IU basketball staff has a narrow but ambitious focus as they look to close out 2023 class

This past week was the first of two live periods in July, when college coaches can watch prospects play travel basketball.

How staffs choose to allocate their time during live periods always tells a story.  With not many days available, just four staff members allowed on the road, and prospects spread out across the country, if IU basketball was watching a player this past weekend, chances are they are fairly serious about them.

That is especially true of IU head coach Mike Woodson, who to this point in his tenure leading the program hasn’t always made it a priority to be front and center at live period events.  So if he’s there, IU is really serious.

Recruiting has become much more focused on the present due to the advent of the transfer portal and other factors.  So the class of 2023 is where Indiana is doing its real work right now.  In that class, Indiana ostensibly has cast a narrow net on a handful of highly talented prospects.

So far Indiana has a 6-foot-1 point guard (Gabe Cupps) and a 6-foot-3 combo guard (Jakai Newton) verbally committed in its 2023 class.  The primary roster needs beyond those two seem to be size and perimeter shooting — and that’s what IU is clearly focusing on to round out the class, and especially players who can check both boxes.

It has been the case throughout the late spring and summer, but Indiana’s viewing pattern over the last week highlights that the Hoosiers are focused on four primary targets in the class of 2023, with an added interesting twist that has emerged over the last two weeks.

Here are the main four, all watched by Woodson over the last few days.

Xavier Booker is a 6-foot-11 Indianapolis product whose recruitment and profile have exploded this spring and summer.  The national top-10 stretch four has heard from just about every top program in the country, but his recruitment finally seems to be topping out.  With AAU basketball coming to an end in a couple weeks, Booker will finally be able to take a deep breath and focus on his path.

The next step is to narrow his list and take up to the five permitted senior year official visits.  Indiana seems to be in as good of a position as anyone to land Booker when the dust settles, but admittedly there is an enigmatic aspect to this recruitment.  That is in large part because so much has been coming at Booker so fast, even he hasn’t really known what’s next.  So far Booker has a visit set up with Ohio State in the fall.  Some of the other key players seem to be Michigan State, Notre Dame, Purdue, and a bunch of wildcards like Kentucky, and others.

Arrinten Page is a 6-foot-9 forward/center from Georgia who has also risen considerably over the spring and summer.  That’s a theme with everyone IU is in deep with still in the 2023 class.  Page told us back in late May that he wants to get to Bloomington in the late summer, and that continues to be the case.  Ranked in the top-50, Page can make perimeter shots, but he is more of a small ball five who wins with hustle plays and skill around the basket.  He could fit on the floor with Booker, and he seems to have a less complex recruitment.

Page has taken visits to Missouri, USC and Cincinnati, with schools like UCLA, Miami and Florida entering the mix recently.  IU is probably in a better spot with Page than Booker, but the same description applies — in as good of a position as anyone, but not clearly in the lead.

Jamie Kaiser said over the weekend that he has an official visit with Indiana on the books.  That’s a major step forward and the milestone we’re looking for with all of these 2023 prospects as a clear indication that the interest runs deep both ways.  Woodson has proven that he can close when he gets prospects on campus.

The top-75 Virginia product is a 6-foot-6 wing who can both shoot the ball and get to the rim.  He is strong, physical and tough-minded, but perhaps most of all, he’s a bucket-getter with some length and athleticism, and thus fits very well into IU’s remaining needs in the class.  The Hoosiers will have to pry him away from close-to-home Maryland and Virginia, and blue bloods like North Carolina are taking a look.

T.J. Power is the fourth 2023 player Indiana has been locked in on for a couple months.  The 6-foot-8 versatile forward exploded over the weekend with multiple big games, and that has taken his recruitment to another level.  Kansas offered Power on Sunday, making the task of landing him even more difficult.

The top-65 Massachusetts hybrid forward can do it all with a crafty three-level game that once again fits what IU needs as a scorer.  He had 41 points in a Nike EYBL game over the weekend, and in four games, he averaged 30.3 points and 9.8 rebounds while shooting 51.6% from three.  Like Page, Power told us in late May he wants to come to IU for a visit, and that continues to be the case.  Virginia, Notre Dame, and Iowa seem to be the top competition, but obviously new top-tier programs could change things in a hurry.

Of course a narrow focus presents risk.  Indiana could easily miss on all four prospects, and if they do their once promising 2023 class would be missing some key ingredients.

There are always contingency plans in recruiting, however.  Where might Indiana try to turn late if things don’t pan out with their big four?

There’s a wildcard out there with 2024 5-star big man Derik Queen, who has said he’s considering a reclassification to 2023.  Indiana is working on getting the Montverde Academy product on campus for a visit.

While he doesn’t fit the need as a proven shooter, Coen Carr is a long high-level athlete who had a clear interest in IU when we last caught up with him.  It is difficult to pass on a prospect who can truly check the “elite” box in at least one aspect of his game, and Carr’s athleticism cannot be taught.

Indiana has also taken the somewhat surprising step of offering two more 2023 guards in recent weeks.  Elmarko Jackson and DeShawn Harris-Smith look very similar on film — around 6-foot-3 to 6-foot-4 physical combo guards with scoring mentalities and mental toughness who could handle primary ball-handling duties.

What are those offers about?  Probably the realization that IU will be without both Xavier Johnson and Jalen Hood-Schifino in the next one to two years.  But IU is entering late on both fronts and will have to play catch up.

For more players on the 2023 radar that Indiana hasn’t offered to this point, GO HERE.

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