Tom Crean has fought through the tough times and heard all the negativity others have said about his team. When he arrived, the program was in worse shape than anyone ever could have believed. Indiana basketball head coach Tom Crean is preparing for his fourth season in Bloomington, which begins Friday against Stony Brook.
Today may be one of the most memorable days for Crean and staff in terms of restoring the program to prominence. On the first day of the early-signing period, the Hoosiers had five players sign their letter of commitment to make it official. Hanner Perea, Peter Jurkin, Kevin ‘Yogi’ Ferrell, Ron Patterson and Jeremy Hollowell will come to Indiana next year bringing what they call, “the movement.”
“The office is a busy place,” Crean tweeted today. “I love the sound of the fax machine today. It is humming. I am so thankful for this staff. What a incredible group of people we work with. In our meeting today I gave them my thoughts on what makes a great job for them when they become HC’s. There are some very critical factors. A passion filled fan base is as big a factor as any. Ours at Indiana is second to none. Believe me it is noticed by many, imitated by quite a few and duplicated by none.”
The first big get for Crean while at Indiana was this time last year, when Cody Zeller committed to Indiana and signed his letter of intent. He brought credibility, top talent and the feeling that it’s cool again to stay in state to play at IU. Then Crean continued to receive verbal commitments from players spanning three different classes. This 2012 class has the chance to be very special, and leave their mark on the rebirth of Indiana basketball.
Crean and his team have struggled their way through the last three seasons, finishing 28-66. That’s unacceptable, has to change and it will. There are finally some leaders on IU’s roster and more mature talent that could possibly earn the team a postseason bid.
This Indiana basketball team has began to feel a bit of pressure and urgency now in the fourth year of this rebuilding project. IU fans aren’t use to a team that doesn’t compete for Big Ten championships. They are not comfortable with finishing last in the conference, losing in the first game of the Big Ten Tournament, and not making a NCAA tournament bid. And I know the team is not happy as well.
Beginning this season, I will be following players’ individual progress, style of play and Crean’s coaching. I’m looking for indications that this is going to work, that the players have bought in and leave it all on the floor every game.
Next year, Indiana will once again compete for Big Ten championships and could possibly crack the top-10 rankings. They will have depth, experience and talent at every position. It’s very encouraging to ponder potential lineups — like Cody Zeller, Hanner Perea, Jeremy Hollowell, Will Sheehey and Yogi Ferrell for example.
However it’s another year before they arrive in Bloomington and it’s in each player’s best interest to focus on their high school team and on winning a championship. Enough with the talk, gossip and forward-thinking. They all need to take advantage of this final year of being the best player on the floor and make the most of it. Improvements on the dribble, attacking, shooting, getting to the free throw line, defending, rebounding and leading.
Next year will be fun but don’t rush it. IU doesn’t have the talent to contend for a Big Ten title this season but there’s no reason they can’t make a run, surprise people, and get better. Indiana is adding a very special class to a group that right now will surprise some teams.
Tonight, Crean and his staff should relax together, with a cold beverage in hand, and tell stories from the recruiting trail. In these last three years, these coaches have worked extremely hard and rarely have an off day. Enjoy it guys, because tomorrow is the final day day of preparations for the 2011 season, in a year that Indiana has a lot to prove.