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Crean focused on attracting the state's top recruits to Indiana
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Indiana head coach Tom Crean says he is focused on getting the state's top players to once again want to play for the Hoosiers.
By Chris Howell, AP
Indiana head coach Tom Crean says he is focused on getting the state's top players to once again want to play for the Hoosiers.
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Owning the state of Indiana recruiting-wise is the top priority for Indiana University basketball coach Tom Crean.

The commitment he received from Broad Ripple guard Ron Patterson this week was another step toward bringing the state's best to Bloomington. A decision in the coming months from Washington's Cody Zeller may be a big piece to the puzzle.

Then there are players such as Park Tudor's Yogi Ferrell, North Central's D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, Lawrence Central's Jeremy Hollowell and Hamilton Southeastern's Gary Harris.

All are top-40 players in the class of 2012. All are IU targets. All have IU on their short lists.

Crean said the Hoosiers have made up ground in recruiting from the time he arrived in March 2008. But he was quick to admit IU isn't all the way back.

"We're not caught up with other programs in the league, and we're not caught up with some of those long-term relationships that have been built, but I think we've made a real dent in it," Crean said Friday. "And if the negative recruiting we endure is any sign of it, then there's no question we are.

"There were a lot of schools that we recruit against that it was not in their best interests for Indiana to be on the road back. It was a lot better for them to have Indiana sitting where they were. And I know that we're climbing out of that and that's really important in the battles that we're in from a recruiting standpoint."

Crean said he always has believed recruiting in-state was of major importance. He also knew, however, that IU wouldn't be able to catch up with just one recruiting class.

"There are several young men who are entering their junior and senior years in high school right now that I was trying to see the maximum amount of time when they were freshmen and sophomores," Crean said. "We had to really dive in with the youth in the younger classes, and I feel like we're doing a good job there now, as well."

It's a staff emphasis on recruiting the state. Both Tim Buckley and Bennie Seltzer have long been involved with many of the state's top prospects.

Even Steve McClain, who came to IU a few months ago from Colorado and before that was at Wyoming, said it didn't take him long to realize the importance of recruiting the state.

"Having been in places where you had to get on a plane or drive long distances to see kids, I really got to see first-hand in July how many players there are right here in our state, both young and old," McClain said. "I knew that, but until July, where I could really get out and see all of them, you don't really get a complete feel for it."

The year Crean came to Indiana from Marquette, the Hoosiers had two players from the state in their recruiting class. Derek Elston was a Kelvin Sampson recruit who opted to re-commit; Jordan Hulls, the Indianapolis Star Indiana Mr. Basketball from Bloomington South, committed after Crean arrived.

Crean didn't believe the in-state players he had a shot at for his second class fit the program's needs. His third class already has one in-state commitment, Hamilton Heights' Austin Etherington.

Crean can't afford to waste recruiting slots on players who are at risk of developing slowly or never developing at all.

"I think the only thing worse than taking an in-state player that could be good is to take one that's not going to play," Crean said. "You never want to take an in-state player that is not going to help you. I don't think that's a positive.

"It wasn't like anybody slipped our mind. Some we weren't able to recruit, some were too far down the road with others and some we made the choice not to do it."

Crean said he wants to bring in-state kids to IU when possible in future classes.

"At the same time, we're not going to shut the door (nationally) on kids we think would be great fits for Indiana."


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