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Monday, June 24
The Indiana Daily Student

sports men's basketball

Ferrell, Johnson to continue debate

When college basketball’s 2012 recruiting classes were finalized, a great debate between Indiana’s preeminent basketball rivals was sparked.

IU and Purdue each signed one of the Hoosier State’s top two point guard recruits, with Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell committing to IU and Ronnie Johnson signing to play for Purdue.

Since their commitments, the two Indianapolis natives have fueled a now two-year argument between Hoosiers and Boilermakers about which player is best.

Both players graduated as top-100 national recruits, as ranked by recruiting service, though the service gave Ferrell the edge as the state’s No. 1 point guard.

The Park Tudor School graduate was rated the country’s No. 19 overall player — No. 2 in Indiana. Johnson, out of North Central High School, was ranked No. 94 in the nation and No. 7 in the state.

On Signing Day for the class of 2012, IU Coach Tom Crean heaped praise on his newly-signed point guard.

“Yogi is a great floor leader who has the ability to make others better and get his own shot,” Crean said Nov. 10, 2011. “More than anything, he is a proven year-round

In announcing his college decision on an video, Johnson lauded Purdue Coach Matt Painter and his staff on making Purdue a fit for him.

“I like Purdue a lot, and I like the coaching staff,” he said in May 2011. “I thought I just saw a better opportunity for me to just go and play.”

Since their commitments, the two now-sophomore guards have recorded almost identical career averages, with Ferrell earning a slight advantage in points, assists and 3-point shooting.

His line of 11.6 points, 2.9 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game is similar to that of Johnson, which comes in at 10.4 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game.

Statistically, the two are separable by only 3-point shooting percentage — Ferrell’s 39 percent being well ahead of Johnson’s 26 percent — and team performance.

Crean’s Signing Day quip about Ferrell has proved to be accurate. The 6-foot sophomore has started every one of IU’s 60 games in the last two seasons, with IU winning 43 of those and reaching the Sweet Sixteen in the 2013 NCAA Tournament.

This season, he has stepped up from his fifth-option role on last year’s preseason No. 1-ranked team to become the Hoosiers’ most reliable scorer, averaging a Big Ten-leading 18.5 points per game.

Crean said his point guard’s transformation to a first-option scorer is a result of his work ethic.

“He is a tremendous worker and a tremendous player,” he said in a Tuesday press conference. “He continues to work at it at a very high level. He wants to be a great player, and he really wants to be a great leader. When you work that hard and when you want to win that bad, you can’t help but get better and better. And that’s exactly what he is doing.”

By comparison, Purdue has compiled a 30-28 record during Johnson’s tenure in West Lafayette, missing the NCAA Tournament and falling to Santa Clara during the second round of the College Basketball Invitational last year.

The two Indianapolis point guards will spark the debate once again Saturday when Ferrell’s Hoosiers travel to West Lafayette looking for a third consecutive victory against Johnson’s Boilermakers.

A win against Purdue would snap a two-game losing streak for IU. Ferrell said the Hoosiers, himself especially, must improve their mental approach to the game to escape their struggles.

“We’ve just got to get more intelligent on our team, I feel like,” he said. “It starts, of course, with me and (senior forward Will Sheehey). Always does. We’re the front-runners for that.”

Follow reporter Alden Woods on Twitter @acw9293

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