A story on an Indiana commitment, you say? Tom Crean appears to have filled his final spot in 2011 with 6’4" combo guard Remy Abell of Louisville. Abell had previously been signed with Bradley but was released from his letter of intent.
The real story for us is how this might effect Indiana’s recruitment of Gary Harris and, more to the point, if it says anything about Michigan State’s chances with the 2012 elite guard from Fishers, IN. For Indiana, 2011 is fine and untroublesome. However, the Hoosiers’ addition of wing guard Jeremy Hollowell in March combined with Abell have already brought their prospective 2012-2013 roster up to fifteen players, two over the thirteen-player scholarship limit. A verbal from Gary Harris would leave IU over-committed by the imposing number of three. Indiana would have to deal with this by some combination of transfers, recruits going the JUCO route, and current players going off scholarship. No matter how it goes down, losing three players prematurely for places besides the NBA is neither pretty or good PR. Ask MSU.
In most circumstances, an MSU fan might conclude that adding a 6’4" guard suggests that Tom Crean and staff are pessimistic about Gary Harris coming to Indiana or moving on completely. Boo-hoo for us, this does not appear to be the case and Crean has been recruiting aggressively even as his roster spots fill up. There’s speculation that they could add yet another 2011 player and the school has expressed interest in various post players including the recently available Percy Gibson. The traditional rules do not apply here. I would expect that both Indiana and Michigan State’s pursuit of Harris will continue with gusto through the summer and into the fall. As much as I'd like to believe otherwise, the shift in my level of optimism about Gary Harris coming to MSU in response to this news is minimal.
A little soapbox-ishness after the jump...
I know a lot of MSU fans expressed concern over how it would look and effect the program if Tom Izzo had accepted a public commitment from Gary Harris without it being clear where that scholarship was coming from. I want to say that I think those sentiments are in the right place. The addition would have taken the amorphous speculation and converted it into a concrete threat looming over the current roster. Rumors would have spread and one couldn't ignore that fact that someone (Sherman?, Kearney?, Nix?, Anderson?, oh my!) was on the way out. Most Michigan State fans pride themselves in having a basketball coach who plays straight while enjoying an exceptional national reputation. Whether fair or not, the talk would have been that Izzo pushed someone out to make room for Harris, causing a small nick on the MSU/Izzo brand. At least one positive side effect of losing Garrick Sherman on his own terms is that we don’t have to worry about this.
I spend some time on Indiana messageboards/blogs and, generally, I’m glad I’m not in their shoes. Predictably, the sentiment is all over the place. Some posters are completely freaked that Indiana might have to edge out nearly a third of their roster to make room for new players. Others take a "just win, baby" attitude and talk cynically about how various bench guys won't be sticking around. If I wore the candy stripes, I would definitely be in the former category. High-level college basketball is a cutthroat game and no one, not even Izzo, can play the saint all the time. Still, I want my coach to do his best to fulfill his commitment to the players he brings in so long as they do the same. I hear a lot of excuses made that Crean will have to cut some under-performing players because of the state of the Indiana program he inherited after Kelvin Sampson and the dire influence on Crean's ability to recruit. For me, that influence is part of the punishment and an element of what anyone who took the job was walking into. I don't know Tom Crean's plan or how strong-armed he'll need to be to make his scholarship numbers jibe but I don't believe he should be given a free pass if it comes down to pushing players out of the program. Hopefully, that won't be necessary for the Hoosiers and it'll be a credit to Tom Crean if drastic measures can be avoided. The worst-case scenario of pulling scholarships feels unpleasant to me - an unpleasantness that wouldn't entirely disappear with more victories. But, because I don't have to worry about any of that, I feel like it's another good day to be a Spartan. I'm also cool if Garry Harris feels the same.