There is almost always top shelf high school basketball talent in the Hoosier state. Archie Miller knew this when he was hired as the Indiana head coach in 2017.
In his opening remarks as the leader of the IU program, he said that his staff would “dedicate ourselves to the high school coaches in this state, the high school talent in this state, and the grassroots programs in this state.”
With two straight Mr. Basketball winners and five overall in-state commits in the last two classes, so far so good.
But then there is the in-state class of 2021. It’s different. It’s special. It may define Miller’s career at Indiana.
The new IU head coach continued at his introductory press conference.
“They must feel like they’re being dominated by Indiana University,” Miller said. “You’re not going to get every player. You understand that. But if we want them, we should have a great chance of getting them because of the commitment level that we’re putting forth 24 hours a day at home.”
Miller hasn’t gotten every player. Keion Brooks, Jr. was a notable miss. But looking forward, the in-state class of 2021? It is being dominated.
The top three players in the state in the class of 2021 have all been offered — and they haven’t played a game yet as high school upperclassmen. The IU staff has been on this group since they arrived in 2017.
Miller offered the third — Sellersburg, Ind. product Trey Kaufman — on Saturday.
— Coach McFarland (@CardellMcF) June 8, 2019
As a sophomore at Silver Creek High School, the 6-foot-8 Kaufman averaged 14.8 points, 9.1 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.8 blocks per game while helping to lead the Dragons to the Class 3A state title.
In 2018 Miller offered Evansville’s Khristian Lander, who is widely considered to be one of the top point guards in the country in the 2021 class.
The 6-foot-3 Lander averaged 22 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.2 steals per game as a sophomore at F.J. Reitz High School. He shot 37% from the three-point range and 79% from the foul line.
Indiana also offered Fort Wayne’s Caleb Furst in 2018.
For his sophomore season, Furst averaged 19.3 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game at Blackhawk Christian.
Blackhawk won the 2019 1A Indiana state championship, and the 6-foot-8 Furst scored 16 points and added 10 rebounds and five blocks in the title game.
Each of Kaufman, Lander and Furst are considered top 75 players nationally by recruiting service 247Sports, and both Lander and Furst are playing up a year this spring and summer against the top talent in the country.
But wait, there’s more.
Shooting guards Luke Goode (Fort Wayne/Homesteasd) and Blake Wesley (South Bend Riley) are also ranked in the top 100. 247Sports is reporting that Goode will be taking an unofficial visit to IU this week. He has also played up a year some this spring.
Brownsburg’s Pierce Thomas is likely the best in-state athlete in the class. If he can develop his skills more as an upperclassman he will likely make a big move up the rankings. Butler has already offered.
Jayden Brewer averaged 15.1 points and 5.7 rebounds for an Avon team that reached the Class 4A regionals. He already has mid-major offers and interest from high majors including IU.
We haven’t even gotten to Luke Brown and Jalen Blackmon yet. Both are prolific scorers that appear likely to give Damon Bailey’s all-time scoring record a serious challenge.
Brown averaged 35.0 points, 6.7 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 2.7 steals per contest for Blackford, while Blackmon poured in 26.9 points, 3.8 assists and 1.6 steals per game for Marion.
There are other names to keep an eye on too like Lawrence North’s DJ Hughes, Barr-Reeve’s Curt Hopf, Silver Creek’s Kooper Jacobi, Lafayette Jeff’s Brooks Barnhizer, South Bend St. Joseph’s JR Konieczny and Perry Meridian’s Jayden Taylor. They all appear on track to play college basketball for a power five conference team.
Is it the best class in the history of the state? Of course it is way too soon to answer that question, and some will scoff at the mere suggestion. But it is at least a legitimate question to begin to ponder.
The 2017 class of Jaren Jackson, Kris Wilkes, Malik Williams and Paul Scruggs was very good. All top 100 players, and of course none of them went to IU — or even stayed in the state. The misses in that group are a large part of the story behind the 2017 regime change in Bloomington.
The 2012 class might be the more recent gold standard, with Yogi Ferrell leading the way. There were seven top 100 players that included a bunch of top names that IU didn’t land like Gary Harris and Glenn Robinson.
Older Hoosier fans will remember a pre-rankings era 1989 class that included in-state stars Calbert Cheaney, Greg Graham, Pat Graham, Chris Lawson and Todd Leary. Indiana landed all of them, and together they formed the nucleus of the tail end of the greatest era in the history of the program.
It’s too soon to try to project where this in-state class stands among a long list of good ones. And with so much high level talent in the 2021 class within the borders of the Hoosier state, Miller won’t be able to land everyone.
However things play out, it appears safe to say that Miller is going to have everything that he needs in his own backyard in this class. Talent rich classes like 2021 are why his “inside out” recruiting strategy matters. Few programs have such an organic in-state advantage in the shark filled recruiting waters.
It may be too early to draw definitive conclusions about where this class stands in the annals of history, and time will tell how many of these incoming high school juniors choose to don the candy stripe pants.
But it isn’t too early to dominate them as recruits.
And Miller is on it.
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