BLOOMINGTON – You’d better believe Tom Crean understands the value of East Coast basketball.
Victor Oladipo came from there, a Maryland prep player rich in potential and short on recruiting acclaim, and wound up as an Indiana superstar now in the NBA.
Crean has had other talented players from the East during his nine seasons in Bloomington, including current players Thomas Bryant and Devonte Green, both from New York.
Big Ten expansion out East has boosted recruiting there and Crean continues to take full advantage.
Case in point -- he spent last Sunday in Washington D.C. to get a close view of the 2016 National High School Hoops Festival.
That included 2018 prospect Jake Forrester, a 6-8 forward from Pennsylvania.
Yes, Crean wants athleticism and skill, because you can’t win at a big-time level without them, but if you don’t have competitiveness and energy to go along with it, well, Crean would rather take a pass.
He talked about that during Monday night’s weekly radio show, saying that as he watched the Hoops Festival players in action, he was very interested in high motors and passion.
“It was great watching that action because you’re seeing so many different styles of play,” he said. “The one thing that kept capturing me was people’s energy. I want to feel that energy when I’m sitting there.
“You don’t have to be skilled or overly talented, but there’s got to be a level of energy to you. That’s one thing I don’t want to short cut on.”
During his 18 years as a college coach, his recruiting approach has evolved to include that element.
“I like to look at how they are, what their intensity looks like,” Crean said. “Can you feel that they’re on the floor when they’re in the game, or even if you’re watching them on video. Does it look like they’re energized?”
Crean has signed three players for the Class of 2017 (Al Durham, Clifton Moore and Justin Smith), and has his eyes on signing more.
Four-star swingman Jordan Tucker took his official visit during IU’s win over North Carolina earlier this month, which tells you how much Crean wants him.
Anyway, as far as what else Crean looks for on the recruiting trail, he said, “The biggest thing is if they have really good feet, if they have good hands, if they have good eyes, if they shoot the ball, even if it doesn’t go in a lot, does it come off their hands soft? Does it hit the rim soft? Those kind of things because we want people who can shoot. Even if they’re not really good shooters right now, is the potential there?
“There are a lot of things (you look for). The awareness, the shooting, the ability to move in a short space quickly, the intent to get on both ends. Even if it’s not so good on either end, is the intent there? That’s the most important stuff.”