Monday night was the night Indiana basketball fans have been waiting for since Syracuse beat “The Movement” in the 2013 NCAA Tournament. Romeo Langford, the state’s top player, McDonald’s All-American, and top 10 player nationally, committed to Indiana. It is second year coach Archie Miller’s first major recruiting win and, combined with Damezi Anderson and Robert Phinisee (two players coach Painter recruited heavily) there is little question the Hoosiers owned the state in recruiting this year.
Langford is a sensational talent. You don’t score 3,000 points in a high school career without being a really good player. He is a transformational player that the Hoosiers will struggle to hold on to for more than a year because he is good enough to leap to the NBA after one season. He may only be there a year, but it could be quite a year. Anderson and Phinisee were both Rivals 150 recruits that will be there for 3-4 seasons. They are the type of players that Painter has thrived with in developing them. Losing them will sting us longer.
All told, Indiana got No. 6 Langford, No. 49 Jerome Hunter, No. 100 Phinisee, No. 115 Anderson, and No. 128 Jake Forrester for a really good class. Purdue got No. 118 Eric Hunter and No. 125 Trevion Williams. We look at these recruiting classes sometimes years in advance and the 2018 class in Indiana has been a big one for a while. Even though Purdue has been the better team the last two years, Indiana won the cycle in state.
That’s what’s really disappointing about this. Purdue is a very good program that gets very good players. Rarely are we in the running for a truly elite talent. We still have just one McDonald’s All-American in the last two decades. We’re good about getting guys in the 70-125 range, but above that we struggle. That makes for the type of program we have been nationally: Little trouble reaching Sweet 16s, but we can’t break through to that next level.
Pretty much we can’t break through to consistently collect elite talent, but we can’t collect elite talent to break through. It also stings that Indiana can lie in the weeds for two years and pick up a talent Langford while Purdue can win 100+ games with a four-year class and not even come close.
The 2019 class in-state is also a big one, as here are the following in-state players with their Rivals rankings:
10. Isaiah Stewart – LaPorte LaLumiere – Has Purdue Offer
22. Trayce Jackson-Davis – Center Grove – Has Purdue Offer
35. Keion Brooks – Ft. Wayne North – Has Purdue Offer
122. Mason Gillis – New Castle – Has Purdue Offer
126. Armaan Franklin – Cathedral – Has Purdue Offer
132. Brandon Newman – Valparaiso - Has Purdue Interest
148. Emanuel Miller – LaPorte LaLumiere
This is in addition to Francis Okoro, Drew Timme, and Malik Hall as top 50 guys Purdue is going after for 2019 out of state. Oh, and we already have Isaiah Thompson on board with only three other spots remaining. That number drops to two if Okoro reclassifies to 2018 and joins us soon. Obviously, we can’t get everyone, but getting a couple of top 50 guys would be nice when you consider Painter’s history has not been kind in that department.
2007: 35. E’Twaun Moore, 42 JaJuan Johnson, 75. Robbie Hummel, 76. Scott Martin, Nemanja Calasan (JuCo), Chirs Reid (JuCo)
This was Painter’s gold standard class, but even then Eric Gordon was the No. 2 overall guy behind Michael Beasley. He was up there with the likes of Derrick Rose, Kevin Love, James Harden, and more. In-state Matt Howard had a hell of a career at Butler and Jeff Teague was good at Wake Forest before going to the NBA.
2008: 114. Ryne Smith, 121. Lewis Jackson, NR John Hart
Smith and LewJack were excellent complimentary players, but this was the class where Mr. Basketball No. 33 Tyler Zeller went off to North Carolina. Indiana was not much of a factor as a smoldering crater after the Sampson fiasco, so this should have been the time we rolled through the state. No. 46 Angel Garcia (a teammate of Moore and Kawaan Short) ended up at Memphis and the only other top 100 in state guy was No. 99 Walter Offutt. It was a down year in state after a pair of really good ones.
2009: 102. D.J. Byrd, NR Patrick Bade, NR Sandi Marcius, NR Kelsey Barlow
This needed to be the class Purdue dominated both in-state and out of it. The Baby Boilers were coming into their own, Indiana was still way down, and talent in-state was improving. Byrd and Barlow were great complimentary players, but we needed a Carsen-esque star here. In-state there was not a lot of talent. No. 103 Derek Elston ended up and Indiana and your Mr. Basketball was No. 107 Jordan Hulls, who ended up at Indiana.
2010: 51. Terone Johnson, 101. Anthony Johnson, NR Travis Carroll
Is there where Painter swung and missed? This was the class that was mostly secured during year three of the Hummell-Moore-Johnson era and one that would be the leadership after it. It was also one where the top talent in state was nowhere near Purdue. No. 22 DeShaun Thomas was Mr. Basketball with Langford-like numbers and ended up at Ohio State. Indiana snagged some guy named Victor Oladipo way down at No. 144. If anything, Painter focused a little too much in the Midwest at this time, as Calasan, Reid, and the Chooch were the only non-Midwest natives on the roster, and the Chooch went to LaLumiere.
2011: NR Jacob Lawson, NR Donnie Hale
This was by far Painter’s worst class, and it came after the bulk of his best class (the 2007 one) just finished its eligibility. We got a grand total of three seasons from these two guys, as both left the program long before their eligibility was over. Meanwhile, No. 5 Marquis Teague was at Kentucky. No. 15 (and Mr. Basketball) Cody Zeller went to Indiana. No. 20 Branden Dawson went to Michigan State and tortured us. No. 55 Michael Chandler went to Central Florida. That’s four top 60 guys in the state and Purdue was only even close on Dawson. Indiana was still flailing about and got Zeller, while Purdue basically got nothing despite the momentum of Hummel-Moore-Johnson.
2012: 77. A.J. Hammons, 94. Ronnie Johnson, 96. Rapheal Davis, 112. Jay Simpson
Johnson clearly did not work out and it is not Painter’s fault Simpson had a heart condition, but this was supposed to be a transformational class much like the 2007 class. Instead it was one that saw half leave for various reasons and the other half drag Purdue out of the Big Ten cellar. Hammons briefly made the NBA and Davis is revered for his work ethic, but there were misses. No. 11 Glenn Robinson III should have had an offer straight out of the womb and painter missed. No. 19 Yogi Ferrell was probably always going to Indiana, but it is again telling Painter had an in-state top 20 guy and didn’t come close. No. 25 Gary Harris (Mr. Basketball) ended up at Michigan State. No. 41 Jeremy Hallowell went to Indiana, then Georgia State. No. 43 Hanner Perea went to Indiana, then East Tennessee State. No. 93 Kellen Dunham had a great career at Butler. No. 131 Ron Patterson went Indiana-Syracuse-IUPUI.
Imagine how different things would be if Painter had landed Robinson and Harris here instead of Simpson and Johnson? Those were big misses on Painter’s part even though Hammons and Davis did a lot for the program.
2013: 61. Kendall Stephens, 75. Bryson Scott, 112. Basil Smotherman
All three were good players. All three were four-star talents. All three left for other programs before their careers were done. For the second time in three years Painter lost an entire recruiting class before their college careers were over. No. 24 Zak Irvin (Mr. Basketball) was the second straight HSE player that left the state, this time for Michigan. No. 38 Demetrius Jackson went to Notre Dame, but that was a very local move for him. No. 86 V.J. Beachem also went to Notre Dame.
This is when Tom Crean at Indiana started to go a little more national. He got No. 8 Noah Vonleh, No. 47 Troy Williams, and No. 56 Stanford Robinson from out of state. At this point the only players that Painter had gotten from a state not bordering Indiana were Calasan, Reid, and Lawson.
2014: 71. Isaac Haas, 124. Vincent Edwards, 147. Dakota Mathias, NR P.J. Thompson, NR Jacquil Taylor
This was a hard class for Painter, we were riding a two-year tournament drought at the time and we just finished dead last in the Big Ten. It went on to become one of the most successful classes in school history with over 100 career wins, the only 30-win season in school history, and outright Big Ten title, and two Sweet 16s. Even then, there will always be the “what if” element because Haas’ injury in the tournament. It could be argued that their final season was somewhat of a disappointment, as we were a rebound away vs. Ohio State from a second Big Ten title and possible No. 1 seed. Painter even got out of his comfort zone in getting Haas from Alabama and Taylor from Massachusetts.
There is no question these guys were great and overall exceeded their expectations. Even with Taylor leaving early it is an unquestioned success. Still, in-state No. 13 Trey Lyles (Mr. Basketball) was poached by Kentucky. No. 22 James Blackmon went to Indiana. No. 34 Trevon Bluiett wound up at Xavier. Those are three really good in-state guys far ahead of our best guy. We weren’t even close on them. Indiana got Blackmon and No. 48 Robert Johnson, but we won the overall class.
2015: 19. Caleb Swanigan, 141. Ryan Cline, NR Grant Weatherford
Finally, Painter landed another top 50 guy. It only took 8 years. Biggie was Purdue’s first Mr. Basketball since Glenn Robinson in 1991 and the first player since the Big Dog to leave school early for the NBA. He was the first McDonald’s All-American since Mike Robinson in 1996. For good measure we got the Mr. Basketball runner-up in Cline. No. 39 Jalen Coleman-Lands went to Illinois and No. 103 K.J. Walton went to Missouri, but we won the state without question because of Biggie. Indiana continued to go out of state with No. 27 Thomas Bryant and No. 109 Juwan Morgan.
2016: 91. Carsen Edwards
Purdue only had a one-man class this year, but since that one man just won the award as the nation’s best shooting guard and will likely be the Big Ten’s preseason Player of the Year next season I think it worked out well. Painter went all the way to Texas for him too, showing how unlikely it was we would get him. No. 43 Kyle Guy (Mr. Basketball) left the state for Virginia had a worse tournament than we did. No. 104 Joey Brunk is doing okay at Butler, while No. 124 C.J. Walker was once a Purdue commit, then went to Florida State before announcing his transfer. Indiana got No. 35 De’Ron Davis and No. 69 Curtis Jones.
2017: 77. Nojel Eastern, NR Sasha Stefanovic, NR Matt Haarms, NR Aaron Wheeler
So much of this class remains a mystery with Stefanovic and Wheeler redshirting this year. They did it mostly because of Edwards and Mathias logging so many minutes ahead of them. The World University Games and a year of practice against one of the top 10 teams in the country should have done them wonders, but we’ll see. We have heard lots of great things, but great things on Cardinal Court are different from great things on Keady Court. They can make life a lot easier next year or they can be John Hart and the Chooch. Haarms and Eastern have promise too.
Unfortunately, this is another year where Painter missed on some excellent in-state talent. No. 6 Jaren Jackson is off to the NBA after a year at Michigan State. Can you imagine him spelling Haas this season? No. 20 Kris Wilkes went to UCLA and No. 21 Brian Bowen was an off the court nightmare for Louisville. No. 30 Malik Williams looked like a strong Purdue lean until he swerved to Louisville. No. 79 Jacob Epperson went to Creighton and No. 106 Jordan Poole helped Michigan to the national title game. No. 134 Musa Jallow also went to Ohio State.
Purdue at least had a chance with Jackson and Williams, but did not get either.
2018: 118 Eric Hunter, 125 Trevion Williams, NR Emmanuel Dowuona
Purdue goes into next season with just 10 scholarship players and the highest rated being Nojel Eastern at 77. That can change if Francis Okoro re-classifies and commits, but does No. 42 in the 2019 class equate to top 50 in 2018? Sure, if you re-did 2016 right now Carsen Edwards probably jumps into the top 25, but still. Purdue missed on no. 6 Langford, No. 100 Phinisee, No. 101 Tyger Campbell, No. 112 Aaron Henry, and No. 115 Anderson in state. As mentioned above, Indiana got Langford and Hunter in the top 50.
As you can see, Purdue’s recruiting has often been good to very good with a huge miss in 2011 that cost the program at least two seasons. It hasn’t been able to get the top level guys, especially in state. That’s what makes this exercise so frustrating. We get consistent Sweet 16 talent. We even get talent to exceed expectations like the 2014 class. We always seem to just miss on guys like Garry Harris, Jaren Jackson, and Branden Dawson that can maintain that success. Eventually, we’re going to need to hit on a few of these in order to change things.
Then you have the fact that for six straight seasons now a school seeded 7th or worse has made a Final Four. That means teams with far less talent are making it to Final Fours and we’re not. It goes back to the whole “we need better talent for a breakthrough, but we need a breakthrough for better talent” conundrum. We’re right there in both cases. We enter 2018-19 likely to take a step back, but can still have an excellent team if Carsen, Haarms, Cline, and Eastern play to their experience and guys like Wheeler and Stefanovic were able to grow a lot last season as they redshirted. We are also bringing in a talented and experiecned transfer in Evan Boudreaux that can play right away. We can still be good, but the years of familiarity from palying together like this past season won’t be there as We have one starter, three reserves, two redshirts, a high level transfer, and three freshmen that have to mesh together.
Finally, can Painter finally break his top 50 streak? Since the Hummel-Moore-Johnson class he has had very good players, but only Swanigan was a top 50 guy. I like that he views Gillis, Franklin, and Newman as “Purdue guys” that fit in, but I would really like to upgrade with Jackson-Davis, Brooks, and Malik Hall. That’s where the 2017-18 season will really pay dividends. The success there has to build the next step of improved recruiting in 2019 and beyond with some more top 50 guys. We have the talent on hand to transition to them too.
Until then, we’ll keep watching Indiana get top 50 guys and have wild swings between Big Ten titles and out of the NCAAs while we muddle along in the “Very good, but not elite” zone.