Pete DiPrimio, sports columnist and college beat writer for The News-Sentinel of Fort Wayne, Ind., takes his best shots on the world of Hoosier basketball.

Friday, May 25

Sampson Recruiting Sanctions End

So now Kelvin Sampson is back in good NCAA graces when it comes to recruiting. He can call who he wants and go where he wants just like any other college basketball coach.

Of course, the IU coach can’t go anywhere to recruit right now until July, when the next off-campus period begins.

Still, his year of penance for making 577 illegal phone calls (he made 233 of them, his staff made the rest) to recruits while at Oklahoma is over as of Thursday. No longer does he have to wait for recruits to come to him. He can go and see them -- at high schools, in tournaments, at their homes.

To show you how good a recruiter he is, and how good a staff he has, Sampson still landed a class that ranks in the top 10 nationally. The class is highlighted by Indianapolis’ Eric Gordon, Indiana’s Mr. Basketball who rates as the nation’s top shooting guard.

Gordon and the rest of the newcomers (six in all) will get an early jump on their college careers because Sampson has lined up an exhibition tour (as many as five games) to the Bahamas around the Labor Day weekend. That will enable the Hoosiers to practice and bond well before official practice begins in mid October.

It’s a big jump in what looms as a huge season for IU. Given what Ohio State did with its group of highly touted freshmen (in case you forgot, the Buckeyes won the Big Ten title and finished second in the NCAA tourney to defending champ Florida), given the impact freshmen continue to make nationally, Hoosier prospects are very, very good.

Good enough to match, or even surpass, what Ohio State did? Hey, it’s still May, still spring and all things are possible. We’ll wait for the fall to deal with reality.

Wednesday, May 16

Is Shaw Moving On?

So it looks like all those transfer rumors about Joey Shaw are about to become reality. Shaw, the 6-6 freshman guard who liked to shoot but never quite learned to appreciate Kelvin Sampson-style defense, is reportedly set to join the College of Southern Idaho. He would play at the junior college school for one year before transferring to another four-year school and would have two season of eligibility remaining.

Shaw was a reserve who averaged 4.5 points and shot 40 percent from three-point range last season. He had some impressive moments -- such as the 19 off-the-bench points he had against Purdue, the 16 points he had against Ohio State and the 14 points he had against Western Illinois.

Still, his erratic defense led to erratic playing time. He was basically a non-factor the last half of the Big Ten season and with a strong recruiting class coming in, led by guard Eric Gordon, that time could have diminished even more next season.

So, this Mike Davis recruit is moving on.

Shaw is the second Hoosier to transfer. Forward Xavier Keeling left earlier in the spring. Sampson used that scholarship to sign 6-8 forward DeAndre Thomas. The good news -- Thomas could be a real offensive load. The bad news -- Thomas seems far heavier than his listed 295 pounds. He's on campus now and will really have to buy into Sampson's conditioning program to get fit enough to play the kind of full-throttle defense Sampson demands.

Friday, May 11

Big Recruiting Weekend

Hey, if you love basketball recruiting intrigue and drama -- and if you don’t, why not? -- you need to consider the May Classic, an AAU event hitting the Bloomington hardcourts this weekend.

Here you’ll find high school standouts such as DeShaun Thomas of Bishop Luers, who is being recruited by every program of note in America.

Okay, that’s not totally true, but schools such as Indiana and Purdue are interested, and when you’re big and strong and draw comparisons with LeBron James (hey, excessive over-hype is part of the deal), the potential is obvious. So is the fact Thomas averaged 28 points and 13 rebounds last season and became the first freshman since James Hardy (now a standout wide receiver at Indiana) to make the all-Summit Athlete Conference team.

Thomas plays for the Indiana Elite Fort Wayne Flames (15 and under) and one of his teammates, at least in the May Classic, happens to be Ray McCallum. No, not the former Ball State superstar and head coach (he’s now an IU assistant), but the elder McCallum’s son, who is a 6-foot guard with Division I potential.

Both will be sophomores next season, which means they won’t graduate until 2010, so there’s plenty of time to discuss and speculate.

Of more immediate recruiting concern for IU is Devin Banks, a 6-8 stud forward from New York City who also will play in the May Classic. Banks will use this event to make an unofficial visit, yet another way coach Kelvin Sampson can get around those NCAA recruiting sanctions that won’t expire until July.

Anyway, Banks is a top-10 player nationally who has cut his list to IU, Texas and Miami. Miami is apparent the favorite, but that can change by the time he makes his decision, which is expected to be sometime this summer.

Banks is the highest profile player in a tourney loaded with them. Others include 7-foot Tyler Zeller of Washington, Indiana (IU REALLY wants him), 6-10 Angel Garcia of East Chicago, 6-11 Jason Washburn of Michigan and 6-9 Michael Dunigan of Chicago.

Games will be played at a variety of Bloomington locations, including Assembly Hall. Yes, that’s the same Assembly Hall that Sampson would like replaced in favor of a facility that is fan and recruit friendly. All that's needed is will, planning and, say, $160 million.

But that’s a topic for another day.