Anybody who has been paying any attention to the world of basketball recruiting knows that Indiana and Tom Crean have been on a roll. However, that recruiting roll has also included the potentially risky practice of taking commitments from very young prospects.
The two youngest Hoosier commits are high school freshman James Blackmon and Trey Lyles. Both natives of basketball crazy Indiana with big reputations entering high school, Blackmon and Lyles are now subject to a level of scrutiny few high school freshman can comprehend.
Wednesday afternoon, both Blackmon and Lyles were on display as Blackmon's Ft. Wayne (Ind.) Bishop Leurs and Lyles' Indianapolis (Ind.) Arsenal Tech competed in the IPSAC-Midwest Challenge. Rivals.com was on hand to get a good look at the future Hoosiers.
Listed by many as a point guard when he made his commitment to Indiana, Blackmon is a slender 6-foot-2 and plays primarily off of the ball for his father James.
He's got the type of frame that you look for in a basketball prospect with long arms, good shoulders and a sturdy base. He moves very well and immediately showed that he is a capable ball handler.
Early on, it looked as if Blackmon's best offensive move was to hover near the three point line, bend over and clap his hands to call for the ball and launch a deep jumper. While those jumpers didn't fall early, it was easy to see that Blackmon has a fundamentally sound stroke complete with a quick and high release and a ball that leaves his hand with great backspin and plenty of arc.
Though he struggled a bit from deep early, Blackmon began to catch fire in the second half. Interestingly, it was after an aggressive drive to the hoop on which he was fouled that his shot started to fall. In addition to his deep jumpers, he proved to be adept at using shot fakes, driving left and either attacking the rim or pulling up for mid-range jumpers. By the time he was done, Blackmon was good for 23 points and five rebounds while making 5-11 three point field goals.
In the very next game, Lyles took the court and offered the chance to scout a completely different type of player. Generously listed at 6-foot-9 on the roster, the freshman already has a solid 215 or so pound frame and excellent length.
Though his size is already impressive, what's even more impressive about Lyles is how easily he moves up and down the floor on his gigantic feet. While not a burner, he ran the floor well, was on his toes and looked to have good lateral movement.
When he catches the ball in the post, Lyles already shows outstanding fundamentals. He keeps the ball high and away from defenders, has excellent footwork and is already willing and able to turn over either shoulder to attack defenses and score. He made jump hooks, shots off the glass and he effectively used the rim as a shield before slid over to the other side of the hoop for reverse finishes.
Equally impressive about Lyles is his already high comfort level facing the hoop. He can catch the ball as far away 22 feet and he's almost immediately in triple threat position. He uses ball fakes, has a very good jab step and then covers a lot of ground with his long strides on assertive drives to the hoop.
In that sense, his ability to handle the ball both helps and hurts him. It makes him a better scorer, but his team also asks a bit too much of him as a ball handler and press breaker and as a result of that he does turn the ball over a bit.
On the day, Lyles was good for 29 points and 12 rebounds. He made eight of 12 field goal attempts and more impressively got to the line 17 times where he showed good touch and knocked down 13 of his charity shots. He did block one shot, but contesting shots is definitely an area of his game that could be looked to as something to work on.
Overall, it's still early and lots of things will change between now and when Blackmon and Lyles arrive in Bloomington in the Fall of 2014. But, it's easy to see that both are legitimate high level prospects and it's understandable why Indiana would take early commitments from them.