Top 5 Favorite Indiana Players under Crean

Mar 6, 2016; Bloomington, IN, USA; Indiana Hoosiers guard Yogi Ferrell (11) cuts down the net to celebrate the 2016 Big Ten championship after defeating the Maryland Terrapins at Assembly Hall. Indiana defeats Maryland 80-62. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 6, 2016; Bloomington, IN, USA; Indiana Hoosiers guard Yogi Ferrell (11) cuts down the net to celebrate the 2016 Big Ten championship after defeating the Maryland Terrapins at Assembly Hall. Indiana defeats Maryland 80-62. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports /

Since Tom Crean took over the Indiana basketball program eight years ago, he has had the pleasure of coaching some of the best players in the nation. One of his biggest priorities was not to only recruit based on athleticism, but also on character and morality.

This was a big part of his revitalization of the program after the Kelvin Sampson sanctions embarrassed the Indiana name. He needed a group of players willing to put in the work to bring the program back to greatness and when it got there, keep recruiting the same type of dedicated individuals.

Here is a list of my five favorite Hoosiers who played in the Crean era.

5) Jordan Hulls

Having been born and raised in Bloomington, Indiana, Jordan Hulls wanted to be part of the rebuilding period of Indiana basketball. His freshman season, the Hoosiers were an abysmal 10-21, winning only 4 games in conference play. He immediately impressed with his sharpshooting capabilities, high-energy work on both sides of the floor, and his clutch free-throw shooting. He was a part of the extremely exciting 11-12 and 12-13 season that saw them beat Kentucky in legendary fashion and enjoy success in the NCAA tournaments, making back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances. Hulls accomplishments included eclipsing the 1,000 point career mark, an all-Big Ten honorable mention from coaches and media, as well as being an Academic All-American during his senior year. Since graduation, he has played for a few European teams and now finds himself in the Bundesliga Basketball league with Elsbaren Bremerhaven.

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4) Christian Watford

Christian Watford deserves to make this list solely because of “The Wat Shot,” where he hit the buzzer beating three-pointer to beat #1 ranked Kentucky. The shot is the undisputed event people point to which represents the return of Indiana basketball. Watford brought so much more than the shot, however. Part of the reason he became a fan favorite was that he was fun to watch develop. His first couple seasons he looked puzzled with the ball in his hands and would often turn the ball over driving to the basket. By the time he graduated, he was one of the team’s most clinical finishers and possessed a lethal jumper. He finished his final season as a Big Ten champion, averaging 12.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. He was one of Crean’s first recruits to show professional talent and potential. Watford went undrafted in 2013 and after playing a few years in the NBA’s D-League, remains a free agent.

3) Cody Zeller

Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports /

Most Hoosier fans who were tired of mediocrity saw Cody Zeller as a savior. However, the pressure and expectations did not phase the 18 year old. Upon arrival, he immediately made an impact by improving the Hoosiers record by 15 games from the previous season. His freshman season, he averaged 15.6 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. He was extremely efficient from the field and free-throw line, as being a lock-down defender in the paint. While being projected as a potential lottery pick in the 2012 NBA draft, Zeller decided to stay one more year at Indiana to try and lift them to a national title as well as earn a degree from the Kelley School of Business, one of the most prestigious business schools in the nation. Zeller exceeded all expectations and was a joy to watch. He was incredibly mobile for his size and could easily take a ball end-to-end and finish with ease. Other than perhaps Victor Oladipo, Zeller was the most commanding and explosive player Indiana has seen in the last eight years. After a second straight defeat in the Sweet 16, Zeller declared for the NBA draft and was selected 4th overall. He is currently finding his rhythm in the NBA with the Charlotte Hornets – posting NBA career best numbers last season, averaging 8.7 points and 6.7 rebounds on 24.3 minutes per game.

2) Victor Oladipo

Victor Oladipo’s success seemed to come overnight. Ranked as the 144th overall recruit of his class and posting two average years at Indiana, it seemed as though Oladipo was going to serve as a solid role player and nothing more. Part-way through his junior year, he emerged as one of the most exciting and explosive players in the nation. Oladipo won over audiences with his high-flying dunks, insane work ethic, and lock-down defense. He was always guarding opponent’s best players regardless of positions. Per 100 possessions, he scored 42 more points than he allowed and was a finalist for the Wooden Award for best player in the country. Capable of playing nearly every position on the court, he became extremely versatile and showed the most professional talent. In his senior season, he averaged 13.6 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. He was named the Sporting News College Basketball Player of the year as well as Co-Defensive Player of the year. Along with teammate Cody Zeller, Oladipo declared for the 2013 draft and was selected second overall by the Orlando Magic. He has enjoyed success in the NBA and was recently traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

1) Yogi Ferrell

Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports /

Yogi Ferrell may not enjoy the same type of professional success as Zeller or Oladipo, but his impact at Indiana was arguably greater. Staying all four years, Ferrell became the all-time assister (633) and starter (137) for the program. As a freshman on the stacked 12-13 team, Ferrell was primarily an assister, but as the rest graduated, evolved into a leader and a scorer as well. He possessed a deadly jump-shot and was also surprisingly efficient driving to the basket for a player his size. His senior season, he averaged 17.3 points, 5.6 assists, and 3.8 rebounds per game. While Ferrell wasn’t the best defender, he was still strong enough to rely on when tasked to face-up against some of the nation’s top scorers. Where he really made his mark was as a leader. Ferrell accepted his responsibility and was ready to lift his team up time after time. If this was a list consisting of the most athletic players under Crean, Ferrell may have not made it, but his leadership and determination to win makes him the best. Indiana basketball may never see another player with the same passion for the program. After going undrafted, Ferrell signed a partially-guaranteed contract with the Brooklyn Nets.

Honorable mentions:

Noah Vonleh, Verdell Jones III, Troy Williams, Will Sheehey