybe where on paper or in the past they have been better than that team and see how they handle that game. Do they keep playing as hard through it?

"When you have a short window like this in April and you can see somebody play a couple of times a night or a couple of times a day, that's invaluable. It's a great, great evaluation time. You can gather so much and then you can start to compare that to their high school films and the improvement that they are showing and then you've got that much more of a gauge if you see them at your own camp or if you see them in July."

Possibly related to that issue, Crean spoke about Matt Roth's status since Roth does have one more year of eligibility but has moved on to graduate school and is not among the nine scholarship players expected back at the moment...

"He's keeping his options open which is good. He's focused right now on finishing up because he's had such a big road this academic year to get where he wants to be in his Master's program. He's got options. He's got options of keeping his eligibility and at the same time I think in his mind he is planning for the future and planning to make that next jump. The advice I gave him was just to keep your options open as you go through this and as we go through this."

On whether Roth could be with the team next season:

"We will have to wait and see. Any discussions like that would be in house and I just want him to keep his options open on what's best for him moving forward and there is no question that he is looking into his future. But he will be the decider of that for the most part."

Recruiting or offering scholarships to young players (i.e. eighth graders, freshman in high school):

"I think it's brilliant, to be honest with you (joking). No, I think it can backfire. But, you know what, it's part of the game. It's part of where it's at now. A couple years ago they started counting seventh grade and above as potential recruitable student-athletes. I think we have some criteria that we're always trying to follow. I think we're trying to look at intelligence and academic upside. We're trying to look at athletic upside and, as much as you can, the character of that person and, most importantly the people around them, their family. It's very easy to say when a player is really young it's hard to gauge those things, and it is, but if you spend enough time.

" I know this, when we get involved and we get people on campus, we spend a lot of time talking about what they're doing in school, what they're potential for AP classes is, what their grade point's like. You really can get locked into somebody. You don't have to coach them and you don't have to tell them what to do. But, you can be really locked in to how they're going about things. Again, we're far from the only school that's offering younger players but it's the way that it is."

On the kind of players the staff may be targeting:

"We can sit for an hour and talk about all the what-if scenarios that could play out here in the next couple years. We're recruiting a high-level of player. We have some nationally ranked players but, more importantly, we've got some guys that are known in a lot of places. In this day in age, if you come in and you're successful, you are going to have options. There's not a real age limit on options, there's a performance level, there's a potential level. All those kinds of things play in to what your options are going to be. So we have to be really aware of that. You don't want to end up a player short or a position short.

"In the case of point guard and in the case of that swing forward type of guy, to me, the deeper you can be at those positions with people who can play other positions, the better. The best four men for us have been people you may not necessarily look at and say `well, that's a four man.' With us, where we're heading with this, to be as multi-positional, to be versatile and have the ability to guard as many different people as possible, that's only going to make us better."

On the potential recruiting plusses of Indiana's graduation rate and having players graduate before four years:

"You've always got to have special edges and hooks in how you're making your team better. I think our player development; I think the way the guys improve. You just look at the numbers year-to-year on how guys get better and I think that's a big deal. But, we have more guys that our going to graduate in 3-3.5 years than are going to graduate in four. I think it's a tribute to how hard they work, how they were raised academically before they get here. But, it's a big-time tribute to the way Marni Mooney organizes things, the way our coaches back it up and the way professors and teachers teach at the university. I don't know very many of them but, obviously it's going pretty good. I think there's an accountability that they know what's expected of them academically, they know the repercussions when they aren't there and we just move. It's a great place in this program.

"We want to recruit players that want to be pros too but, if they can leave and have their degree, that would be even better. I think that's exactly how we're trying to set it up. In this day in age to just walk in and say `in four years, in five years,' that's not how you talk at this level. You can't, you get left behind. But, if you can give a player the opportunity to get better, give an opportunity to play at a major league program like this and be able to get this world-class education and get the support they get for that, now you've got a chance to be in the conversation with good programs. You've always got to find ways to differentiate yourselves or give yourselves a hook and an edge and what's going on here academically, we're not taking backseat to anyone on that. That's really good.

"Again, everyone will have graduated. I like to think we've always put academics at a very, very high premium. Tim Buckley graduated everyone he coached at Ball State, Steve McClain had a tremendous graduation rate and we had a 100 percent rate at Marquette. Everyone who played there four years graduated. We would like to see that continue. That's why getting involved with players at a young age, you can start to really have a hand on them as far as academically and I think it helps and I enjoy it."

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