When he walked off the court at the Jordan Brand Classic on Friday in Chicago, the word from Malik Reneau was Indiana would be the first of three visits, maybe more.
When he left Bloomington on Sunday, the word he gave the IU staff was much different.
No more visits would be necessary.
Truth be told, it didn’t even take until Sunday for the 6-foot-8 top-30 forward to decide Indiana would be his new home in a couple months.
“It was an instant bond as soon as I stepped on campus with the coaches and players, and their playing style was just the right fit for me,” Reneau told The Daily Hoosier on Monday afternoon. “It just clicked instantly. I knew I didn’t have to take any more visits.”
Reneau, a Miami, Fla. area product, had signed a national letter of intent with Florida before a coaching change there caused him to reopen his recruitment in March. He gave IU a look during the summer of 2021 before committing to the Gators in September. At that time Reneau didn’t have the luxury of knowing what IU basketball would look like under Mike Woodson, who hadn’t yet coached a game at the college level.
This time around Reneau was able to watch film with the IU staff and see exactly how he would fit in Woodson’s system on both ends of the floor.
What did he see that made Indiana a match?
“Being able to play versatile on both ends of the floor,” Reneau said. “Being able to get put in different positions on the court, whether it’s in the post, mid-post, on the perimeter (offensively). And on the defensive end, just being able to guard multiple positions, because that’s what I’ll have to do if I want to play at the next level.”
Reneau says he doesn’t really care what position you call him. He’s more interested in the results.
“Power forward, stretch-four, you know I’ll do anything to win,” he told The Daily Hoosier. “It doesn’t matter what position.”
Xavier Johnson, Race Thompson and Trey Galloway were Reneau’s main player hosts during his official visit over the weekend. He was also joined by his parents and his Montverde Academy teammate Jalen Hood-Schifino.
“Jalen Hood-Schifino, he’s great and I’ve been building a relationship with him for two years and it’s just been positive vibes with him,” Reneau said.
“He’s a great guy, but he wasn’t really even as much of a factor on my visit, I give it all to the coaching staff and how they presented the visit this weekend.”
So what about Woodson made such a strong impression on Reneau and his family?
“He’s just amazing,” Reneau said. “Coach Woodson just has so many stories, and it’s just great to soak in. He’s a great person. He understands his players. He does a lot of team bonding with his players. And it’s not just basketball with him. It’s the education part too, so we’re getting both sides of him, and it’s a great feeling to have a coach who believes in you.”
Reneau said he plans to arrive back in Bloomington in early June to begin working out with his teammates including fellow 2022 classmates Hood-Schifino, Kaleb Banks and C.J. Gunn. Collectively that foursome currently gives IU the No. 5 recruiting class in the nation and the No. 1 class in the Big Ten.
The talent extends beyond the freshman class, of course. Assuming no additional transfers out, the frontcourt IU will have Race Thompson, Jordan Geronimo, Miller Kopp, Logan Duncomb, Banks, Reneau and perhaps even Trayce Jackson-Davis if he decides to take his name out of the NBA Draft.
That’s a crowded, deep frontcourt that Reneau views as an opportunity. And it’s something he is familiar with. Players attend prep schools like Montverde anticipating competition. Reneau isn’t shying away from that, nor is he conceding anything when it comes to playing time.
“It’s definitely a developmental opportunity, but I’m in there, and I’m trying to play too, so it’s going to be competitive in the practices and stuff, and it’s just going to be good for everyone in the front court,” Reneau said. “That’s how you get better, and that’s how you win championships.”
Championships are something Reneau and Hood-Schifino know well. They are the two-time defending national champions of the GEICO Nationals. Now they bring those experiences to Bloomington, and they add to what should be one of Indiana’s best rosters in quite some time.
Reneau saw first hand the buzz building in Bloomington over the weekend, and he got a sense for what Woodson is creating, and why so many of his players are enthusiastic about returning for the upcoming season.
“The city is booming, the fans are crazy,” Reneau said. “The players understand what Coach Woodson’s got going on and we’re going to have a great team coming in next year.”
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