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11 a.m. online discussion

We’ll be making our way to Ann Arbor for tonight’s game, and chatting from the H-T’s deluxe Toyota Sienna. I know, I know: all Toyota Siennas qualify as deluxe. Ours is just extra special. One of the side doors closes all by itself.

Join us, please (in the chat, not the van; we only have but a few empty seats). Talk to you then.


Zagoria: Echenique to Creighton

Adam Zagoria is reporting on his blog that Rutgers transfer Greg Echenique is heading to Creighton.

This news isn’t all that surprising considering that Echenique visited Creighton as a high school junior at St. Benedict’s Prep. After surgery to repair a detached retina, Echenique was not supposed to fly on planes because the air pressure could cause problems with the eye. That made it difficult to make visits to the other schools he was considering, including Indiana. In addition, there was concern  out there that the eye could be a long-term problem. As much as the Hoosiers could use a physically mature big man as soon as possible, there was that risk involved.


Crean talks lineups for Michigan

Until this week, Tom Crean has mostly vague about his decisions regarding lineups and who he plays when. He’s been a lot more forthcoming about that since Monday, when he said on his radio show that he wanted to get more minutes for freshman forward Derek Elston. In his press conference Wednesday, he talked at length about how Michigan’s four-guard lineup hamstrings him in terms of personnel decisions.

“This is the third of four games we’ll have played in the Big Ten where we really see a four-guard lineup,” Crean said. “The difference with Michigan is its basically four guards and a guy that really is a small forward at the next level in DeShawn Sims. They pose a ton of problems. I want us to get bigger, but what that means is our guys have got to be able to guard the dribble. That’s the one thing that we’re very concerned about going into this game.”

And it’s something that Crean said he’s especially concerned about with Elston.

“He’s not real comfortable guarding the small, quicker, small forward guys yet,” Crean said. “I say all this and I say it knowing that we look down the road, in a year we won’t be having this conversation because his body will be so much different. His speed and quickness will be high-level collegiate. He’s a high-level athlete, but being a high-level collegiate defender, they all go through that. … When you’re going against four guards, at some point in time, you’re going to be in a big switch game. Especially with a team that spaces the floor like Michigan does. That’s not his strong suit yet.”

Crean is apparently spending a lot of thought and energy trying to figure out what to do with the rest of his front line as well. He mentioned freshman center Bobby Capobianco as one player who is stepping up more than most, and talked about sophomore center Tom Pritchard needing to be more aggressive and meet the challenge Capobianco is presenting for playing time.

“It’s real,” Crean said. “Bobby is really improving. … The more guys we can get playing better on the front line, the better we’re going to be. It’s not any competition that I’m creating, it’s real.”


Hammons’ AAU coach: “He’s gotten so much better in a year.”

A.J. Hammons might not think so himself, but his AAU coach thinks the Carmel High School sophomore center has an array of useful post moves.

“Last year he only had one move,” said Jared Quarles, coach of the Spiece Gym Rats, based out of Fort Wayne. “This year he has two or three. Right now his go to move is probably his drop-step. It just comes to him naturally. He’s also developed a hook shot and an up-and-under move that’s really effective. I think his go-to move is still the drop step, but he can use all three of those.”

Those are a big part of the reason Quarles thinks the sophomore deserves the attention he’s getting. Another is the physical improvement he’s already made since his freshman year. According to Quarles, Hammons has dropped about 20 pounds.

“He’s gotten so much better since last year,”  Quarles said. “He moves well, and it’s amazing how much stronger he is and how much better. I think it’s hard not to say he can be a great player at the major college, Division I level.”

Though Hammons didn’t mention it when asked about his scholarship offers, Quarles said Hammons has been offered a scholarship by Xavier. Also showing interest, Quarles said, are Minnesota, Purdue, Kentucky and Washington.


Hammons confirms IU’s offer

Carmel High School sophomore center A.J. Hammons confirmed that Indiana offered him a scholarship during his visit to Bloomington for Saturday’s game against Illinois.

The 6-foot-11, 250-pounder said the visit didn’t include much beyond the game and a brief meeting with Crean and IU’s players in the locker room, but he came away with a good impression.

“It was nice,” Hammons said. “They have good fans and a pretty good atmosphere.”

Hammons said Indiana is the first scholarship offer he’s received, and as a sophomore he’s obviously a long way from making a decision. The standards for what he’s looking for in a college are, as you’d expect, fairly general.

“I’m just looking for a good, friendly college atmosphere,” Hammons said. “And a place where I can get stronger and faster.”

Also as you’d expect, Hammons knows there are a lot of things he needs to do before he’s ready for major college basketball.

“I really have to work on my post moves,” he said. “I don’t really have a go-to move yet. I have to work on my left hand, and on defense I have to work on staying down and not trying to block every shot.”


Just in case you were wondering…

Fordham transfer Jio Fontan, with who Indiana had a brief courtship, is enrolling at Southern California, according to the Los Angeles Times.


Some news on Echenique

Just spoke to Dan Hurley, the former Seton Hall star who coached Rutgers transfer Greg Echenique at St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark, N.J. Hurley stressed that he doesn’t know much about Echenique’s transfer process. He also said that Echenique’s parents, who don’t speak English, are handling most of it, and Echenique himself does not want to talk about the recruitment publicly.

“It’s just going to be one of these things where this is just going to go on,” Hurley said. “He’s going to take about a week to 10 days and he’s just going to pick a school. There’s not going to be a lot of chatter.”

Hurley did, however, confirm a few points of interest. For one, Indiana is one of the teams involved. Creighton, Maryland, and Miami are also in, though Hurley was not sure if there are other schools.

Also, Echenique’s eye injury will play a factor in the recruitment. He had surgery earlier this season to repair a detached retina, and because of that, he has been advised by doctors not to fly on planes because the increased air pressure can be a problem for the eye.

“That limits his ability to take any official visits to the schools,” Hurley said.

The 6-foot-9, 260-pounder was averaging 12.6 points and 7.7 rebounds in the season’s first seven games before having surgery.



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