Thursday evening, IU Athletics officially received the National Letters of Intent from two of the three members of the IU men’s basketball 2014 recruiting class — Robert Johnson and James Blackmon Jr. IU Coach Tom Crean, with Associate Head Coaches Tim Buckley and Steve McClain and Assistant Coach Kenny Johnson at his side, noted that his staff were all three key parts of signing the future of Indiana basketball.
But today, as the Hoosiers take on Samford at 7 p.m. at Assembly Hall, Crean will have to game plan for the coach that worked alongside him for six years during his final two seasons at Marquette and the outset of his career in Bloomington: Bulldogs Coach Bennie Seltzer.
“I had no doubt he’d be a successful head coach, and he obviously is being that,” Crean said. “He had the best record they’ve had in some time last year inside the conference. They’re recruiting well. They’re playing well. They do a lot of the same things we did here, and they do them very well.”
Crean said Seltzer was a key link in recruiting previous cornerstones of the program Victor Oladipo and Christian Watford and was a major factor in helping Crean during the rebuilding years of the program.
Current Hoosier, senior forward Will Sheehey said Seltzer made a big impact on his choice to come to Bloomington and impacted his career for his first two years playing for IU.
“He was big time,” Sheehey said. “He was involved with my recruitment from my official visit and even came down to my high school. Once I got here, he helped push me through a lot of things. Coach Seltzer was definitely one of the reasons this program has grown back into what it is and why many of the guys who have left developed into the players they are now.”
Crean said that he doesn’t often schedule games against coaches that he’s had a previous relationship because he wants to be able to root for them and see their success after they leave his side.
“You want somebody that you’re with like that to be extremely successful,” Crean said. “You just don’t want them to be successful tomorrow night.
“It’s always just a little bit hard going against people you’re like brothers with.”
In two games this season, the Bulldogs have gone 1-1, winning the team’s opener against Martin Methodist handily 79-62. Tuesday, in the team’s first road trip of the season, Samford fell to UT Arlington 88-75.
After watching game tape to prepare for Seltzer and the Bulldogs, Crean said he noticed a few wrinkles in the offense that are similar to what the second-year head coach helped Crean instill during his time at IU.
He added, though, that he expects to see some surprises pop out for tonight’s matchup against a team he expects to be competitive, quick, and a challenge for his young squad trying to get used to playing defense at this level.
Watching Seltzer rebuild a program of his own has been great to see, Crean said, but tonight he and his staff will put that aside, learn from mistakes made in the first two games and hope to come out the other side still undefeated.
“You go through periods where you’ve been through so many things together, the highs and lows, and you’re so excited to see them get their opportunity, and you don’t want to do anything to get in the way of it,” Crean said. “But for a couple hours tomorrow night, that’s what it is, and I’m sure that Bennie and his group will feel the same way.”
Follow reporter Nathan Brown on Twitter @nathan_brown10.