Russell Byrd's recent trip to Bloomington for a team camp has helped the Hoosiers improve their…
Hoosier Hoops Recruiting Notebook
Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo.
The Spartans have been heavily involved with the 6-6, 180-pound top-50 prospect from the 2010 class, sending mail of a daily basis. But Crean's former boss has also put in a good word for him during the process according to Russell's father, Kelly.
"One of the other schools that's been recruiting him and that he's gotten pretty close to is Michigan State, and from talking to Coach Izzo, he had a lot of positive things to say about Coach Crean," Kelly Byrd said. "Coach Crean had just been named the coach, and that was encouraging to (Russell)."
Kelvin Sampson's staff originally offered Byrd a scholarship in July of 2007, and Byrd made an unofficial to Bloomington in October for the Hoosiers' season-opening Hoosier Hysteria practice. After Sampson resigned in February, new IU assistant Tim Buckley quickly sent word the scholarship offer was still on the table.
When Tom Crean talks to Duncanville (Texas) H.S. standout Roger Franklin, he doesn't make small talk.
Instead, the Hoosier coach gets to the point about why he wants to see the 6-5, 190-pound small forward in an IU uniform in the fall of 2009.
"When we talk, what he really does is he gets straight to the deal," Franklin said. "He tells me about what Indiana has to offer, what he sees in me, what can help me and all the things he can do for me if I go to Indiana. So he talks about the university and the basketball program and how much I can help it."
Franklin has been a Crean target since he was at Marquette, and he remains a high priority for the '09 class. Franklin said he plans to take all five of his official visits before making a decision, which he said will come in October or November.
While the IU staff continues to figure out whether or not it wants Indianapolis power forward Stephan VanTreese as part of its '09 class, VanTreese has some figuring out to do about IU as well.
The biggest concern the 6'8", 225-pound Indianapolis Lawrence North H.S. standout has is the impending NCAA ruling on the Hoosier basketball program, which is expected to come out before the start of practice. If the governing body doesn't hit the program with a multi-year postseason ban – which seems unlikely considering the nature of the allegations – it would ease Van Treese's mind.
"It's not like I'm sitting here waiting on (the NCAA ruling), but that's going to help a lot," Van Treese said. "If they're banned from the NCAA if I went there, that would be hurtful. But I'm not committing anytime soon, so I should be able to see (what's going to happen)."
If the IU staff gets its way, the 2010 class will provide an immediate fix to any problems the program is facing right now.
The Hoosiers have targeted some of the best players in the country for the rising junior class, including two ranked in the nation's top six – 6-9, 280-pound center Josh Smith and 6-6, 190-pound small forward Harrison Barnes.
Both are out-of-state products, with Smith coming from Seattle and Barnes from Ames, Iowa. Indiana assistant coach Tim Buckley was well aware of Barnes due to the time he spent at the University of Iowa on Steve Alford's staff, and IU offered him a scholarship in late May. Smith, meanwhile, saw Indiana's interest spike in mid-June when he started receiving mail from Crean's staff about once every other day.
The competition will be fierce. Indiana was the fifth school to offer Barnes, and he's since added offers from the likes of Duke, UCLA, Kansas and LSU. Smith has been a focal point of Pac-10 programs, with offers from schools such as UCLA, Arizona and Washington.
It's not of the question that one of these coveted recruits could actually see their stock rise and eventually climb to the No. 1 spot in the '10 rankings. The most likely candidate might be Barnes, who has been one of the most talked about players this spring and summer.
Barnes told HoosierNation.com he never made it a priority to be the No. 1 prospect in the 2010 class, but now that it's within his grasp his attitude has changed.
"A goal of mine until recently wasn't to be a top-ranked player, I just wanted to be the best I could be," Barnes said. "Once I realized I had the ability to be one of those elite players, then it became one of my goals."
When it comes to Smith, many have suspected that he'll likely remain on the West Coast to play his college basketball and limit his search to Pacific time zone programs. But Smith recently told us that isn't the case.
"People ask me if staying on the West Coast is important to me, and right now I'm open to playing on the East Coast, down south, the West Coast, anywhere," Smith said. "There's a little effect because it's fun to be able to play in front of your family so they can go to every game. But if they can't go, they can watch it on TV. I don't think that will have a huge impact on me because my family is still going to try to see my games."
As the Bloomington-based Indiana Elite teams get action in Las Vegas underway this week, they'll be going about their business without their Bloomington players.
The 17-and-under team will be without Bloomington South guard Jordan Hulls, while the 15-and-under team will be missing Bloomington South guard Spencer Turner. Both talented backcourt players will actually be in Las Vegas, but they'll be competing with their high school team instead of with the AAU squads they've starred with for the last four months.
The Indiana staff figures to be keeping an eye on both while they're playing in Las Vegas, but don't be surprised if Purdue does the same. Indiana out-dueled Purdue for Hulls earlier this spring, but Boilermaker Coach Matt Painter is ready to make a second effort at getting a Bloomington product to say no to IU and yes to Purdue. Turner said Painter was at every one of his game's at the Kentucky Hoopfest a couple of weeks ago, the sort of IU Coach Tom Crean can't give kids while he copes with the recruiting restrictions he inherited from Kelvin Sampson.
While it's likely a long time before Turner will make a college choice, Purdue will be a formidable recruiting foe.
"With Purdue, I love Painter, I love his brand of basketball," Turner said.
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