On Sunday Class of 2012 Broad Ripple guard, Ron Patterson joined Peter Jurkin as the second member of the 2012 recruiting class. In an interview about his commitment to the Hoosiers Patterson, the 65th ranked player in the class of 2012, said that he expected fellow 2012 Indiana high school basketball player Jeremy Hollowell to follow suit with a commitment later this week. Hollowell, the 35th ranked player in the same class has been considered an strong Indiana lean, by people who consider such things, for a while now.

Patterson’s commitment and statement about Hollowell sparked the usual rush of predictions and excited message board postings, analysis of the potential impact of these commitments to the other potential recruits, and definitive statements about Coach Crean’s recruiting prowess.

Over the summer, any IU basketball news is cause for endless analysis and speculation. We just don’t have that much to do over the summer.

I’m not writing this to report this news to you. I’m sure you knew all of this by now. I’m writing this to tell you, without the least bit of exaggeration or hyperbole, that if Hollowell does, in fact verbally commit this week, August 2010 will be one of the single most important months in the history of Indiana basketball.

Before I get into why this is so important, and why this doesn’t put any unnecessary pressure on these two kids, who are about to enter their junior year of high school, let’s look a couple of other contenders for most important months in Indiana basketball history (I’m limiting this discussion to events that occurred off the the court).

September 2000. Kent Harvey was a disrespectful douche. Myles Brand had created an incredibly nebulous “zero-tolerance” policy and felt the need to flex his muscles when Coach Knight tried to teach this kid about how to speak to his elders. Knight was fired, Mike Davis was named interim coach. The next decade of Indiana basketball was set in motion when Bob Knight grabbed that kid by the elbow.

February 2008. The NCAA reported the findings of their investigation in Kelvin Sampson and his rampant cheating, accusing Sampson and Indiana of Five Major Violations, not the two minor violations the university claimed to have uncovered the previous summer. Sampson was bought out and resigned. The players gave up and the season disintegrated.

May 2008. After a month of evaluating the basketball talent on his knew team, and going through the toxic waste left behind by Sampson it was decision time. Eli Holman started the month off by requesting a transfer and throwing a potted plant across the basketball office, resulting in a call to campus police. The next day Tom Crean upheld Dan Dakich’s decision to boot Armon Bassett and Jamarcus Ellis from the team. He also dismissed DeAndre Thomas from the team and said his scholarship would not be renewed. Two days later Maurice Creek committed to IU. On May 16th, former Hoosier forward William Gladness died. On May 20th, Jordan Hulls committed. On May 22nd, Brandon McGee was dismissed from the team, leaving only Kyle Taber and Jordan Crawford as returning scholarship athletes from the 2008 season. The month ended with Jeremiah Rivers decision to transfer to Indiana. There may not be another month where more things happened off the court that would not only set the tone for the type of program Indiana would be going forward, but would also establish just how difficult the post-Sampson rebuild was going to be. May 2008 holds the unquestioned top spot for most important month in Indiana basketball history.

How then does the signing of two, potentially three players who won’t suit up until the fall of 2012, a full two years away, even rate a mention in the same column as those other months? After all, Crean has already shown that he can recruit Top 100 players in Creek and Watford. He’s shown he can recruit tall African players in Tijon and Bawa (and neither of those two developed into what anyone hoped they would). These commitments aren’t significant because Patterson and Hollowell are going to turn into Cheaney and Greg Graham (They might, who knows). These signings don’t guarantee a return to the top of the Big Ten. I don’t expect anything more of these kids than I do of most other highly rated recruits. These commitments are huge because of what they do to the perception of Hoosier fans.

The class of 2012 has long been seen as a make-or-break class for Crean by people who use phrases like “make-or-break” because of the amount of in-state talent and the fact that we will have available scholarships for that season. When Crean was hired he was behind the 8 ball in more ways than one. Not only did he inherit a team full of players he had to kick off (or dodge projectile shrubbery from), but he was WAY behind other schools, like Butler, Purdue, Michigan State, Ohio State and Duke in recruiting the 2008-2010 classes. He had to focus on fielding a team right away, and not so much on building relationships with younger talent that would bear fruit later. The class of 2012 was seen as the first class where Crean would be working on nearly equal footing with other major programs.

He would have the time to recruit these players and the Indiana kids in this class were shaping up to be very good.

Crean had been close to landing other big named recruits, but with a score of near misses on top talent and two losing seasons in a row, Hoosier fans had started to go from cautiously optimistic to borderline suicidal. There was much focus on how bad things were and how great things were in the past.

Now, with the Patterson commitment, the promise of Hollowell and the potential ripple effect these signing will have on other recruits like Hanner Parea, Cody Zeller and Yogi Ferrall, Hoosier fans were starting to look forward with excitement toward the future. Crean was not just coming close with big time in-state talent. He was landing them.

Indiana fans, with one single commitment and the promise of another soon to follow, had turned into forward-looking fans with realistic hope of returning to the top.

Just as May 2008 set place the reality of just how bad we had let thing become under Sampson and placed the first few piof our recovery, but more important, August 2010 has marked a change in attitude, perception and expectation. Instead of lamenting the players we’ve lost or hoping against hope that we’ll get the next one, we’re starting to expect that we’ll get all the guys we want and have to choose between some top guys who all want to come here.

Coach Crean’s hard work, and our patience, is starting to pay off.

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