James Blackmon, Jr. has decommitted from Indiana University. That was the major #iubb-related news story that was floating around the cybersphere on Thursday afternoon and evening. The senior-to-be, who had verbally committed to IU before Victor Oladipo put on a jersey, announced that he would be re-opening his recruiting process.
There were a lot of emotions on Twitter after the announcement. A lot of anger from IU fans, a lot of self-righteousness, and not a small amount of paranoia and concern. And for good reason, right? After all, we just lost a recruit.
Well, no. Actually we didn’t.
For those of us who have questioned the golden goose aura of the Tom Crean era, one of the more frustrating things about our fellow IU fans has been the unapologetically laudatory tone that most took with Crean as soon as he started landing verbal commitments from highly regarded in-state players. In the cases where an actual letter of intent was involved, such as with Cody Zeller, the plaudits were absolutely deserved. In the cases where verbals were involved, they weren’t at all, because the committments meant nothing.
James Blackmon was one of those cases. So was Trey Lyles.
In consecutive summers, we’ve watched the golden future of IU basketball recruiting turn into a muddled mess. For those who were taking things with a grain of salt when they happened, the Blackmon back-out (and the Trey Lyles one a year ago) were hardly surprising. But the majority of IU fans had these guys running around in candy stripes from the moment they verballed. And now, the chance of that happening is low enough to not even bother talking about.
Now, who knows what exactly is going on behind the scenes. Everyone is convinced that Trey Lyles (or his family) is looking for a pot sweetener, which makes his recruitment pretty much the same as every other Top 25 kid. Blackmon’s situation may be the same, or it may not be. It really doesn’t matter, since neither of them are setting foot on the Assembly Hall court in anything other than an opponent’s jersey.
But I would implore any IU fan with a brain and a pulse to please take the lessons of the past year to heart. Quit showering the coaching staff with praise for reeling in meaningless verbal commitments from high school freshmen. The committments aren’t worth the oxygen used to utter them. Signed letters of intent? That’s another story…although given what happened with Buss Patterson, maybe we should just wait until Midnight Madness every year, and support who we are, not who we are not.
It doesn’t mean much one way or the other for recruiting. Crean is a good recruiter when he concentrates on guys who can play well and are able to learn, whether that’s top-level guys like Zeller or bargains like Oladipo and Sheehey. But there’s no question that time is running out on 2014 now.
And…hey, Coach Crean? Quit basking in the glory of these verbals from high school freshmen. You were all too willing to be hailed as the recruiting architect of future greatness when Lyles and Blackmon said they wanted to be a part of IU basketball. Please learn something from this, and concentrate on the guys you can actually deliver, rather than concentrating on creating expectations that won’t be fulfilled.
One final word on this: Leave James Blackmon Jr. alone. He said he wanted to play at IU when he was a freshman in high school. I don’t know about you, but I said a lot of stupid crap when I was 14 years old. Kids get older, they change their minds, and the people around them have things to say. Whether there’s something nefarious going on or not, it matters not. Blackmon has the right to change his mind. If it’s best for him to not come to IU, then he needs to follow his impulses. Frankly, the problem isn’t with Blackmon, but rather with the people who used his verbal committment as some kind of validation for Tom Crean’s efforts as the coach of Indiana basketball when it happened.