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Last updated: Thu. Nov. 15, 2012 - 05:25 am EDT

Vonleh highlights Indiana recruiting class

Hoosiers have nation's No. 3 group

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Tipoff: Sam Houston State at Indiana 7 p.m. tonight

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Online: For more on Indiana athletics, follow Pete DiPrimio via Twitter at pdiprimio.

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BLOOMINGTON -- Is Noah Vonleh a one-and-done guy?

Indiana's latest super recruit's national ranking (No. 7 by Rivals.com, a national Internet recruiting service) suggests yes, but his college performance will determine that.

Vonleh, a 6-9 forward from Massachusetts, is a year away from his Indiana debut, but the fact that he's a signed, sealed and delivered Hoosier is a big deal as IU prepares for tonight's game against Sam Houston State.

Vonleh said via an Internet-streamed news conference that, “I don't want to have any numbers on my position. I want to be a basketball player who can do many things.”

If you've seen coach Tom Crean's top-ranked Hoosiers play, you know he values versatility. It's why, for instance, 6-9 forward Christian Watford sometimes guards point guards. Indiana coaches have told Vonleh they see him fitting in Watford's inside-out role.

“They told me about how they work with their players in practice in skill development,” Vonleh said, “and then I went to their practice and that was exactly what they did. I'm looking forward to going to Indiana and making an impact.”

Vonleh said his goal at IU is to “win a national championship and get myself high in the mock (NBA) drafts.”

As far as when he plans on heading to the NBA, he said, “I just tell people however long it takes me to get to the NBA will be how long it will take.”

Vonleh also said IU recruited him the hardest and that, “I fit in perfect to their style of play.”

Vonleh is the highest-rated player signed by Crean at IU. Sophomore forward Cody Zeller was No. 12 by Scout.com when he signed in 2010.

Vonleh was one of five players who signed with Indiana on Wednesday, the first day of the fall signing period. He was part of the nation's No. 3 recruiting class according to Rivals.com and Scout.com, another national Internet recruiting service.

The others are Virginia shooting guard Stanford Robinson (rated No. 50 nationally), Indianapolis small forwards Devin Davis (No. 122) and Collin Hartman (not ranked), and Wisconsin center Luke Fischer (No. 115).

Virginia forward Troy Williams (ranked No. 37) is set to sign Monday.

An IU official said Crean wouldn't talk about the new players until they all had signed, although he might address recruiting after tonight's game.

Crean's recruitment of Vonleh began last spring. Not coincidentally, it coincided with the hiring of assistant coach Kenny Johnson, whose strong East Coast recruiting connections have made a big impact on this recruiting class.

Vonleh, Williams and Robinson all committed after Johnson was hired.

Johnson said his approach was simple: learn what Crean wanted in a player and the program's advantages, and then find the best players

“I was able to identify people who I think he would like, people I knew would fit into his culture and mindset.

“The strength of the program is multidimensional players. We try not to recruit players like, 'Hey, you're going to be a 2-guard or a small forward.' We identify players who can guard multiple positions, and who are interested in being coached and developed to play multiple roles.”

IU's class ranks behind No. 1 Kentucky and No. 2 Kansas. The Hoosiers were ranked No. 20 until Vonleh committed last weekend.

CBSsports.com has the class at No. 4 behind Kentucky, Kansas and Memphis.

It's a strong follow-up to last year's class that was rated as high as No. 2 nationally.

The Hoosiers' six-player class creates a potential numbers crunch. IU has 10 scholarship players set to return next season, including guard Maurice Creek, who has a final year of eligibility because of his three major injuries.

That would mean 16 players for the 13 allowed scholarships. Big Ten rules allow teams to over-sign by only one. IU officials have indicated to the conference they will have at least five scholarships available for next season.

Whose scholarships will those be?

It's too early to say, but basically it means either three players aren't coming back next year or one or more of the newcomers won't end up in school. That might not be determined until next summer.

For instance, it wasn't until last August that it was finalized that incoming freshman Ron Patterson didn't make it because of academics.

Zeller is projected as the NBA's likely No. 1 pick if he leaves after this season. That would still leave the Hoosiers two over the limit. So another two players would have to turn pro, transfer or otherwise leave the program.

In the meantime, IU (2-0) is focused on Sam Houston State (1-1) in tonight's second round of the Legends Classic.

The Bearkats pushed Arkansas hard before losing 73-68 last week, then bounced back with an 82-31 win over Hardin-Simmons behind 13 three-pointers.

They return two starters from last year's 13-18 team: guards Darius Gatson and DeMarcus Gatlin. Gatson averages 14.5 points. Forward James Thomas averages 13.0 points. They have size in 6-11, 255-pound center Michael Holyfield (5.5 points, 9.0 rebounds).

pdiprimio@news-sentinel.com


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