When I stepped onto campus Aug. 23, 2006, I joined a number of first-year students at IU that included basketball players Armon Bassett and Xavier Keeling.
Bassett, Keeling and then-freshman forward Joey Shaw could have been playing their final games at Assembly Hall on Saturday, but each is far-removed from Bloomington.
Bassett is at Ohio University, by way of UAB, where the Terre Haute native spent a semester with former IU coach Mike Davis before leaving the team. He was a starting guard for two years at IU.
Keeling, also a Davis recruit, stayed at IU for just a season. He then went to Wallace State Community College before resurfacing at Detroit with former IU assistant Ray McCallum.
Shaw, meanwhile, spent two years at IU, played a season at the College of Southern Idaho and will play his final home game with Nevada on Saturday after two years with the Wolfpack.
But instead of that trio of one-time Hoosiers, Saturday will mark the final home games for seniors Tijan Jobe, Devan Dumes and Steven Gambles — a trio equally as well-traveled.
Junior Brett Finkelmeier, a senior by academic standards and the longest-tenured player on the IU roster, will also be honored as he, too, suits up at Assembly Hall for the final time.
The IU basketball program obviously looks nothing like it did when I got here four years ago in conjunction with Kelvin Sampsons’s arrival.
Despite a brief stint as interim coach by Dan Dakich, the first two years of basketball I witnessed are best defined as the “Sampson Era.” It had its ups and serious downs.
The most appropriate name for the first two years of Tom Crean’s tenure at IU, meanwhile, is what I call the “Tijan Jobe Era.”
With the second-year Hoosier center preparing to take Branch McCracken Court for the final time Saturday, we can look back on the 15 points, 31 rebounds, 6 blocks and 34 fouls he recorded in his first 42 career games.
Certainly there’s no forgetting the 7-foot, 250-pound center from The Gambia leading a 1-3-1 pressure defense at home against Minnesota last January.
But when it’s all said and done — no matter how bittersweet Jobe’s farewell might be for some IU fans — this was a player whose work ethic and growth only helped the Hoosiers so much.
I interviewed Jobe in May 2008 after his commitment, and he was fresh off a four-mile run. Several times during the last two school years, I spotted him running across campus.
But unfortunately for him and his teammates — regardless of the vast improvement from last season to this season and his great work ethic — his basketball skills never allowed him to impact the team during actual competition.
Jobe was simply a body and a number for the Hoosiers and has essentially served as the poster child of the rebuilding project that is IU basketball.
Having Jobe and Dumes on the team these past two seasons — as opposed to desperately filling the 2008 class with seven freshmen — opens up two scholarships for next year’s season.
Next year’s recruits — Will Sheehey and Victor Oladipo, with likely another one or two when it’s all said and done — probably won’t be instant impact players.
But they are both Crean recruits that will better fit his system and style of play. As each develops, as does the team, IU will be that much closer to returning to winning days.
Saturday ends the second of two brutal seasons at Assembly Hall, as well as the careers of the four seniors.
While the class of Jobe, Dumes, Finkelmeier and Gambles might not excite even the biggest Kyle Taber fan, each of the four deserves a large ovation from IU fans Saturday.
Each made his impact — whether it was Dumes leading the team in scoring and being willing to take big shots a year ago or the other three who saw limited playing action but were high-character guys who worked extremely hard as Hoosiers.
All four were, in their own rights, important to the program.
So while the Tijan Jobe era might be coming to a close, look for the real Tom Crean era to finally get underway next season.
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