LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Through the first half of Friday night’s Derby Classic, Indiana signees Ron Patterson, Jeremy Hollowell and Hanner Mosquera-Perea admittedly weren’t at their best. It was an all-star game after all and since no one shows much of a commitment to defense or running anything resembling a set play, it can be tough to maintain their intensity.
Still, the three soon-to-be Hoosiers thought they owed the crowed something better than a combined 5-for-15 from the floor, 11 points and five turnovers.
“We just wanted to pick up the intensity and play harder,” Hollowell said. “I think we came out kind of slow. We just wanted to pick it up and start knocking down some shots.”
They did to a degree. Hollowell came up with two second half field goals including a big 3-pointer to finish with 11 points to go with three assists. Perea managed a pair of layups to finish with seven points, and Patterson finished with eight points and five rebounds in the game even though he finished 4-for-14 from the field and 0-for-5 beyond the arc. He did score a layup on a drive to put the White team up 115-114 with 6 minutes to go in the game and the White squad ended up winning 130-127 in front of 6,712 at Freedom Hall.
There were much bigger stars than the IU signees on Friday night. T.J. Warren, a North Carolina State signee, led the White team and all scorers with 27 points. St. John’s commitment Jakarr Sampson had 18 and Louisville commitment T.J. Rozier finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds. The still uncommitted Amile Jefferson led the Black team with 26 points while Oklahoma State signee had eight points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists.
But of course, this all-star game and all the others the IU signees will play in this year — with the exception of the more intense Indiana All-Star series — really just represent a victory lap anyway. Hollowell, Perea and Patterson are part of a top five recruiting class that recently found out it would be dealing with even more hype than it already had for the last year since Hollowell committed and the group started calling itself “The Movement.”
In the days after Kentucky won the national title to formally end the college basketball season, several online publications released their early Top 25′s for the 2012-13 season and Indiana was on top of several of them. That’s in large part because the Hoosiers had just one senior among their top seven scorers and that each of their top six could return. However, it’s also in part because of the hype surrounding the incoming freshman class, led by these three and McDonald’s All-American point guard Yogi Ferrell.
“Just looking at that knowing that a lot of people have picked us as No. 1, that gives us a lot of support and boosts us to play great and play the best we can to keep that No. 1 spot,” Perea said. “… We need to learn how to handle those things if we really need to have the No. 1 spot the whole time, but I think we’re going to be fine.”
The incoming freshmen recognize that requires a lot from them. The 6-foot-8, 215-pound Perea said he knows he has to work on putting on more weight immediately. IU freshman forward Cody Zeller was able to put 15 pounds on between his arrival in Bloomington in June and the start of the season in November, which was a big reason why he was able to play center and to be Big Ten co-Freshman of the Year. Perea is looking to make a similar leap.
“Now that I get back to my school, next week we’re going to start going to the weight room,” Perea said. “I’m trying to gain a few pounds before I get to IU. I’m going to be working on my jump shot and my post moves. … My coach is telling me 20 pounds or something like that. I haven’t talked to coach (Tom) Crean yet.”
Hollowell said he has similar goals.
“Just getting stronger, preparing myself for that next level,” Hollowell said. “The strength of the players at the next level, just getting more aggressive and really working on my body before I go down there. Lifting quite a few times a week, running in the morning, things like that. ”
It was still evident on Friday that there is still a rawness to this group. None of the three players who participated in the Derby Classic appeared quite as polished as Ferrell did in last week’s McDonald’s All-American game, and certainly none of them looked as polished as Zeller did in this game a year ago.
But Jason Smith, the Brewster Academy coach who led the White team, said each of them has high-level potential.
“They were fantastic,” Smith said. “Hanner is obviously an elite level athlete. Once he gets into a college weight training program, his body is going to explode. Once he gets some more confidence and develops a favorite move as well as a counter move, he’s going to have a little bit more confidence in being an elite-level player in the Big Ten. Jeremy Hollowell is someone who is able to score at all three levels (off the dribble, from beyond the arc, in the post). He’s an elite level athlete as well. …. Ron is someone who can be an elite level athlete on the defensive end. People know how athletic he is vertically, but his lateral quickness is outstanding. Once all three of them get into a college weight training program and get some more confidence, I think they’re going to be part of leaving Indiana to a Final Four.”
Which is, based on the early returns, exactly what will be expected.