The late Tom Petty once said the waiting is the hardest part.
When it comes to class of 2021 in-state 4-star Trey Kaufman’s college decision, the wait is almost over.
The 6-foot-9 Kaufman is set to announce his commitment on on Friday at 6 p.m. ET on WJHI radio in Jeffersonville.
Kaufman narrowed his decision to Indiana, Indiana State, North Carolina, Purdue and Virginia last month.
We’ve had the opportunity to talk with Kaufman on several occasions this spring and summer, and one of the many great things about the young man is that he’ll give you a thoughtful answer.
His responses have provided a pretty good insight into what variables truly drove his decision, and by extension it becomes pretty clear to see where he might have decided to go.
Kaufman told us repeatedly that it was all about the “perfect fit.”
Let’s take a look back at what he told The Daily Hoosier over the last six months for clues about which school ended up being perfect in Kaufman’s eyes.
Relationships with players a major point of emphasis
One variable that Kaufman has mentioned repeatedly is knowing and having comfort with the players that he would call teammates at the next level.
When it comes to IU, Kaufman knows and has played with or against just about everyone on the team.
“Obviously I know Logan (Duncomb) from AAU,” Kaufman said in August. “(Anthony) Leal, I’m still mad at him for hitting that shot. (Trey) Galloway I beat in the (2019) state championship.”
Kaufman knows some of the Purdue players, but the ties don’t run as deep, in part because several of the IU players came up through the same Indiana Elite AAU program.
When it comes to North Carolina and Virginia, Kaufman has not had the chance to meet anyone in person, and that was not helpful for the two out-of-state programs.
“You try to do the best job through virtual visits but it’s hard,” Kaufman said this summer. “It’s very hard to get a sense of players. I want to know who is on my team. I want to meet with the players. You can’t do that on virtual visits.”
Strong advantage: Indiana
Comfort with the coaching staff
Of the four high majors that Kaufman is considering, Indiana and Purdue have the longest relationship — by a wide margin.
In fact IU’s Archie Miller and Purdue’s Matt Painter are the only coaches in his final group who he met in person.
Kaufman told us that both Miller and Painter were getting more involved over the summer as the two schools made a hard push.
IU has been in the mix the longest, but Purdue is right there in the conversation.
“Indiana, I’ve known them for the longest,” Kaufman said. “Coach O. (IU assistant Tom Ostrom) calls me every other day.”
In the end, Kaufman knew everything he needed to know about the two in-state coaching staffs and said so himself.
Advantage: Indiana and Purdue (tie)
The best basketball fit
If there is one variable that should make Indiana fans nervous, it is X’s and O’s on the basketball court.
Kaufman said on more than one occasion that he thought Purdue might be the best fit schematically. That was fueled by Purdue being able to show film of players with similar skillsets thriving in their system.
“They’ve had people like me,” Kaufman said in August of Purdue. “Vincent Edwards (for example). Matchup problems, versatility problems.”
In an interview with the Louisville Courier Journal Kaufman also mentioned Robbie Hummel and said of Purdue “their playing style fits me maybe the best out of all the schools that are recruiting me.”
But that is not to suggest that he doesn’t see a good fit in Bloomington.
The IU staff showed Kaufman how preseason All-American big man Trayce Jackson-Davis was utilized in their offense — and perhaps more important — how Kaufman’s perimeter skills can create additional opportunities.
“They talk a lot about Trayce (Jackson-Davis),” Kaufman said in the spring. “I think we play a lot different, but at least they’ve had a player kind of my height, kind of my look. Although Trayce and I are different players, some of the options that he goes through as far as a screen, I know I might do different things off of that option like pick-and-pop. If we were in the same position I might have different reads off those sets.”
Slight advantage: Purdue
Proximity to home
This one is the final nail in the coffin for Virginia and North Carolina.
While playing close to home was not a major deciding factor according to Kaufman, he readily admitted it was part of the equation.
“It’s definitely a benefit to play close to home,” Kaufman said during the summer. “Obviously your family can come and watch you play. My mom tells me that you’ve got to pick the best school, because she’ll move wherever I go. If I go to Texas and play, she’ll move to Texas and watch me there. But I do think that being home is a benefit.”
Advantage: Indiana and Purdue (tie)
Playing with Lander or Furst
The recruiting world can be silly at times, and Kaufman’s recruitment was no different.
Rumors swirled that he didn’t like Indiana freshman guard Khristian Lander, and he wouldn’t play at the same school as Purdue commit Caleb Furst. As it turned out, Indiana and Purdue seem to have been Kaufman’s final two, with Lander and Furst on each respective roster next year.
When it came to Lander, Kaufman said the notion that there was an issue was not true.
“Khristian is a great guy,” Kaufman said this summer in a prior radio interview on WJHI. “We haven’t been on the same AAU team for the past two years and I think people kind of took that as I don’t like Khristian or Khristian doesn’t like me. It’s actually the opposite. I’ve always looked forward to playing with Khristian. He’s a great player. I remember we went to Purdue for a camp, and just the chemistry that we built there, we have a good connection.”
Similarly, Kaufman put to bed any concerns that he wouldn’t follow Furst to West Lafayette.
I think we (Furst and Kaufman) play different as long as I can guard quicker players,” Kaufman said. “Offensively obviously he is a really good player, but I think I can do things that he can’t do on the offensive side, and there are things that he can do, so it’s different.”
Advantage: Indiana and Purdue (tie)
Putting it all together
Perhaps in a different year schools like North Carolina and Virginia would have had a better chance, but no visits and no relationships likely means no go for the out of state schools.
Indiana and Purdue both made a compelling case. The Hoosiers offer the better relationships, while Purdue was able to demonstrate the best basketball fit.
Kaufman has kept his final decision close to the vest.
We’ve thought it would be Indiana all along, but we are by no means brimming with confidence on that assessment. This is a basketball decision, and Purdue being the perceived best basketball fit is concerning.
We’ll continue to say IU is the choice, but Purdue would not be a complete shock.
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