Mike Adams, the boy’s basketball head coach at Francis Joseph Reitz High School, knew from a young age Khristian Lander was special.
Adams has been the head coach at Reitz for 27 years. He’s seen talented players come through his doors for decades. But when Lander attended Adams’ camps as a child, there was something different about his talent.
And on Tuesday, Lander, 17, decided where that talent would take him. The five-star recruit and the No. 1 point guard in the country according to 247Sports, committed to IU.
Lander is a junior at Reitz, but he’s been around the program for longer than he’s been able to wear the uniform. In seventh and eighth grade Adams told Lander he could stay after his own practices to work out with the high school team. He always stayed.
“He’d make plays against our high school guys when he was seventh, eighth grade,” Adams said. “You just knew, you knew he was special.”
When he began his freshman year Lander started for the team immediately. He was the star of his team from the first day he stepped on the floor. Now in his junior season, Lander averages 20 points per game. And he’s doing that with an ankle sprain. Lander re-injured his ankle during a game this season. He only played two minutes and didn’t score, and his average still stayed right around 20 points per game.
The IU-commit leads Reitz in scoring, steals, assists and even rebonds as a point guard. He’s quickly approaching 1,300 career high school points, as a junior.
“He’s not a high volume guy, he doesn’t have to take a lot of shots to do that,” Adams said. “He’s a complete player. I think the thing I’ve enjoyed about coaching him is in practice, games, the effort is just incredible.”
Adams praised Lander’s passing ability, speed and many different ways he can score. Adams said while Lander is shooting 37% on 3-pointers now, he expects that to go up once he gets to college and defenders have to account for other players, too.
Adams said he helped guide Lander through the recruitment process, though never telling him what to do. So instead Adams gave him advice, trying to get him to buy into what he calls the “three H’s”: humility, healthy and hungry.
The Hoosiers stood out to Lander for the extra effort they put in. IU head coach Archie Miller came for two of his games last season, other IU assistants such as Tom Ostrom visited practice and Lander made several visits to Bloomington. And after he visited IU for its game against then-No. 9 Penn State on Sunday, Lander made his decision.
“My advice to him was if you already know what you want, there’s nothing wrong with committing early,” Adams said. “There’s no need to wait. If you know this is what you want, grab it. Grab it.”
With Lander committing so early on in his high school career, the potential of reclassifying — leaving high school a year early to begin playing in college sooner — has been discussed. Adams said Lander will speak with his counselors and his parents will come in for a meeting as well to discuss the possibility. Adams isn’t sure if Lander will be able to reclassify, and while he supports his player, he doesn’t know if it would necessarily the right thing to do.
“He’s 17 years old, there’s still some maturity things that can happen and there are certain things in his game that could get better,” Adams said. “I personally just don’t think he’s quite ready.”
Adams talked about Lander chasing the Evansville scoring record and the potential to be an Indiana All-Star. He wouldn't be able to do that with a reclassification to play at IU a year early.
Lander first needs to examine the possibility of if he even can reclassify, Adams said. It’s something Adams only knew of as a rumor at first, and didn't was realistic until the last few days after his commitment. Lander has said he would prefer to reclassify if the opportunity presents itself. Adams said he knows what Lander ultimately has his sights set on.
“He loves the game,” Adams said. “And his goal is to play in the NBA.”