The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, March 16, 2016 8:55 am

IU adds big talent, big personality

Chris Goff The Journal Gazette

When Thomas Bryant chose to play for Indiana, the excitement was over what he might add on the court.

Post defense. Quality rebounding. Good scoring instincts. Strength at center.

Ranking somewhere behind those attributes was the anticipation of something harder to find: leadership.

The Hoosiers arguably overachieved this past season with a 20-14 record, but they could have used more strong leaders in the locker room.

Well, according to Indiana coach Tom Crean, everything about Bryant is big.

As a McDonald’s All-American, the expectations for his college debut in 2015-16 are for instant stardom.

In terms of size, Bryant is 6-foot-10, 220 pounds.

And his personality?

That’s large, too.

"He has an infectious energy," Crean said. "That’s exactly what we need."

Until Wednesday, when the school announced that Bryant had signed his letter of intent, Crean wasn’t allowed to speak about Bryant by name.

A native of Rochester, New York, Bryant committed less than three weeks ago. But the gag order was long enough that, when lifted, Crean gushed over his newest recruit.

"His presence as an inside player is obvious," Crean said, "but he’s so much more than that. His mother, Linda Bryant, has done a phenomenal job of raising him as a respectful, caring, thoughtful person that brings a lot of personality.

"Having that kind of infectious personality is something I thought our team really needed. When you get around personalities like that, they make everybody else that much more excited to be doing what they are doing."

The next question for the Hoosiers is which players will still be around to bask in Bryant’s charisma.

Starting guards Yogi Ferrell and James Blackmon Jr. have considered declaring for the NBA draft. They have until Sunday to decide whether they’ll leave or stay in school.

Crean said Blackmon, a former Bishop Luers star, lacks a planned timetable like Ferrell, who’s set to announce his decision Saturday.

"I think we’re well down the road on where we stand on that," Crean said of Blackmon. "Something forthcoming pretty soon on that, but we have handled everything in the sense of having it all laid out where it needs to be."

Bryant’s addition becoming official wasn’t the only news Wednesday for Indiana.

Also announced was that Creighton will visit Assembly Hall on Nov. 19 to face the Hoosiers as part of the inaugural Gavitt Tipoff Games, a series between the Big Ten and Big East that pays homage to late Big East Commissioner Dave Gavitt.

The Bluejays aren’t a bad draw, as they are coming off a 14-19 season and rebuilding the program after the graduation of all-time scoring leader Doug McDermott.

That’s life in college basketball, of course. Players come and go, and as talents such as McDermott and possibly Ferrell depart, others such as Bryant assume the stage.

"He’s a great teammate," Crean said. "Thomas is a transformative sign for us."

Crean said he traveled Tuesday to visit Bryant, who attends Huntington Prep in Huntington, West Virginia.

"He’s like the pied piper of that area," Crean said. "Be it little kids or parents, they just gravitate to him. I think that’s going to be exciting for all of the people here."

Note: Devin Davis is projected to play next year but isn’t yet a certainty "medically speaking," Crean said.

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