Indiana University went a long way in clarifying its scholarship situation this afternoon when it was announced that incoming freshman Ron Patterson would not be admitted to the university due to academic issues. A report from Dustin Dopirak of The Bloomington Herald-Times states that Patterson’s academic struggles during summer school rendered him academically ineligible for the upcoming year.
Before the announcement was made, IU’s scholarship situation had been up in the air, with 14 players on scholarship and only 13 spots available. Possible scenarios included a scholarship player relinquishing his scholarship and playing as a walk-on – as Kyle Kuric did before last season – a current player deciding to transfer and play basketball elsewhere, or an incoming freshman taking a year of prep school before coming to Indiana in 2013. This development solves the scholarship crunch but unfortunately, it effectively scuttles Patterson’s chances of ever taking the Assembly Hall hardwood as an Indiana Hoosier.
First off, it’s unpleasant to see a player like Ron Patterson in this position. Patterson experienced anything but an easy upbringing from a young age – extensively detailed in Sean Morrison’s outstanding story from last February – and developed into a tough-as-nails shooting guard who would have added to Indiana’s already outstanding guard depth this upcoming season. Attending another four-year college is still on the table for Patterson, as are both the junior college and prep school routes.
As many have noted, the announcement regarding Patterson came on the two-year anniversary of his commitment. Patterson committed to being a Hoosier at a time when it was anything but popular, and played a big role in pulling together Indiana’s heralded 2012 recruiting class – christening it “The Movement” and doing his part to add to it with his recruitment of forward Jeremy Hollowell.
Speculation and accusations have run rampant across message boards, comment sections and social media as many have pointed out that it seems convenient for Tom Crean and the IU basketball program that an academic issue would crop up this late in the game and solve the oversign problem by preventing Patterson from enrolling. On the surface, that doesn’t seem a wholly unreasonable position to take. Patterson is a talented 6’2 shooting guard, but one without the requisite ball-handling skill to play the point or the size required to play small forward. Additionally, Patterson’s position is loaded with experienced talent.
Victor Oladipo enjoyed a breakout final month of last season, averaging better than 12 points and 5 rebounds per game while also providing lockdown defense on the perimeter. With another season of experience and another offseason of development under his belt, Oladipo stands a good chance of being an all-conference player this season. Jordan Hulls is expected to see more time at shooting guard alongside incoming freshman Yogi Ferrell and sophomore Remy Abell returns as well, looking to build on a strong freshman campaign. As if that weren’t enough, redshirt junior Maurice Creek looks to bounce back from the two years of injuries that have wracked his lower body and regain the form that made him one of the most potent scorers in the B1G as a freshman.
The timing of the announcement is certainly odd with the August 20th scholarship deadline so close at hand, and such a logjam in the backcourt makes it a little easier to see why some raised their eyebrows immediately after Patterson was ruled ineligible. That being said though, the August 20th deadline exists where it does for a reason – allowing programs to protect themselves from losing a player to unforeseen academic circumstances.
In January of 2011, Missouri lost 5-star prospect Tony Mitchell when the NCAA ruled him ineligible before he had played a game as a Tiger. Mitchell was Missouri’s prize recruit and had been expected to play a sizable role during the 2010-2011 season. Hoosier fans need only look at the case of Guy Marc-Michel – a junior college center stated to start for the 2010-2011 Indiana team – who was ruled ineligible (not academically, but the practical outcome was the same) at a similar point in the season and whose absence made an undersized IU team even smaller.
While this situation is undoubtedly tough on Ron Patterson, eligibility issues can work against the team as well as against the player and with as much coaching experience as Tom Crean has, he’s undoubtedly been on the losing end of this type of circumstance. He’s often described his recruiting philosophy as ‘relentless’ and seldom takes an available day off on the recruiting trail. He’s always maintained that it’s better to be over-prepared than underprepared when it comes to recruiting, and while it’s a tough break for Patterson – and the timeframe was a little close for comfort – Crean appears to have been vindicated in this case.
Unforeseen circumstances make it nearly impossible to accurately project scholarship situations on a year-to-year basis on the major college level; be they Maurice Creek’s injury issues, Christian Watford electing to return to school or unexpected success on the recruiting trail. Despite losing a touted guard before the start of the school year, Crean’s diligence has done him well in this case. The backcourt is deep enough to withstand the loss of Patterson this season and Patterson will have the opportunity to get his grades in order, or perhaps even play college basketball right away at a school with less strict academic standards.
Crean’s mantra throughout this process was, “These things tend to work themselves out.” Did he know Patterson would struggle academically? What plan did he have in place in case Patterson had qualified? These are questions with answers that may never see the light of day. For the time being, let’s go back to what Crean said and hope it applies to Ron Patterson – the one who coined ‘The Movement’ and now won’t be a part of it at Indiana. He’s a talented player whose story hasn’t yet been written: a player good enough to play at Indiana and who I now look forward to watching find a new home and excel elsewhere. Here’s hoping he keeps his head up and keeps working.
These things tend to work themselves out.
Featured image courtesy of the Bloomington Herald-Times