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Herald-Times articles

July 19, 2006

Commentary: IU losing big names, but it's not over yet
by Stan Sutton
July 19, 2006

Indiana fans, who view IU as the basketball school in this state, are having a hard time accepting Purdue's good fortune.

IU's incoming coach, Kelvin Sampson, has offered scholarships to three in-state prospects and all have wound up at Purdue.

Sampson's staff worked hard to land Robbie Hummel, E'twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson, a trio of incoming seniors ranked in the top 100 nationally.

Second-year Purdue coach Matt Painter, a Hoosier native, landed all three. Sampson, a Carolina native who came to Bloomington by way of Washington and Oklahoma, apparently came out second best.

A few years ago IU was the second choice of Luol Deng, who went to Duke and now is in the NBA. Before that the Hoosiers apparently were the second choice of Eric Montross. We don't know for sure, but Indiana may have been the second choice of Wilt Chamberlain, Clyde Lovellette and Oscar Robertson.

In contrast, there was the case of John Laskowski, who had a pretty good college career in Bloomington. When Laz got out of South Bend St. Joseph's High in 1971 Indiana coach Bob Knight wasn't sure if he wanted him.

Specifically, he wanted Pete Trgovich of East Chicago Washington but UCLA coach John Wooden got him instead. Knight's second choice was Jerry Nichols of Greenwood, and when he ended up going to Purdue the new Indiana coach turned to Laskowski.

"They were both at least a little better than I was. At least that was the perception," Laz said Tuesday. "The real thing to watch was how each of us progressed from the time we left high school until we left college. I think I probably developed more, although Nichols got injured and hurt his knee.

"There are a lot of guys who can play. They may be just a rung below but how much will they improve?"

In the mid-1960s the Hoosiers also were victimized by Purdue's strong recruiting. Between 1964 and 66 the Boilermakers landed three successive Mr. Basketballs: Denny Brady, Billy Keller and Rick Mount.

Still, the Hoosiers won a Big Ten title in 1967 and have won three NCAA titles since to Purdue's none.

The good news for Indiana fans is that Sampson is taking in-state kids seriously. Through no fault of his own he got in late on the new Purdue recruits, who have been pursued diligently by Painter for at least two years.

In recent years the Hoosiers got in late on some people for unexplained reasons. Maybe earlier recognization of Josh McRoberts' potential would have kept him out of Duke.

If you need to start recruiting a Damon Bailey in the eighth grade, go do it. It worked in that instance.

Indiana fans probably prefer that Purdue basketball be inept, as it has been in recent years. But this state's reputation for fine basketball is enhanced when both schools contend for the Big Ten title.

Remember a couple of years back when Indiana didn't have a single school in the NCAA Tournament?

The IU-Purdue rivalry is best when both teams are strong, such as they were in the early 1990s when the Hoosiers had Calbert Cheaney and Purdue had Glenn Robinson.

As in the Laskowski case, I'm certain there are more than three good players in Indiana.