His legacy intact, Yogi Ferrell remains the most fascinating Indiana player in a generation

(AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
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PHILADELPHIA — Yogi Ferrell’s illustrious career at Indiana came to an end with 31 seconds left on the clock, with head coach Tom Crean calling for his team to commit a foul in the back court so he could give his seniors — so he could give Yogi — one last moment in front of the fans that made the trek to Philly.

As he left the floor, Yogi untucked his jersey for the last time and embraced his coach.

“‘We’re always going to walk together as brothers. Even with this loss like this,'” Yogi remembered Crean saying. “We overcame a lot, overcame all the adversity, slow starts, we kept fighting for one another, pushing one another. A season like this is a team we can tell anyone we were on.”

Yogi would take a seat on the bench, listening to the crowd behind him chant his name as the final seconds ticked away.

There were no tears after the game, not from Yogi. The pain that comes from a tournament loss gets dulled when the outcome is a forgone conclusion for the final 25 minutes. Yogi fulfilled his media requirements. He spent 15 minutes on the dais answering questions only to return to the locker room to sit in a chair that an Indiana official had set in a spot specifically to allow for the maximum number of reporters and video cameras to crowd around him.

Nearly an hour after the final buzzer had sounded, there were just a couple of reporters left chatting with Yogi when Indiana closed down their locker room. As they left, Yogi stood up to give them a handshake and a hug, a final goodbye for the people that had documented nearly a third of Yogi’s life.

“We’ve been asking that kid questions for seven years.”

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To understand the significance of how Yogi Ferrell’s career at Indiana ended you first have to understand how it all started.

Yogi was something of a local sensation dating all the way back to the fourth grade. Hoop Scoop ranked him as the best player in his grade when he was nine years old and the Indianapolis Star ran a follow-up story on that, examining the pitfalls of ranking kids that are that young. He was known as a basketball prodigy in his city before he needed to shave.

He was first seen by Indiana at the team’s Elite Camp when he was still a freshman in high school. A kid that quick, that tough, that talented playing for Park Tudor HS, a prep powerhouse in Indianapolis? The Hoosiers have no choice but to go all-in on them, and they did just that with Ferrell.

During the summer after his sophomore season, when Yogi had joined the Indiana Elite AAU program, the Hoosiers put on the full-court press, and it paid off. The Hoosiers landed commitments from Yogi’s Indiana Elite teammates Peter Jurkin and Ron Patterson in August of 2010. Two months later, Hanner Perea, another Indiana Elite kid and a top 50 prospect, committed to the Hoosiers. Two weeks after that is when the levies broke: Cody Zeller, who is a year older than Yogi but played in the same Indiana Elite program, committed to the Hoosiers, followed two weeks later by Yogi pledging to Tom Crean at midcourt during a high school game his junior year.

Suddenly, Crean had a fleet of in-state kids ready to rejuvenate his program, led by a pair of soon-to-be McDonald’s All-Americans. Remember, this came at a time when the Indiana program was still in the throes of their rebuild. The year that Yogi and Zeller committed to Indiana, the Hoosiers went 12-20, an improvement considering they had won just 16 games total in Crean’s first two seasons in Bloomington.

“They made it OK for big time players from Indiana to come to Indiana again,” said Dan Dakich, a former Indiana player and coach. Dakich currently works as a college basketball analyst on ESPN and hosts a radio show in Indianapolis. He knows the framework of basketball in the Hoosier state as well as anyone, and as he tells it, there’s nothing that Indiana fans want more than to root for kids from the state of Indiana. “That has been one of the raps on Tom. He spends so much on recruiting, it’s double every big ten school. They’re like, ‘What the..? Just keeps kids in state!'”

Yogi would go on to win the state title as a junior, and the following summer he would travel with an Indiana Elite team that started five players committed to play for the Hoosiers. They dubbed themselves ‘The Movement’. They garnered so much interest that Indiana beat writers were sent out to cover their AAU games. A reporter writing a game story at an AAU tournament is unheard of.

Then Zeller arrived at Indiana, and that’s when the hype machine went to another level. As a freshman — Yogi’s senior season in high school — Zeller led a crop of unknowns to a 27-win season, a memorable win over Kentucky in the regular season and a trip to the Sweet 16. You couldn’t tell Indiana fans nothin’ at that point. The Hoosiers were back, Tom Crean was the savior and Indiana was going to be back to winning titles and hanging banners in no time.

And in turn, the pressure on ‘The Movement’ only built further.

“They were the first generation of twitter kids. They embraced [the pressure],” said Brian Snow, a recruiting analyst for Scout.com based in Indianapolis. “For the most part, these kids, they built it up as much as other people. They’re a very confident group. ‘This is our crew and we’re going to get it done.’ They put it out there.”

When ‘The Movement’ finally arrived in Bloomington, success followed.

The Hoosiers were the preseason No. 1 team in the country and played like it for much of the season, winning the outright Big Ten regular season title and advancing to the Sweet 16 for the second consecutive season. Yogi started at the point as a freshman and had a pretty good, year, averaging 7.6 points and 4.1 assists for a team that needed little more out of their point guard than a guy that was willing to initiate offense and get the ball to their horses — Zeller, Victor Oladipo, Christian Watford, Jordan Hulls — where they could do some damage.

Indiana would have some major holes to replace the following season, but with the young talent on the roster, the future still looked bright.

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(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

The course of the 2015-16 season changed for Indiana in December. We all know the story by now. The Hoosiers were humiliated by Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium, putting up the worst defensive performance by a high-major program in five years.

It felt, then, like the end of the Tom Crean era was upon us. Maybe it wouldn’t happen that night, but there was little doubt that the man had resuscitated a program on its deathbed would be out of work come March if he couldn’t turn that thing around, and he wasn’t going to be able to do that.

Right?

Well, that changed by the end of the year, and if you talk to people around the team, that change was spurred on by a change in Yogi.

“He was the real leader for this group,” freshman Thomas Bryant said. “Some people thought that he wasn’t at the beginning of the season. He took that personal.”

That wasn’t always the case.

“Ferrel was always seen as a guy that will put up good numbers and wouldn’t defend and isn’t a great leader,” Dakich said. “This year is a 180 degree change. He’s been a terrific leader. It’s his team, everyone understands that and follows that and respects his every word. Previous teammates didn’t respect him.”

It was a mindset for Yogi. He had always been a lead-by-example kind of guy. No one questions his work ethic, in the weight room or on the practice floor. The issue was the leadership that he showed in the locker room. It was his effort defensively. How many players are willing to listen to a guy chirp at them about their defensive effort when that guy’s letting his man go for 20 every night?

“Winning has always been important to him, but to win at this level he had to understand there was a different way to do it,” assistant coach Tim Buckley said. “It wasn’t just him scoring points. It was him making his teammates better.”

“Even early into his senior year, “he wasn’t to the point where he was ready to bring them all in,” Buckley added. “The more coach talked to him about it, the more we emphasized that, the more he started to understand.”

“Yogi is different,” his father, Kevin Ferrell Sr., said. “We’ve tried to play with the mind a little bit to really understand what [leadership] looks like and how it feels going into a game.”

“He takes pride in what he’s done and what he’s accomplished.”

Part of that change is Yogi’s understanding of the moment. He doesn’t always have to call someone out in front of the whole team. Early in the season, when freshman Juwan Morgan was slacking on his responsibilities watching film and doing individual skill work outside of practice, Yogi pulled him aside and let him know that was something that had to change if he wanted to be any good.

He wasn’t just leading by example anymore.

“By force, too,” Morgan said. “It’s something you don’t see that often.”

“I listened to him and that’s the best decision I made since I got here.”

That’s the common thread in the success stories that come out of Indiana this season, and it’s certainly no different when talking about what changed that day in December. On what had to be one of the toughest days of his basketball career — a season where the Hoosiers were projected in the preseason top 15 had started 5-3, and, with losses already to Wake Forest and UNLV, no answers were readily available — Yogi was the one that stepped out of the locker room to face the media. He was the one that answered more questions that night than head coach Tom Crean did.

And he was the one that led the conversation in the locker room after the game.

“It wasn’t as intense as this feeling right here, but it was a lot like it is tonight,” Morgan said. “‘We cannot let this happen again. We have to have some pride in ourselves, for everyone that supports us, not to let this happen again.'”

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Yogi will leave Indiana as one of the most beloved Hoosiers in a generation, but the biggest reason for that is the disappointment that his sophomore and junior seasons led to.

‘The Movement’ ended up being a fitting name for Yogi’s recruiting class, as four of the five players that committed to Crean eventually found their way out of the program. Ron Patterson never made it in due to an academic issue. Peter Jurkin was never healthy enough to be a contributor at this level and transferred after his sophomore season. Jeremy Hollowell transferred out of the program after his sophomore season, and whose idea it was for the move to be made is up for debate. Hanner Mosquera-Perea got a midseason DUI as a sophomore and was dismissed after he was cited for possession of marijuana last May.

And all that happened while the Hoosiers couldn’t find a way to avoid legal issues. Underage drinking. Marijuana possession. Yogi wasn’t even immune, as he was popped for using a fake ID at a club. All of that paled in comparison with the incident involving Devin Davis and Emmitt Holt, when Davis nearly killed himself by jumping into the path of a car that was being driven by Holt. Both players, who were underage, had been drinking at the time.

“Indiana, like many elite programs, places themselves a cut above,” Snow said. “You’ve got a kid, Yogi Ferrell, from Park Tudor High School, elite prep school in Indy. Never had problems in high school, everyone will tell you he’s a good kid and all of a sudden he’s getting in trouble. Jeremy Hollowell never really got in trouble and now he’s getting into trouble. Hanner never had any problems and all of a sudden he’s getting in trouble.”

During that time, Indiana missed the tournament one year and got bounced in the first round the next, all while a number of kids from the state — Gary Harris, Ronnie Johnson, Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary, Zak Irvin, D’vauntes Smith-Rivera, R.J. Hunter — were playing starring roles elsewhere, and, far too often, on teams that beat the Hoosiers.

“The fan base has an unrequited love for that team and they were left wondering whether it was reciprocated,” Dakich said. “People were glad when they got rid of [those kids] because in Indiana, they want love the kid as much as they want to love the team.”

In other words, they want the players to value the right to wear that uniform the same way that they, as fans, would if they were good enough to don the crimson and cream.

It took a while for Yogi to earn that trust back from the fan base, but he did. Carrying this team to a Big Ten regular season title — the second of his career — and to the Sweet 16 with a win over Kentucky? He’s now a legend at a school full of them, something that wasn’t guaranteed prior to the turnaround, regardless of where his name falls in the history books: sixth all-time in points, the career leaders in assists, games played and starts.

Because that turnaround gave Indiana fans a ride they never expected.

Indiana guard Yogi Ferrell gets a hug from coach Tom Crean, left, after the team's NCAA college basketball game against Iowa, Tuesday, March 1, 2016, in Iowa City, Iowa. Ferrell scored 20 points as Indiana won 81-78 and clinched the Big Ten title. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Instead, they’ve got themselves a Big Ten title and a trip to the Sweet 16 — plus a win over Kentucky, which may be the most valuable chip in a rivalry that’s been too dormant for too long — with a future that looks far more promising. James Blackmon Jr. will be healthy next season. O.G. Anunoby suddenly looks like he’s on the Victor Oladipo career path. With Robert Johnson and Colin Hartman expected to return, the Hoosiers should finish in the top half of the Big Ten next season, and that’s assuming that neither Troy Williams or Thomas Bryant return, which is anything but a given at this point.

Yogi gave them that, his senior season mirroring the arc of his career at Indiana, and while the Hoosiers more or less accomplished what they were projected to accomplish in October, that it happened after the way the season started made it unforgettable.

The most fun a sports fan can have is rooting for a team that wasn’t supposed to be nearly as good as they end up being.

“It’s not my place to determine [my legacy],” Yogi said. “It’s what the people think and what the people say. I feel like I did everything in my part that I possibly can. I want to be successful, but for me to be successful, the team had to be successful.”

“I just want them to think about me being a winner.”

And they will.

They do.

But his real legacy could end up being determined by what happens in the near future.

Did Yogi really make it cool for Indiana kids to end up in Indiana again?

Because in Indiana, the Class of 2017 has five top 75 prospects. Romeo Langford, a top ten prospect in the Class of 2018, plays in the Hoosier State. The second coming of ‘The Movement’ is right there for Crean’s taking. Has Yogi’s emergence this year done enough to repair the rift that has formed between Indiana kids and the biggest school in their home-state?

That will be Yogi’s real legacy.

And don’t think for a second that doesn’t matter to him. He loves his state. He loves his school. He’s a kid that didn’t know how he was going to bring himself to take off that Hoosier jersey for the last time:

“I might take this thing and keep it on to the hotel, that’s how bad I don’t want to take it off.”

Tennessee center Tamari Key out for season with blood clots

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee senior center Tamari Key will miss the rest of this season because of blood clots in her lungs, coach Kellie Harper said.

Doctors found the issue during testing. Key is expected to make a full recovery after treatment from University of Tennessee doctors, Harper said, adding that her sole concern is Key getting the medical care she needs to heal and return to full strength.

Key missed the first game of her career in a win Tuesday night over Chattanooga after playing her first 99.

“This is much bigger than basketball. We are so grateful that this medical condition was caught,” Harper said in a statement. “Our entire program will be right beside Tamari during this process and welcomes prayers and positive thoughts from Lady Vol Nation and beyond.”

The Lady Vols opened the season ranked fifth but currently are 5-5.

The 6-foot-6 Key from Cary, North Carolina, currently is Tennessee’s third-leading scorer averaging 8.4 points a game and averaged 4.2 rebounds per game. She started all 34 games as the Lady Vols reached their first Sweet 16 since 2016 last season and set the school record with 119 blocked shots.

Key had 18 blocks this season and 295 for her career, five away from becoming the eighth woman to reach that mark in Southeastern Conference history.

No. 7 Tennessee beats Eastern Kentucky, win streak hits 7

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tyreke Key scored 10 of the first 12 points of the second half and finished with 17, and No. 7 Tennessee overcame a sluggish first half and beat Eastern Kentucky 84-49 on Wednesday night.

“Tyreke is handling the ball now,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. “That’s all new to him. He keeps getting better.”

The Volunteers (8-1) struggled in the first half but still built an 11-point lead over Eastern Kentucky (4-5) on the way to their seventh straight victory.

Key led Tennessee in scoring before leaving with a cramp in his right leg with 6:15 left in the game. Julian Phillips had 16 points and 10 rebounds, and Zakai Zeigler and Uros Plavsic added 13 points apiece. Olivier Nkamhoua scored 10.

“I’m still settling in,” said Key, a transfer from Indiana State who didn’t play last year while recovering from an injury. “This is a new role. I’m taking steps every day and keep learning.”

Eastern Kentucky, which came into the game averaging 83.5 points, was held well below that total due to 17% (6 for 35) shooting from long range and 22% (15 for 68) overall. Leland Walker led the Colonels with 13 points.

It was the seventh time this season Tennessee has held its opponent to 50 or fewer points.

“(Tennessee) is the best defensive team in the country,” Eastern Kentucky coach A.W. Hamilton said. “I think they’re the best team in the country.”

At one point in the first half, Tennessee was shooting 20% and still leading by 10 points. The teams combined to shoot 4 of 32 from 3-point range in the first 20 minutes. The Vols, who shot 24% (8 of 34), led 32-21 at the break.

“If we can’t make shots, can you find a way to win the game?” Barnes said. “When the shot’s not going in, find a way to play. The first thing we talk about is our defense.”

Tennessee shot 41 free throws. Phillips, a true freshman, was 7 of 10.

“(Phillips) has learned the pace of the game,” Barnes said. “I’m not sure there’s been a more effective freshman in the country (this season).”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Since its early season slip against Colorado, Tennessee has had a steady ascent in the rankings. The Vols’ next two games – neutral site (Brooklyn) against No, 13 Maryland (Dec. 11) and at No. 10 Arizona (Dec. 17) – will go a long way toward justifying the No. 7 ranking.

BIG PICTURE

Eastern Kentucky: The Colonels’ run-and-gun style of offense had them averaging 83.5 points through their first eight games. They ran into a defensive buzz saw in Tennessee, which was yielding just over 51 points.

Tennessee: Santiago Vescovi sat out his second straight game with a shoulder problem. He is expected to be ready to play Sunday against Maryland. . The Vols have won seven in a row since their loss to Colorado.

UP NEXT

Eastern Kentucky: The Colonels host Boyce College on Saturday.

Tennessee: Take on No. 13 Maryland on Sunday at the Hall of Fame Invitational in New York.

Hoggard scores career-high 23, Michigan State snaps 2-game skid

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Matthew OHaren/USA TODAY Sports
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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A.J. Hoggard scored a career-high 23 points, Joey Hauser had 12 points and 15 rebounds and Michigan State beat Penn State 67-58 on Wednesday night to snap a two-game losing streak.

Michigan State (6-4, 1-1 Big Ten) avoided going .500 or worse after 10 games for the first time in 18 seasons.

Hoggard blocked an open layup with less than a minute to play and Hauser grabbed the rebound before being fouled and making two free throws at the other end for a 66-58 lead.

Hoggard, Hauser and Tyson Walker combined for 31 of Michigan State’s 32 second-half points.

The Michigan State defense allowed only one made field goal in the final five minutes. Penn State was just 1 of 9 from 3-point range in the second half after 7 of 18 before halftime.

Walker scored 10 of his 14 points in the second half for Michigan State. Hoggard, who entered third in the conference in assists at 6.3, had six rebounds, two assists and one key block.

Hoggard gave Michigan State 35-33 lead – its first since 4-2 – after back-to-back three-point plays with 59.3 seconds left in the first half. It was tied at 35-all at the break.

Seth Lundy scored 16 points and Jalen Pickett had 13 points, 17 rebounds and eight assists for Penn State (6-3, 0-1)

Michigan State hosts Brown on Saturday. Penn State, which hadn’t played since a double-overtime loss to Clemson on Nov. 29, plays at No. 17 Illinois on Saturday.

No. 7 Virginia Tech posts 9th straight win, beats Boston College 73-58

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BOSTON — Reigning Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year Elizabeth Kitley had 22 points and 12 rebounds, and Cayla King scored 16 on Wednesday night to lead No. 7 Virginia Tech to a 73-58 victory over Boston College, the Hokies’ ninth straight win.

Taylor Soule, one of two BC transfers on the roster for Virginia Tech (9-0, 1-0 ACC), added nine points and five rebounds. Soule scored more than 1,500 points and grabbed almost 700 rebounds in four seasons at BC, earning All-ACC honors three times.

Andrea Daley scored 15 points and Maria Gakdeng scored 14 for BC (7-4, 0-1). They each grabbed six rebounds.

Virginia Tech scored 17 of the game’s first 21 points and led by as many as 19 in the third quarter before BC cut the deficit to 10 in the fourth. Leading 64-54 with under three minutes left and the shot clock expiring, Kayana Traylor hit a 3-pointer for the Hokies.

Gakdeng missed two free throws for BC, and then Kitley scored from inside to make it a 15-point game.

Clara Ford, who also played four years in Chestnut Hill, pitched in 2 points in 2 minutes against her former team.

BIG PICTURE

At No. 7, the Hokies have the highest ranking in the program’s history. With the victory over BC, a 10th straight win against North Carolina-Asheville on Sunday would leave Virginia Tech in position to move up even higher should a top five team falter.

UP NEXT

Virginia Tech: Hosts North Carolina-Asheville on Sunday.

Boston College: Hosts Albany on Saturday.

Michigan’s Jaelin Llewellyn out for season with knee injury

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan point guard Jaelin Llewellyn is out for the rest of the season with an injured left knee and is expected to have surgery next month.

Wolverines coach Juwan Howard made the announcement three days after Llewellyn was hurt in a loss to Kentucky in London.

Llewellyn transferred to Michigan from Princeton last spring and that seemed to lead to Frankie Collins transferring to Arizona State after a solid freshman season for the Wolverines.

Llewellyn averaged seven points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists in eight games at Michigan. He was an All-Ivy League player last season and averaged nearly 16 points over three seasons at Princeton.