Illini still not at home when recruiting Indiana

Illini still not at home when recruiting Indiana

Ripe as it is with basketball prospects, the state of Indiana remains off limits for the Illini.

Maybe if he applied a little pressure, Bruce Rauner might coax the Hoosiers to pay for that wall. No wonder the hot names on Brad Underwood's list hail from Chicago (Ayo Dosunmu) and St. Louis (Jericole Hellems).

The departure of Jalen Coleman-Lands, an Indianapolis native who prepped at LaPorte La Lumiere, extends a record showing with no Hoosier having played more than two seasons at the UI since Indianapolis Arsenal's Mike Price and Ossian's Bob Windmiller finished in 1969.

That's 47 seasons in which the only two basketball players accepting scholarships from the neighboring state were Noblesville's Scott Haffner and Coleman-Lands.

Significantly, the Bruce Weber regime began to run aground when five-star Eric Gordon of Indianapolis North Central reneged on his commitment in 2006.

Back to Haffner. He played one season as a deep reserve for Lou Henson in 1984-85. He then transferred to Evansville, sat out a year and emerged suddenly as a superstar. Haffner averaged 24.5 points for the Aces in 1989 while the Flyin' Illini were reaching the Final Four.

JCL to DePaul

The question remains: Would Haffner, a slender guard, have gained prominence in the multi-talented, defense-strong backcourt of Kendall Gill, Stephen Bardo and Larry Smith in 1989? All we'll ever know is that it worked out for Haffner at Evansville, to the extent that he had two brief callups in the NBA at Miami and Charlotte.

How will this work out for Coleman-Lands at DePaul? He has the reputation as an excellent shooter, and could take advantage of a required season of NCAA ineligibility to prepare himself, this after missing both offseasons at Illinois due to injuries.

Would Coleman-Lands have "been a fit" under Underwood? Maybe. And maybe not. Underwood seems to place greater emphasis on defense, speed and tenacity. Let's break it down to the key aspects of Coleman-Lands' game.

Progress report

Shooter: "A" — Coleman-Lands arrived as one of the nation's premier three-point shooters. His problem was getting open for non-contested shots. Of 536 field goal attempts in two seasons, 393 came from the arc, where he made 42 percent as a freshman and 38 percent as a sophomore. He checked in at 84 percent on free throws last year.

Playmaker: "D" — In 69 games over two seasons, he had 64 assists. He was not an effective passer. He had more turnovers (71). John Groce called for a 2-1 ratio favoring assists (this past season, Malcolm Hill was 102-66; Tracy Abrams 81-44).

Penetration: "D" — The ability to drive the basketball is critical for guards today. Playing the third-most minutes on the team in 2016-17, Coleman-Lands attempted just 25 free throws. Meanwhile, Hill shot 204 and incoming transfer Mark Alstork, one of those vying for Coleman-Lands' slot, attempted 208 at Wright State.

Defense: "C" — Barely a C. Coleman-Lands had 46 steals in 69 games and was not considered an asset on the defensive end. He is not a physical player.

Rebounding: "D" — Seldom venturing much past the arc — that wasn't his role — he had 16 offensive boards in 69 games. This past season, five Illini garnered 100 or more rebounds on both ends. Coleman-Lands had 82.

You be the judge. Underwood appears more interested in aggressive multi-position, two-way players like Alstork, Leron Black, Kipper Nichols and Mark Smith. And if Coleman-Lands excels at DePaul, we'll juggle the same question asked about Haffner. Would Haffner have been an Illini star in 1989?

Loren Tate writes for The News-Gazette. He can be reached at ltate@news-gazette.com.