BY NEAL MALONE
The dreadful end to the Kelvin Sampson Era at Indiana is something every Hoosier basketball fan would love to forget. The lies, the cheating, the disrespect for the progam’s history and tradition…who wouldn’t want to put that out of their mind?
Unfortunately, though, Indiana fans can’t forget it. With NCAA sanctions aplenty and a rebuilding process in full swing, the product on the court is hardly desirable. The blame shouldn’t fall on the players nor Tom Crean, the man handed the tall task of trying to bring the Hoosiers back to prominence. The blame certainly doesn’t fall on the ever-energetic fans either, who still help Indiana beat out nearly all of the other Big Ten programs in attendance.
No…the blame ultimately falls on Kelvin Sampson and his staff.
But Kelvin Sampson wasn’t the only person associated with the Hoosier program that swiftly left Bloomington. In fact, every single player that meant anything to the program during Sampson’s time…well, they left too. Where did they end up? Uhh, you’re looking at them on your TV screen right about…NOW!
We’ll start with Xavier, where former Indiana guard Jordan Crawford is thriving. When he wasn’t busy dunking on Lebron James, he was averaging 19.7 points per game this year, second most in the Atlantic-10 conference. His starting backcourt mate, Terrell Holloway, also has ties to Indiana. He once verbally committed to play for the Hoosiers, of course until he found out about Sampson’s demise. Holloway averaged 11.4 points this year for the Musketeers and served as their primary point guard.
How did they do individually in their first round win against Minnesota? Crawford tossed in 28 points on offense and looked to be their best player on defense. Holloway was relatively quiet, adding 6 points and 4 assists. Certainly, though, they’re two players Hoosier fans would have adored.
Next…ok, let’s go to Ohio University, where former Hoosier guard Armon Bassett is strutting his stuff. Bassett led the Bobcats in scoring this year at 17.4 points per game. He keyed their unpredictable run to the NCAA Tournament and wasted no time showing why in the first round yesterday. Bassett posted a game-high 32 points in Ohio’s enormous upset of #3-seeded Georgetown…another line in the box score sure to remind Hoosier fans “what could have been.”
Let’s head out to the West coast now, home to the St. Mary’s Gaels. Ben Allen, one of five Australian players on the team, played two years for Indiana, one under Mike Davis and another under Kelvin Sampson. Allen has played a gigantic (literally…he’s 6-10) part in the Gaels’ success this year. During the regular season, he averaged 10.7 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. He came up big in his team’s upset against conference tournament-favorites, Gonzaga, scoring 20 points in the final.
Allen chipped in 6 points for the Gaels in their first round victory over Richmond. I’m not finished quite yet…notice the former Hoosiers are 3-0 so far in the tournament, two of them upset victories.
As if Indiana fans need any more reminders outside of Crawford, Holloway, Bassett, and Allen, why don’t I bring West Virginia star Devin Ebanks into the fold?
Ebanks could arguably be the most heartbreaking of all if we’re talking about “the ones that got away.” Without ever playing a game for Indiana, Hoosier fans were falling in love with this guy. Ebanks was an Indiana commit for several months and to this day, I remember my friends and I watching his high school highlight tapes and thinking, “Man, I can’t believe this guy is going to be a Hoosier!”
He hasn’t disappointed thus far under Bob Huggins. Ebanks posted a strong double-double with 16 and 13 this afternoon in the Mountaineers’ easy first round win over Morgan St. During the season, he was a consistent scorer and rebounder in the tough Big East conference, averaging 11.8 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. If West Virginia is to continue their great season in The Big Dance, then Ebanks is going to be right at the heart of the action.
Now do you see why it’s hard for Hoosier fans to forget what Kelvin Sampson did to their program?
It’s not just the rebuilding process or the excruciatingly bad last two seasons. It’s things like March Madness that remind Indiana what they could have had. So as Crawford, Holloway, Bassett, Allen, and Ebanks move forward, I wish them the best of luck.
But at this time of the year, as an Indiana alumnus and die-hard Hoosier basketball fan, I only have one thing to say…
Thanks a lot, Kelvin!!