Indiana Basketball – Oversigning Keeps Hoosiers at Full Strength

by Kent Sterling

Tom Crean gets an A in elementary math for the second straight year.

Tom Crean gets an A in elementary math for the second straight year.

For two straight years, Indiana coach Tom Crean has rolled through the spring with too many players committed for the 13 scholarships the NCAA allots, and for the second year he has looked damn smart in doing it.

There are some who worry about the morality of overpromising scholarships without having a concrete notion that what is being promised can be delivered.

Rosters are fluid in college basketball.  Players decide to leave for the NBA – as Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller did last week – and others just want to move on to another school like Remy Abell.  Some like Ron Patterson can’t handle the workload in the classroom, and these guys are student-athletes after all.  A few like Matt Roth manage to hang on to an extra year of eligibility, but have no place on the team after earning a degree.

Indiana under Crean has been able to put together top five classes the last two years by oversigning, but haven’t had an instance where a scholarship has needed to be pulled, and until that happens, criticism of Crean’s methodology in unwarranted.

Fans can play the ‘what if’ game all they want, but Oladipo and Zeller did jump to the NBA for the big dollars that await.  Had they decided to stay, I’m sure there was a back-up but have no idea what it was.  As long as it was communicated honestly to the recruits, there is no problem.

Righteous indignation is the providence of the fan and media, and I enjoy practicing it myself, but 13 is the right number to land on and Crean has gotten to 13 the past two years without reneging, and that’s called doing his job effectively.  Maybe he’s a master manipulator of the roster, and maybe he’s been fortunate, but the fact is he has gotten to 13-13=0 twice with outstanding classes.

That’s the name of the game.  Scrambling to fill the last spot(s) of the roster is unacceptable.  Preparing for the unforeseeable is part of the recruiting process, and Crean has succeeded in either making excellent education guesses or getting lucky.  Either way, 13-13=0, and that’s the way great planning works.

There may have been some angst from kids and parents as they were certainly very aware of the oversigning issue.  Players down the end of the bench might have been a little nervous too.  But all’s well that ends well is the balancing act that is recruiting.

And there are reports that Indiana is continuing to recruit for next year, which would likely mean the end of the road as a player for the courageous Maurice Creek, whose battle to regain effectiveness after a series of debilitating injuries may come to an end without utilizing the fifth year of eligibility granted because of a red shirt season.  That may not allow Creek to finish his career in the way he might have liked, but the school owes a player the opportunity to earn a degree, and Creek has had that.

Players do not have a one-way option to continue to utilize eligibility until it’s exhausted.  Indiana has gotten a magical half of one season from Creek, who might have been the Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2009-2010 if not for his first knee injury.  They have also seen him try to work his way back to physical competence.  He has been supported for four years in his quest to play the game he loves.  If Crean and Creek need to have a serious conversation about his future at Indiana, the slate is clean.

Fans deserve the best chance of winning.  The kids deserve a great education.  To this point, Crean has built brick by brick a program that can deliver both.

14 thoughts on “Indiana Basketball – Oversigning Keeps Hoosiers at Full Strength

  1. Philboyd Studge

    Kent — I’m glad to see that, possibly prompted by my last post paraphrasing Orwell, you are at least acknowledging what Crean is doing — oversigning, with the intent that a Matt Roth or a Remy Abell is disposable.

    Now, you only have to recapture your sense of right and wrong — so finely tuned when you applied it to John Calipari when he took over a UK roster littered with Billy Gillispie’s mistakes, yet so strangely “situational” when applied to Clappy Crean and players he personally promised to nurture.

    Maybe you are abandoning the whole notion of “doing it the right way.” If so, I’d caution you to be careful. It is important to highly regard the person running your program, as I do with John Calipari, who never over-signs, who is honoring John Hood’s scholarship for a fifth year even though he plays much less than Matt Roth did, who has had several million dollar telethons while he’s been at UK for people like the survivors of Haiti’s earthquake, and who, unlike Crean, has not had a sleazy relationship with an AAU coach

    If you can’t honestly feel that way about Crean, and I can’t see how you could, you need to face that squarely, Kent.

    1. kentsterling Post author

      I don’t fault Crean for oversigning, and until Abell says that he was kicked lose from the program, I’ll take people at their word that he wants to leave because the reality is that he won’t play more in years three and four than he did in years one and two.

      Crean has honored all scholarships for four years to this point, but I don’t mind people deciding that a fit isn’t a fit. It doesn’t serve the kids or program well when one side or the other is unhappy.

      My issues with Calipari have nothing at all to do with how he manages his roster. It has to do with the remarkable regularity with which he attracts top talent who plan to spend less than one year in Lexington.

  2. Jeff Gregory

    You seem confident that Abell wasn’t pushed out. Maybe transferring was his idea; I don’t know. I am not particularly an Abell fan, but I certainly am not a fan of over-signing. It is slimy and should not be allowed by the NCAA. If no school is allowed to do it, then you don’t run into that problem of being able to “keep up” with the Kentucky’s of the world.

    I think another option is to offer 1,2,3, and 4+ year scholarships. I have no problem with telling a kid that we can offer you one year – and perhaps renewing it if it is agreeable to both parties. When a kid signs, he thinks he has 4 years (if he satisfies the academic part of it). What kid wants to go through the recruiting process and pick the right school and then get pushed out after a year or two because some high school kid was awarded a check that the program couldn’t cash. Slimy.

    1. kentsterling Post author

      Would you rather a kid sit on the end of the bench for two years than leave after his sophomore season? As long as expectations are communicated effectively, I have no problem with oversigning. I’m a result oriented guy, and if 13 pegs fit into 13 holes, I’m good. The first time that IU has to tell a kid to go to a prep school because of oversigning, then I will lead the throng of those angry about Indiana not following through on its promises.

  3. Jeff Gregory

    To answer your question, we can only focus on Abell. Were you privy to the conversation between Crean and Abell – from a reliable source? I mean, there is no reason that he couldn’t compete for a starting job (or at the very least being the 6th man) on that team. Ferrell is the only guard they have that is ahead of him from this year- and we need two. To assume a freshman is going to come in and beat him out is a huge assumption. Abell can shoot (didn’t he have a 3-pt streak at the beginning of the year?) and handle the ball well. Plus,he is pretty darn athletic. Now, he even has two years experience. I just don’t see how anyone can assume that he would play less – especially after losing 4 starters – 2 of them firmly in the #2 and #3 positions. It just makes me suspicious.

    I don’t see a difference between Crean saying, “You aren’t going to play, you might as well transfer out,” and “I’m taking your scholarship because we oversigned.” Do you? Kids transfer all the time. However, when there is oversigning involved, you can’t always take things at face value.

    1. kentsterling Post author

      You can assume facts not in evidence. I choose not to. If Abell comes out and says that Crean swiped his ride, that’s a different thing. He’s not saying that, so I’m accepting the story that accompanied the news.

      1. Jeff Gregory

        I am not assuming he was pushed out. I am saying it is quite possible. The facts show there is a reason to consider something other than the company line. They are what I outlined above about why he should play at least as much and probably more than last year. Plus, do you really expect the kid to raise a ruckus when searching for another school to play for?

        Look, I hope you are right. However, don’t you think it is just a little naive to just assume that something else MAY have been going on when there is oversigning going on?

        I hope someone can explain to me why it is safe to assume that Abell would play less in year three than in 1 and 2. So far, it just seems saying it is as good as fact.

        1. kentsterling Post author

          We can be skeptical, but most of the time – when I have known the facts from the inside – the conspiracy theorists come up with more entertaining stories than the true one.

          Maybe Remy was told to sing from the Hoosier gospel if he wants help to land somewhere nice. That could be true, but in the absence of evidence to the contrary, I choose to believe what’s being asserted as the truth by Abell.

        2. Ryan


          I thought the same as you were then I took a look at the production from Abell from freshman to sophomore year and the numbers are not good. I looked at just the Big Ten seasons because I could care less what anyone does against Coastal Carolina (I could score 12 points, and that’s being completely serious). Here’s what you see:

          Soph –
          min pg – 9.67 ppg – 2.0 rpg – .83 apg – .56 to/g – .61
          Frosh –
          min pg – 7.3 ppg – 2.3 rpg – .85 apg – 0 to/g – .4

          The production level/improvement from freshman to sophomore year just isn’t there. A number I like is per 40min stats to see with more playing time what you could have expected and every per 40 stat went down significantly from year 1 to year 2. You can interpret the numbers any way you want, but what these tell me is that this is a player who is not a rotation guy on a big ten roster and Crean hopefully was straight and let him know his chances of being a significant factor on a college roster are far greater somewhere else. I have no doubt he will be a successful college player – just not at Indiana. For whatever reason (lack of real opportunity, playing style, etc….) his production just was not on par with what is expected to play and with the class coming in. The writing was on the wall.

          There might have been another reason for his departure, but it is safe to say that he was told he just was not going to play, and the best option was to pursue other athletic opportunities. It is sad, but it happens.

          1. Jeff Gregory


            Thanks for your well thought out reply. Your statistics interested me a great deal so I decided to compare apples to apples so to speak. I compared Abell’s stats with the other players (particularly guards) this year. I also included Hollowell because he is a presumptive starter next year and was used to bide time for the starters like Abell was. I included EVERY game, but I also did so for the other players so it is a fair comparison. I also used the stats per 40 minutes:

            POINTS Per GAME

            ABELL – 12.8
            Hulls – 13.4
            Ferrell – 10.8

            Hollowell – 11.5

            ASSISTS Per GAME

            ABELL – 2.8
            Hulls – 4.1
            Ferrell – 5.8

            REBOUNDS Per Game

            ABELL – 4.8
            Hulls – 3.2
            Ferrell – 3.9

            Hollowell – 8.7

            Abell also led the WHOLE TEAM in 3pt fg percentage.

            My point is that Abell is certainly not out of place here. He is the best rebounder of the guards, his assists are on par with Hulls, And his scoring is second best of the returning players (ahead of Ferrell and Hollowell). I just don’t see how he would think that he would not be in the mix for next year. One would have to make some mighty big assumptions on a bunch of freshmen, highly touted or not. Like I mentioned earlier in this thread. Hollowell and Mosquera-Perea were supposed to be superstars. It would only make sense that Crean told him he would not play despite what the situation looks like. If Crean told him he wouldn’t play, then with no statistics to support him, he simply just ran him off. Is it merely a coincidence that the team is over-signed?

          2. Ryan


            I do not completely disagree with you. My main concern is his improvement or lack of improvement in productivity from year one to year two. I think Abell is a good player who will benefit from change.

            I do not think Abell would have played less, but I do think based upon his finish to last season and his lack of production during the conference year left him an uphill battle to get more playing time. I can tell you from personal experience that playing the same roll three years in a row is frustrating and would cause any player to ponder transferring. Here are some more stats not necessarily to prove a point, but because I enjoy them and having a debate using intelligent rhetoric is healthy.

            Remy Abell non-conference per 40:
            ppg – 16.84 rpg – 5.93 apg – 4.02
            In Conference
            ppg – 8.28 rpg – 3.45 apg – 2.3

            Jordan Hulls non-conference per 40:
            ppg – 16.91 rpg – 4.09 apg – 5.41
            In Conference
            ppg – 12.79 rpg – 2.94 apg – 3.16

            Yogi Ferrell nonconfernce per 40:
            ppg – 9.71 rpg – 4.56 apg – 8.3
            In Conference
            ppg – 11.74 rpg – 3.41 apg – 4.62

            Just goes to show how tough it is to play in the Big Ten. I would say see look at how Remy’s numbers plummeted, but you could say the same for Hulls. I did not put Sheehey’s up, but his did the same. I think what has happened to Abell is unfortunate, but I am not convinced he is a guy that can play significant minutes on a national chamionpship roster and it may be naive, but that’s what I am sticking with. Any other answer from a coaching perspective just won’t do for me.

          3. Jeff Gregory

            I do see your point. I just think that the role you have also has something to do with production. Abell’s role this year was to spell starters and not let the opponents have too much of an advantage while starters rest or are sidelined by foul trouble.

            If he would have stayed this year, his role SHOULD be different (if statistics have anything to do with it). He should have started or at least had a similar role as what Sheehy had. JMO.

            This would have been the year that would have let anyone fairly evaluate his value to the team.

            Your last sentence stuck with me: “I think what has happened to Abell is unfortunate, but I am not convinced he is a guy that can play significant minutes on a national championship roster and it may be naive, but that’s what I am sticking with. Any other answer from a coaching perspective just won’t do for me.”

            Given the light of this latest post by Kent about Abell and his mother trying to convince the Crean to allow him back, what do you think now?

  4. Ron

    So what happened with Patterson from Broad Ripple? You don’t think his leaving had anything to do with him oversigning players?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *