Published November 20, 2014
Devin Davis likes being No. 1.
He was the first player to commit to Indiana in this year's recruiting class, the first to send in his national letter-of-intent Wednesday and he hopes to be the first to hang more than one national championship banner during his career in Bloomington.
The 6-foot-6 forward was one of five players expected to sign with the Hoosiers on Wednesday, the first day of the early signing period. School officials were waiting for the last player in the six-man class, which has been rated in the top five nationally, to sign before talking about the incoming freshmen.
Davis couldn't wait to start talking.
"I'm really excited, just playing in front of all of those fans and playing for Coach (Tom) Crean, you couldn't ask for much more," said Davis, who plays at Warren Central in suburban Indy. "And now that they're ranked No. 1, it makes it even better."
There's only one problem: In a group this talented, Davis isn't going to Bloomington as the top-ranked recruit.
That honor belongs to 6-9 forward Noah Vonleh, who has been rated in the top 10 nationally. The New Hampton (N.H.) Prep star announced last week he had chosen the Hoosiers over Syracuse, Ohio State, Connecticut, North Carolina and Georgetown.
The rest of the group doesn't trail by much.
Troy Williams, a 6-6 forward from Oak Hill Academy in Virginia, and Stanford Robinson, a 6-4 shooting guard from Henderson, Nev., have both been ranked in the top 60. Luke Fischer of Germantown, Wis., is considered one of the nation's top centers. And Crean got two of the state's best prep players, Davis and Collin Hartman, a 6-6 forward from Indianapolis Cathedral.
The question isn't how good this class will be, it's how Crean intends to fit them in.
Indiana (2-0) has only three seniors on the roster — Derek Elston, Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford. Adding six freshmen next fall would put them over the NCAA's scholarship limit. If 7-foot center Cody Zeller left early for the NBA, as some believe he will, that would open a fourth roster spot but would still leave Indiana two over the limit.
Crean faced a similar situation earlier this year until Ron Patterson enrolled in prep school after Indiana announced he had not met the school's academic requirements. It could happen again, though Davis and Hartman have big plans for their college careers.
"Obviously I want to go in and contribute right away. That's my goal right now is to get myself set up for that," Hartman said. "I really just want to come in and hang banners. I just want to be part of that and contribute to it. I think they're going to do big things."
Purdue (1-1) signed three players Wednesday morning — guard Bryson Scott and forward Basil Smotherman, both Indiana natives, and forward Kendall Stephens, an Illinois native with strong Indiana ties.
The 6-1 Scott averaged 25.2 points and .6.5 rebounds at Fort Wayne Northrop last season, while Smotherman averaged 9.9 points and 6.3 rebounds at Lawrence North, another suburban Indy school.
"Bryson gives us a lead guard and we think we can play two point guards together. I think when you look at teams that play two point guards together, it's really hard to defend," coach Matt Painter said. "Smotherman is a kind of a combo forward that has the size to play the three and the four. We think he can be a matchup type of guy."
The most intriguing signee, though, might be Stephens. He averaged more than 24 points as a junior at St. Charles East High School and 17.1 points as a sophomore and comes from a lineage of scorers.
Like Scott, Stephens is considered a Top 100 recruit, and Stephens made it clear that he wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father, Everette, who scored more than 1,000 points during his career at Purdue.
"Any time someone wants to be at your place and be at your Purdue because of his mom and dad, you're going to recruit those guys," Painter said. "He's a great person and a great player."
While the Indiana and Purdue men stole Wednesday's headlines, as usual, they certainly weren't alone in signing players.
Notre Dame signed forwards V.J. Beachem and Austin Torres and guard Demetrius Jackson and Steve Vasturia. Beachem, Torres and Jackson all played high school ball in northern Indiana. Vasturia is from New Jersey and played was the Philadelphia Catholic League's MVP at St. Joseph's Prep.
"We felt that we needed to strengthen our perimeter game with this year's class and I really think that we accomplished that," coach Mike Brey said.
Butler, a two-time national runner-up, signed three recruits in its first recruiting class since joining the Atlantic 10. Coach Brad Stevens said the Bulldogs (1-1) received letters from 6-10 Nolan Berry, a Missouri native; 6-7 Andrew Chrabascz of Cushing, Mass.; and 6-2 Rene Castro of Worcester, Mass.
"One of the things that we've really tried to prioritize in the class of 2013 was recruiting kids with competitive maturity, guys who have won and guys who we think are mature beyond their years and will have an impact sooner, rather than later," Stevens said in a statement.
Indiana State signed Brenton Scott, who averaged 16.3 points at Fort Wayne Northrop and is the twin brother of Bryson Scott, who is headed to Purdue.
It wasn't just the men bringing in new talent.
Purdue's women's team signed 5-9 guard Ashley Morrissette from Twinsburg, Ohio, and 6-2 swing player Bridget Perry from Indianapolis Roncalli.