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Hoosier Morning

1. HOOSIERS HQ
James Blackmon Jr. is the latest Hoosier who will test the NBA waters, Mike writes.

Trendon Watford is a rising star, and he’s leaning on the guidance of his brother, former Hoosier Christian Watford, Mike writes.

From over the weekend:
• Indiana soccer wrapped up the spring season with a 2-0 win over Mexico, I wrote.
• JUCO forward Freddie McSwain announced his commitment to IU basketball, Mike wrote.
• It took extra innings, but the IU baseball team won the rubber match of its series at Michigan State, we reported.

2. IT’S INDIANA
Declaring for the NBA Draft is actually a smart move for James Blackmon Jr., Pete DiPrimio of the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel writes.

Yogi Ferrell has signed with the same agent who represents former Hoosiers Will Sheehey and Christian Watford, Michael Hughes of the Indiana Daily Student writes.

Four Hoosiers have high hopes for this week’s NFL Draft, Alex McCarthy writes for the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette.

IU baseball plays Notre Dame at Victory Field today in a matchup with NCAA implications, Zain Pyarali of the Indiana Daily Student writes.

The IU women’s golf team will head to Texas next week after being selected to the NCAA Regional, IUHoosiers.com reports.

Five-star Indianapolis forward Kris Wilkes remains a top target for Indiana’s 2017 recruiting class, Alex Bozich of Inside the Hall writes.

An extra Big Ten game on the schedule for IU football may not be that big of a deal after all, Dan at puntjohnpunt.com writes.

3. ONE FOR THE ROAD
Sending one out for James Blackmon Jr., “Declaration” by David Cook.

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Trendon Watford leaning on brother’s guidance as star grows #iubb

When his older brother speaks, Trendon Watford listens.

To navigate the prep basketball landscape as a burgeoning Division I prospect, Watford knows he needs guidance. In his brother Christian — a former Indiana University standout — Watford has an accomplished mentor.

“He’s been through the college level, the NBA level (and) he’s been through the professional level,” Watford said. “He just tells me it’s going to be hard and you have to keep working every day, day in, day out.”

So that’s what Watford is doing, challenging himself this spring and summer as one of the few freshmen playing big boy basketball on the Nike EYBL circuit. Flanked by players two years older and more physically mature than him, Watford is receiving an early lesson in what it takes to follow his brother’s path to basketball’s next level.

His quest for development and notoriety brought him to Indiana last weekend, where his Alabama Challenge 17U squad tipped off against prospects from across the country at Jonathan Byrd’s Fieldhouse in Westfield. In seven EYBL games this spring, Watford is averaging 14.1 points and six rebounds, while shooting 34 percent from 3-point range.

Seated in the front row for his games was Christian, who watched his younger brother start to make a name for himself against more experienced competition as his freshman year of high school comes to a close.

“It’s tough,” Christian said. “He played up last year, but (there’s) the difference between 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds. Doesn’t seem much. It’s a year, but it’s really like, just a lot of guys mature from 16 to 17 more than 15 to 16. He struggled with it a little early, but now he’s getting the hang of it. That’s all it is — strength, speed, size. That’s all it is at the end of the day.”

Already, the younger Watford has the size, skill and projectable frame that has Division I programs interested. (more…)

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Blackmon will declare for NBA Draft, won’t hire agent #iubb

James Blackmon Jr. celebrated his 21st birthday Monday with a significant announcement.

The Indiana junior guard is declaring for the NBA Draft, but will not hire an agent. This decision allows him to receive direct feedback from league power brokers regarding his professional future, while leaving open his option to return to IU next fall.

On the surface, it’s a surprising move for a player that missed the final 22 games of his sophomore season with a torn ACL in his right knee. But the root of his decision has considerable merit.

New NCAA rules allow players who declare for this year’s NBA Draft to attend the league’s combine in Chicago May 10-15 on an invitation basis. Players are also permitted to work out for one team. Those who do not hire an agent and maintain their amateurism then have until May 25 to decide whether to remain in the draft pool or stay in school.

Blackmon told reporters during last month’s NCAA Tournament that he felt ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation process and expected to return to the court in time for IU’s summer workouts. Even if he’s unable to work out for teams, this process can be valuable for a player with professional upside.

“James is going to test the waters and see where he stands in the eyes of the NBA at this time,” IU coach Tom Crean said in a statement. “He is going to go through the process with both eyes open with the goal of receiving the most complete and current evaluation possible.” (more…)

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McSwain committed to getting better at Indiana #iubb

The two hats resting neatly on the table in front of him represented two schools that Freddie McSwain once believed were beyond his reach.

Having only played serious, organized basketball since his junior year of high school, McSwain was left to take a different route to the Division I level. There he was in the Neosho County (Kan.) Community College gym on Sunday evening, staring at the hats. One for Kansas State. Another for Indiana.

After two years at the junior college level, McSwain is ready for the next step in his basketball life. So he picked up the red IU cap, placed it on his head and verbally committed to the Hoosiers.

In McSwain, Indiana has landed an athletic wing who could potentially fit — and replace — senior-to-be Troy Williams’ player profile in Bloomington next season. The 6-foot-6 prospect averaged 14.2 points and nine rebounds per game as a sophomore, helping Neosho County to a 30-win season. He has two years of eligibility remaining.

During a visit to IU’s campus early last week, McSwain found coach Tom Crean’s pitch for player development to be a huge selling point. Days later, he was ready to make their relationship official.

“I’m all about getting better, winning and having a winning program,” McSwain told The Herald-Times. “I like my teammates (at IU). They’re great guys. The campus, the vibe of the fans, I love it. I just trust coach Crean. He said he can’t wait to coach me. I just can’t wait to learn from him.” (more…)

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VIDEO: Indiana Soccer shuts out Mexico to end spring season


Herald-Times Reporter Jeremy Price recaps IU’s 2-0 win over the Mexico U-20 National Team.

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Porter impressed with Crean, Indiana #iubb

WESTFIELD — When Tom Crean pitched player development, Michael Porter listened closely.

Porter, a 6-foot-9 blue chip wing in the 2017 class, hosted Crean at his family’s Colombia, Mo. home on Tuesday and paid special attention to the Indiana coach’s vision for his future.

“Look at OG Anunoby over there,” Porter said Saturday at the Nike EYBL Session II at Jonathan Byrd’s Fieldhouse. “I live like right where he grew up (in Jefferson City, Mo.). Just seeing him — he was not that good when he went to Indiana, then to see what coach Crean and his staff have done with players like that, it’s really attractive.”

With that degree of development in mind, Porter is considering IU among a list of other high-major offers. Porter told reporters after Saturday’s morning session that Washington, Kansas, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Virginia have also made him a priority this spring, just like the Hoosiers.

There’s a lot to like in Porter, considered a top-five player in his class. He’s a potential matchup problem with his length and presents an impressive level of fluidity across nearly every facet of his game.

Through his first five EYBL games this spring, Porter is averaging 21.8 points, 10.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists per contest, while shooting 60 percent from the field. Porter is playing for MOKAN Elite — the same AAU program that produced current IU forward Juwan Morgan, who made the drive to Westfield Saturday to watch a slice of the afternoon action.

“I’m trying to prove I’m the best player in the country,” Porter said. “I’ve got a lot of things I have to do to prove that, but in my heart I feel I am and I really want to go out and prove that every game.” (more…)

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Scruggs keeping eye on IU #iubb

FISHERS — Paul Scruggs is approaching the April evaluation period like a series of job interviews.

Each game on this month’s Under Armour Association circuit is a chance for the four-star Southport combo guard to impress the bevy of high-major college coaches watching his games. To solidify his status as a top-tier talent in the class of 2017, Scruggs knows what he must do.

“The thing he’s got to do if he’s going to play at a high level with high talent is he’s got to be able to distribute the ball and run a team,” Southport coach Kyle Simpson said. “I think he’s learning that.”

Especially this spring, while playing alongside five-star wing Kris Wilkes on a loaded Indy Hoosiers squad that also features Hamilton Southeastern forward Zach Gunn and Cloverdale guard — and Butler commit — Cooper Neese.

Scruggs and Wilkes are both priority targets for Indiana, and their team drew a visit from coach Tom Crean during Friday’s weekend-opener at the Best Choice Fieldhouse before assistant Tim Buckley followed up on Saturday morning.

In Scruggs’ case, IU is one of a handful of schools in heavy pursuit entering his senior year. Michigan State, Louisville and Xavier have also made the athletic 6-foot-4, 200-pound guard a priority. Spartans coach Tom Izzo visited Scruggs within the last week, while the Musketeers sent representatives a week prior.

Indiana, with its style of play and emphasis on offense under Crean, also stands in good position with Scruggs.

“They let their point guards go and let them dictate the tempo of the game,” Scruggs said of the Hoosiers. “They have fun with the game.” (more…)

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