Saturday was a special day for seniors at Columbus North High School in Columbus, Indiana, as their four years of hard work culminated with graduation day. The afternoon was special for another reason: Vermont signee Josh Speidel, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in a car accident in early February, was able to graduate with his fellow seniors.
Speidel, who was released from the hospital less than two weeks ago, received his diploma as the entire crowd rose to give him a standing ovation. As he continues to recover from the injuries suffered in the accident, Speidel will defer his enrollment at Vermont until 2016.
Speidel was an Associated Press third team all-state selection, and he was named to the Indiana All-Star team that will take on Kentucky’s All-Star team in two games next weekend.
Video credit: RTV6/The Indy Channel
Top 25 2014 prospect Goodluck Okonoboh commits to UNLV
6-foot-9 power forward/center Goodluck Okonoboh has transformed himself into one of the nation’s premier big men over the last year, going from a player who was merely on the radar of some of the nation’s best programs to a highly sought-after front court prospect. On Thursday evening Okonoboh announced where he would be attending college next season, verbally committing to attend UNLV on national television.
Okonoboh, a Woburn, Mass. native who attends Wilbraham & Monson Academy, picked Dave Rice’s program over Indiana and Ohio State. He joins highly-regarded small forward Dwayne Morgan in UNLV’s 2014 recruiting class, and his ability as a defender is something the Runnin’ Rebels will certainly be able to use next season.
UNLV is certain to lose Carlos Lopez-Sosa from their front court at the end of the 2013-14 season since he’s a senior, with UConn transfer Roscoe Smith and Khem Birch having another year of eligibility remaining. Okonoboh would join those two, with current freshmen Jamal Aytes, Demetris Morant (redshirted last season) and Christian Wood also in the competition for minutes.
Okonoboh took his official visit to UNLV this past weekend, and he cited his relationship with coach Rice as one of the deciding factors. Here are a few highlights of Okonoboh in action.
Just three days after announcing that freshman wing Troy Williams would be sidelined due to an injured right hand, Indiana announced on Thursday that fellow freshman Luke Fischer would be out for a “few weeks” after spraining his left shoulder in a scrimmage. Fischer, who earned Mr. Basketball and Gatorade state Player of the Year honors in Wisconsin last year, is a 6-11 big man expected to factor into the Hoosiers’ accounting for the departure of Cody Zeller.
“Luke has made great strides and was playing with great confidence,” Crean said in a statement according to the Indianapolis Star. “He was being aggressive in his pursuit for the basketball when it happened.”
Of course there are other personnel losses for the Hoosiers to address as they look to repeat as Big Ten regular season champions, including Victor Oladipo and Jordan Hulls. But the center position is the spot where the Hoosiers are least experienced. Zeller finished the 2012-13 season with a possession percentage of 26.6%, and his offensive rating of 119.4 ranked second in the Big Ten behind Michigan’s Trey Burke (per kenpom.com).
Can Fischer and/or sophomore Peter Jurkin give Indiana a formidable option at center? Even with the return of Yogi Ferrell and Will Sheehey and the addition of a talented recruiting class headlined by 6-10 forward Noah Vonleh, Indiana will need their two young centers to hold their own inside if they’re to build on last season’s success.
After many Indiana fans lamented the fact that their program had yet to land a recruit in the 2014 class, the Hoosier faithful can breathe a little easier.
6-foot-3 four-star guard Robert Johnson verbally committed to attend the Big Ten school on Friday afternoon, announcing his decision during a press conference at Benedictine College Prep in Virginia. Also in the running for Johnson’s services were North Carolina, Virginia and Florida State, with the Tar Heels and Cavaliers receiving the majority of the attention from those who closely follow recruiting.
But Johnson kept things close to the vest throughout his recruitment, and his decision to attend Indiana is a big one considering their recent luck on the recruiting trail. Indiana had already lost two verbal commitments in the 2014 class in shooting guard James Blackmon Jr. and power forward Trey Lyles, so landing Johnson certainly helps in this regard.
Johnson has the ability to play either guard position, and his addition to the program will help in 2014 as the Hoosiers will lose both Arizona State transfer Evan Gordon (10.1 ppg, 2.9 rpg at ASU last season) and Will Sheehey (9.5, 3.5) at the conclusion of the 2013-14 campaign. Playing with the Boo Williams AAU program this past spring/summer, Johnson averaged 16.5 points and 4.8 rebounds per game during NIke EYBL play. His ability to both get to the basket off the dribble and knock down perimeter shots made Johnson a consensus Top 100 prospect.
On the perimeter Indiana should have point guard Yogi Ferrell, shooting guard Stanford Robinson and wing Troy Williams to go along with Johnson next year. Here are a few clips of Johnson in action at the NBPA Top 100 Camp earlier this summer.
There’s no denying the fact that Cody Zeller was one of the best players in college basketball last season, as the 7-footer averaged 16.5 points and 8.0 rebounds per game on an Indiana squad that won the Big Ten regular season title and reached the Sweet 16. But he’s gone now, as are Victor Oladipo, Jordan Hulls, Christian Watford and Derek Elston, meaning that head coach Tom Crean will need his newcomers (and seldom-used returnees) to have an impact in 2013-14.
One of those players is 6-foot-11 freshman Luke Fischer, who is expected to factor into Indiana’s interior rotation. Fischer arrived in Bloomington after leading his Germantown (Wis.) High School team to a 56-0 record over his last two seasons, but there’s still much for him to learn as he transitions to the college game. Fischer’s gotten stronger, adding 15 pounds to his frame as the strength and conditioning staff gets the big man ready for those rugged nights in the Big Ten.
Fischer’s development is important given the Hoosiers’ lack of interior experience, and according to Pete DiPrimio of the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel Indiana head coach Tom Crean feels that it’s “very important” that Fischer be ready (and able) to play right away.
Crean didn’t recruit Fischer to sit the bench. Fischer has to be a big contributor, especially with the Hoosiers’ lack of inside experience. Sophomore forward Jeremy Hollowell played the most of the returning big men last year (he averaged 2.8 points and 2.06 rebounds in 9.7 minutes). Forward Hanner Mosquera-Perea and center Peter Jurkin saw limited action.
Indiana will certainly have leaders, with senior Will Sheehey and sophomore point guard Yogi Ferrell filling those roles. But if the Hoosiers are to factor into the Big Ten race their youngsters will need to contribute. Coach Crean and his staff reeled in one of the nation’s top recruiting classes, led by forwards Noah Vonleh and Troy Williams and guard Stanford Robinson, so the talent is certainly there.
Even with the stars from last season’s Big Ten champion squad gone, the process of restoring one of the game’s most storied programs continues. The hope is that Fischer and the other underclassmen will prove themselves capable of helping the Hoosiers return to the days when they were consistently contending for Big Ten and national honors.
Following an official visit to Champaign, Ill. this weekend, White Station High (Tenn.) forward Leron Black, a top-25 recruit in the Class of 2014, committed to John Groce and the Illinois Fighting Illini.
“Before I came here this weekend, I knew Illinois is where I wanted to be,” Black told Jackson on Sunday. “The Illinois coaching staff is amazing, the campus was amazing and I feel like I’m going to grow here as a player and a person and spiritually. I feel like I can trust the coaches. I believe in them and this is the right spot.”
In September, the Memphis native committed to Baylor, though, decommitted in January after feeling that he had rushed his decision. The 6-foot-7 Black became one of the top players being sought after this summer, gaining interest from powerhouses such as Indiana, Louisville and Ohio State. In mid-August, cut his list of possible suitors to four — Baylor, Illinois, Indiana and Tennessee.
His visit to Illinois was one of the three official visits he had previously scheduled. He was going to had to Baylor this upcoming a weekend — one week after Apple Valley High (Minn.) point guard Tyus Jones and Whitney Young (Ill.) center Jahlil Okafor were in Waco — followed by a trip to Bloomington on Sept. 20.
The five-star forward, ranked No. 22 in the Class of 2014 by Rivals, joins Centennial High (Ill.) forward Michael Finke in Illinois’ Class of 2014.