Elston, Hulls, Watford play final home game at Indiana
By Andy Proffet Post-Tribune correspondent March 5, 2013 8:16PM
Men's Basketball team, player head shots, taken in Cook Hall, 07/20/12_Aaron Ferguson
The Big Number
3,433 — career points going into Tuesday night’s game for IU’s three seniors — Christian Watford (10th on IU’s all-time scoring list, 1,655 points), Jordan Hulls (26th, 1,280) and Derek Elston (498).
THE INSIDE SCOOP
It wasn’t just Senior Night for Indiana on Tuesday night. The Hoosiers were also celebrating, along with the NCAA, the 75th anniversary of March Madness.
That was bringing several former Hoosier greats back to Bloomington, including Isiah Thomas and Kent Benson. They were to be recognized at halftime.
Updated: April 7, 2013 1:30PM
BLOOMINGTON — They started as a group of six, a Top-10 recruiting class brought together despite NCAA restrictions and little time for Indiana’s new coaching staff to bring them together.
Tuesday night, the Hoosiers honored three of them, recognizing them for their accomplishments in helping lead Indiana from Big Ten doormat to Big Ten champions.
Derek Elston, Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford played their final home game at Indiana.
They signed with Indiana in November 2008, just seven months after Tom Crean was named IU coach. They were joined in that initial recruiting class by Bobby Capobianco, Maurice Creek and Bawa Muniru.
Muniru transferred to Tennessee State after the 2009-10 season. Capobianco transferred to Valparaiso the following offseason. Creek is still at Indiana, but injuries have plagued the former standout, now a redshirt junior.
It hasn’t been an easy four years for any of this class. The recruits could only watch as Crean’s first team won just six games. It didn’t get much better during their 10-21 freshman season.
But Tuesday, Elston, Hulls and Watford took the Assembly Hall court for the last time, and did so as Big Ten champions.
Crean was asked during Monday’s Big Ten coaches teleconference to assess the three seniors.
“Obviously the improvement has shown up in the record, and everything they’ve endured, from the beginning to where they sit right now,” Crean said.
“The thing about all three of them is that they truly epitomize what has happened here, as they have stayed with the plan,” he added, “even when they didn’t always understand what the plan was, even when it needed to be tweaked or adjusted, they stayed with it, and have shown what happens when you do that, how much better you get, how much more mature you get, how much better of a teammate and leader you become over a period of time.”
Indeed, Hulls, the hometown kid whose grandfather served on Bob Knight’s coaching staff, grew from being labeled an “NAIA player” by former coach Kelvin Sampson to making more 3-pointers than any Hoosier except A.J. Guyton.
Elston was recruited by Sampson and chose to honor his commitment even after the coaching change. Injuries have hindered his career as well, but his positive attitude and leadership has been a constant source of praise from Crean and the players.
And Watford is the Big Ten’s active leading scorer, whose shot to beat then No. 1-Kentucky last season still draws huge cheers on IU’s pregame scoreboard.
“You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who wouldn’t walk into a locker room or practice and not see one of those three in the role even as somebody who’s making the guys better, call it a mentor situation, you could call it an assistant coach situation,” Crean said. “I choose to look at it as they show great leadership because of everything they’ve had to deal with and the great resolve they’ve gained because of it.”