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April 29, 2012

HUNTER: IU, Kentucky take different routes to success

HENRYVILLE — I am writing this as an avowed Indiana University sports fan and I know that is going to aggravate some people. In regards to those people, it won’t matter what I write because they are aggravated with me already and I can accept that.  

I love IU. I want them to beat Kentucky all of the time.

But I don’t feel that I am an out of control fan when it comes to our main rival south of the Ohio River.

I understand that UK recruits nationally and gets players from all over the United States and Indiana does everything it can to get Indiana players. I respect that and I don’t feel crazy and blinded for a dislike of UK and here’s why — this past year, UK was as fun a team to watch that I have seen in a few years.

UK’s basketball ability, IQ, mental toughness, professionalism and lack of “new school” problems was something to admire. The Wildcats shared the basketball and did so many things well that they were either well coached (probably), but came together as a “team” better than any other this past season.

I watched many games which they should have lost, but didn’t because someone different would step in and not allow it. Their collective, competitive, mental toughness would not allow it.

During the NCAA tournament, their attitudes were so professional that I was highly impressed and actually wanting them to succeed except for that one game in the regional semifinals. I picked them to win the whole thing before the tournament started and that was hard for me to do.

But I really, really liked this UK team — really, I did.

I always wondered if UK would win a national championship getting its one-and-done players each year.  

Would the Wildcats be able to do that with younger players?

Well, they proved this season that they can.

Can they do it again with a new group? Or was this group just that special?

It will be interesting to see when the next championship comes. In the short term, it proves you can win a championship with those type of players, but what about the long term?

This year, Kentucky had experience in senior Darius Miller, and two sophomores (Doron Lamb and Terrence Jones), who had plenty of experience.

When will the next championship come along?

No question that Kentucky head coach John Calipari can flat get it done recruiting the top players in the nation. Another thing I have thought about in the past when it came to Coach Calipari and his recruiting at UK is how would UK fans handle having a new team each year or a new “great” player each year?

Would they buy into this way of recruiting without getting to learn everything to know about each team and player?

The answer — UK fans want to “just win baby.”

I really enjoy how coach Tom Crean has recruited at IU, getting some of the better players from in state staying to compete. Most of those guys will stay at least two years or more and I think that is good — win or lose.

I think IU will be competitive nationally and could win a national championship with the way Crean has gone about recruiting and building his team. I support how he has done this (not that it matters what I think) as I do believe that most IU fans do.

But winning a national championship because you had five first-round NBA draft picks would be a nice thing to have every once in a while, I am just not sure I want them to always be freshmen and sophomores.

One of the cool things about college basketball is that players stay for 2-4 years and you can get attached to them before they leave (see Miller for UK).

 I think I know what most UK fans want. They want to win national championships — no matter how it’s done.

I know that I really like getting to know the players at IU before they graduate. You live and die and support those guys during the time that they play in Bloomington, and you grow attached to them as a fan.

When they speak on Senior Day, that is one of the most special moments in their career because they are seniors and have given so much to the program.  Would I want IU to be like UK in its recruiting?

I can answer that question now that “no” I don’t want that. However, if IU was winning national championships every few years doing that, I probably would change my mind.  

What’s that say about me?

In the end, I am no different from any fan that wants their team to win and probably jealous that UK won a national championship and IU hasn’t — yet.

Perry Hunter is a history teacher and the former varsity boys’ basketball coach at Henryville High School. You can read his blog online at

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