The events of today in the Indiana basketball program sent Hoosier Nation into a tizzy. In the matter of a few hours news came out that several members of the 2013-14 Indiana team would no longer be a part of the program. Freshman Noah Vonleh will be entering the NBA draft, while sophomores Jeremy Hollowell, Austin Etherington, and Johnny Marlin all announced they will transfer. Adding to the mass exodus is the rumor that walk-on freshman players Joe Fagan and Andrew Calomeris will also be leaving the program. This news heightens the fervor of the IU faithful following a disappointing season. But what does all of this really mean?
Obviously the depletion in numbers from today is an issue coach Tom Crean will need to take care of during the spring signing period. That will be the first issue to handle. The Hoosiers already have three incoming freshman signed for next season to fill a portion of the vacancies.
The bigger issue at play here is perception and not production. Yes, replacing the Big Ten freshman of the year Noah Vonleh will be difficult, but that was something that could have been foreseen. The idea of issues within the locker room or problems between players and coaches is more glaring. Cracks in what a year ago seemed to be a strong foundation are now apparent.
Crean has been known as a strong recruiter. Even dating back to his Marquette days when he pulled in Dwyane Wade, Travis Diener, Steve Novak, Dominic James, and Wesley Matthews. He has had strong recruiting classes in Bloomington too. Obviously signing Cody Zeller was the biggest recruiting prize he brought in, but finding Victor Oladipo was a great find. Following those classes up was the “Movement” class. This was one of the most hyped recruiting classes by IU fans which included Yogi Ferrell, Jeremy Hollowell, Hanner Mosquera-Perea, Peter Jurkin, and Ron Patterson. Of these players, only Ferrell has had a major impact. Hollowell is leaving and Patterson never played a game with Indiana and has ended up at Syracuse.
This is not just a “Movement” issue either. Look at the past two seasons for the program. Last season IU did not bring Matt Roth back for what could have been another year of eligibility. The following offseason saw Maurice Creek not brought back and he transferred to George Washington. Remy Abell also left the program moving on to Xavier. Luke Fisher came in this year’s recruiting class but only made it through one semester before deciding to transfer to Marquette. Add all of this up and there may be an underlying problem.
I am not going to say that this is all on Crean and that there is no way the program can recover. I am also not going to say that this is no cause for concern. This could just be a blip on the radar if the incoming class can produce at a high level and Indiana gets back to the tournament. Winning can always cover up your faults. But seeing guys who could and should be four year program guys like Abell and Etherington leave gives your operation a black eye. And to think this does not have an affect on future recruiting would be foolish.
The seat is getting hotter for Crean in Bloomington. These issues do not help his cause and the critics in Hoosier Nation are increasing. Getting the program back on track in 2014-15 is the first major cure all, but that could become more difficult seeing these blemishes rise to the forefront.
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