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Last updated: Fri. Apr. 04, 2014 - 07:10 am EDT

IU's Crean building toward better tomorrow

Coach 'excited' about basketball prospects

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BLOOMINGTON -- The Indiana basketball naysayers and doubters have no place in Tom Crean's coaching world. He has a job to do, and the focus remains on doing it well and doing it right.

“Our team is working at a great rate right now. We've had six individual (workouts since the end of the season). I think we've had eight weight workouts. We're well underway in our offseason program.

“The spirits are excellent. The work ethic is excellent.”

Yes, challenges come from a 17-15 record that satisfied no one, the departure to the NBA of Big Ten freshmen of the year Noah Vonleh, six transfers in the last 12 months and an increasingly restless fan base.

The absence of a postseason opportunity gave Crean and his staff time to hit the recruiting trail hard, and while the immediate quest to land a big man or two has yet to be achieved (IU is a strong contender for Illinois forward Josh Cunningham and Michigan forward Yante Maten), Crean pushes full optimism ahead.

Freshmen set to come this summer are James Blackmon Jr., one of the nation's top shooting guards fresh off an impressive performance at the McDonald's All-American event; top-50 player Robert Johnson; and 6-7 swingman Max Hoetzel. This group ranks among the nation's top 15 without any other additions.

Is Crean concerned about the gap Vonleh's departure will create?

“I'm not concerned one bit. You're always going to miss Noah because he's such a … We'll miss him. We'll miss our seniors.

“Just like you work at your job to be the best you can be, that's exactly what we're doing here. There are a lot of things that go on that you're building toward, and that you're working at in recruiting. It's not always public and that's the way it is. But we have great confidence in the guys who are here.”

IU will return three starters in Yogi Ferrell, Troy Williams and Stanford Robinson, plus key reserves Devin Davis and Hanner Mosquera-Perea.

They provide a foundation Crean expects to build on to get the Hoosiers back into the NCAA tourney picture next season.

“We're excited about the guys that are coming in,” he said, “and we're excited about the prospects of what could potentially happen for us in recruiting and we absolutely love the way the guys are working here. There are no long faces anywhere, and that's no offense to anybody. There are no long faces. We're good. We're working at a very good rate.”

pdiprimio@news-sentinel.com


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