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15-year-old basketball star commits to IU


By Greg Rosenstein




Since being hired as IU men’s basketball coach in April 2008, Tom Crean has continually stressed the importance of getting in-state talent to come to Bloomington, and they’re joining him young.

James Blackmon Jr., a high school freshman guard from Fort Wayne’s Bishop Luer’s High School told Crean on Thursday that he wanted to commit to the Hoosiers. 

“I’ve been to Bloomington a couple of times for a couple of visits, and every time I went there it kept getting better and better,” Blackmon Jr. said. “I could go to another college in another state, but I’m from Indiana, and I grew up in Indiana. It was always one of my top places to go.”

Blackmon Jr. took an unofficial visit to Bloomington to meet with the IU coaching staff and see the Hoosier football team face Towson in its season opener. Shortly after the game, he told Crean IU was the perfect fit for him.

The 6-foot-2 combo guard is one of the top freshman players in the country.
 
Blackmon Jr., who has not even played his first high school game, is the No. 1-rated shooting guard and No. 6 overall player, according to ESPN’s rankings for the 2014 class.  

“On the court, he’s just a relentless player,” said Reynardo Bluiett, Blackmon Jr.’s AAU coach at Spiece Indy Heat. “He doesn’t ever take plays off, and at this age, that’s pretty hard to find. His upside is very wide open.” 

Though most high school players wait until at least their junior year before committing to a college, Blackmon Jr. said he has known for a long time IU was where he wanted to be. 

Growing up in Fort Wayne, he always supported IU and thought about playing Division I basketball near his home. And while he could have waited out the recruiting process and had more big-time programs try to sway him, Blackmon Jr. figured the time to decide was now.

“After IU offered, I went on a visit and they showed me around the campus, and I liked it a lot,” he said. “My family then talked about the pros and cons of committing real early. I went up on Thursday, and we were in coach Crean’s office. We talked about how Indiana could be great for me, and I told him right there I was ready to decide.”

One person who knows the recruiting process better than anybody is his father, James Blackmon Sr., a former Kentucky standout and the current men’s basketball coach at Bishop Luers. Not only was he looked at heavily in high school, but he also
recently went through it with one of his own players.

Blackmon Sr. coached Deshaun Thomas, the 2010 Indiana Mr. Basketball, who committed his freshman season to Ohio State.

He said deciding early helped Thomas concentrate on and off the court, and he hopes the same will happen with his son.

“I felt like the distractions for Deshaun, as far as getting all of the attention, were gone because he was able to focus,” Blackmon Sr. said. “He went on to have a very successful high school career.”

But the real deciding factor, Blackmon Sr. said, was Crean and his vision for the future of the program. 

“He’s definitely a motivator, and that’s what it takes to get the players in the right mind frame to go out there and compete every single possession,” Blackmon Sr. said. “I think he has people playing up to their potential. You want to put yourself in a position where you are going to get better. Coach Crean has the program headed in the right direction.”

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