Thursday, May 26, 2011

ESPN article about Indiana Elite, A-HOPE, and my reaction

Hanner Perea
[IndianaElite.com]
By now, I am sure that all Indiana fans have read or at least heard about this "investigative journalism" piece by ESPN.com's Mark Fish. The article, as well as 5 other companion pieces, revolve around Mark Adams, who runs the Bloomington-based A-HOPE Foundation and coaches for Indiana Elite Team Indiana, a 17u AAU team also out of Bloomington. The main point in all of this is the relationship between Mark Adams, his son Drew, Hanner Perea, and the Indiana Hoosiers basketball program. Fish makes some pretty strong accusations, including a pipeline in which Indiana Elite players are funnelled into the IU program, or that Adams' A-HOPE kids are being told where to go to college.

Unfortunately, there are a number of factual errors in Fish's writing, as is there a large amount of withheld information. My honest opinion on all of this is that the Indiana fanbase should not have much to worry about in terms of NCAA violations with the program. One thing that may entice some NCAA questioning are the alleged improper benefits that Perea has received from Adams. But here is a breakdown of what I think to be the most glaring inaccuracies from the piece:

1) Indiana Elite is a feeder program to IU basketball: First of all, it is hardly a crime for a college basketball program to set up a pipeline with an AAU program. Especially when it is one of the prestigious in that particular state. ESPECIALLY especially if it is based in the same town of your main campus. There is no secret that a number of Indiana Elite prospects have gone on to be Hoosiers. But the assertion that Mark Adams is funnelling kids to Tom Crean is completely out of line. There are currently 4 scholarship players on Indiana's roster that played for Mark Adams and Team Indiana: Matt Roth, Jordan Hulls, Cody Zeller and Austin Etherington. The latter are freshman arriving on campus in the next month. The recently departed Bobby Capobianco played on IE/TE, as well. That may seem like a lot, but when you look at the rest of the Team Indiana alumni there is hardly any favoritism going on. From 2007 to 2010, Eric Gordon is the only other former Team Indiana player to play for the Hoosiers (besides those mentioned above). Three players went to Purdue (DJ Byrd, Patrick Bade, Lewis Jackson), while the rest attended Ohio State, Michigan, Iowa, Duke, North Carolina, Tennessee, UNLV, New Mexico, Kentucky, Cincinnati, Butler, Bradley, Valparaiso, and Evansville.
Fish also points to the connections of Drew Adams, a former player for Steve Alford at Iowa, graduate assistant at Tennessee, video coordinator at IU, and now working for Alford at New Mexico. The article attempts to link Adams (Mark's son) to the commitments of several Indiana Elite and A-HOPE players to the schools in which he was employed. The reality is that there are far more IE players going elsewhere then there are at schools connected to Adams. Not to mention that there are a multitude of reasons why each prospect chose their school and that if the decision weighed at all on the presence of Drew Adams then it is completely within NCAA rules.
2) Fish asks: "What about Indiana Elite, which has evolved into a pipeline for top players to IU, punctuated by future verbal commitments through 2014?" (EDIT: this has now been changed by ESPN, removing 'through 2014' from the end)
The most obvious inaccuracy here is the fact that Indiana's future verbal commitments from Indiana Elite players run through 2012, not 2014. Both of Tom Crean's 2014 signees, Trey Lyles and James Blackmon Jr., play for Spiece Indy Heat, and the two 2013 signees play for the Eric Gordon All-Stars. Collin Hartman did play for Indiana Elite last year, but not for Mark Adams, who only coaches the 17u team. Furthermore, Indiana's main targets in those two years play for other AAU programs (Jaquan Lyle, Zak Irvin - EG, Trevon Bluiett - Spiece, Mark Williams - from Ohio).
Even with the 2012 class, it is not such a clear pipeline. The "Fab Five" team that was created this spring, which was meant to feature all five IU commitments, not only only never materialized completely but was something that came together post commitment to IU. Yogi Ferrell had experience with Mark Adams, playing up a year last summer with Zeller and Etherington, while Perea and Jurkin also have ties to Adams through A-HOPE and the fact that they live in the Adams house over the summer. The rest are not linked at all to Mark Adams. Prior to his verbal commitment to IU, Jeremy Hollowell was a member of the Eric Gordon AAU program and only switched to play with his future teammates. Hollowell's long time friend Ron "Buss" Patterson spent his summers playing with Indiana Elite One, and after spending the first months of this season with Team Indiana he recently switched back to IE One. He, too, switched post commitment.
The two top remaining prospects on Indiana's radar right now are Mitch McGary, a Chesterton-native now playing at Brewster Academy (NH) and Gary Harris from Hamilton Southeastern. McGary plays AAU ball for the SYF Players while Harris is with D3 Pride.
3) A-HOPE kids are pushed to Indiana: In the 8 year history of this foundation, 1 player brought from Africa to the US by Mark Adams has played for the Hoosiers, the infamous Tijan Jobe. Jobe scored 15 total points in his two seasons with the Hoosiers, and if the program were not in such dire need to fill the roster back in 2008 Jobe never would have even been considered by Tom Crean. Of course, Crean has taken commitments from Perea and Jurkin, bringing the grand total up to three. Three out of 22 total (including class of 2012). Other students include Alfred Aboya (ranked #83 overall by Rivals in 2005 and signed with UCLA), Beas Hamga (ranked #26 in 2007 and signed with UNLV), and Emmanuel Negedu (ranked #40 in 2008, signed with Tennessee, transferred to New Mexico and is no longer playing basketball due to a heart condition). Schools receiving other A-HOPE students include Michigan State, New Orleans, Hartford, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Western Michigan, Delaware State and several community colleges.

My main intention with all of this is that there are a lot of inaccuracies and false accusations being thrown around by the so-called "Worldwide Leader of Sports." It is hard to respect investigative journalism that gets things so wrong and focuses on the wrong things. The main page on ESPN.com features a picture of Perea, Mark Adams, Tom Crean and the outline of Africa. Perea is from Colombia, the only A-HOPE player thus far NOT from Africa. Crean is obviously pictured to drive up interest and readership, though one can not possibly conclude any wrongdoing on his part in this situation.

The conspiracy theorists will say that this investigation and article are a result of pressures from opposing coaches, namely Baylor or Ohio State, who have lost out on recent A-HOPE and IE recruits to Indiana. I think that the article is a telling sign that Indiana is truly on its way back to prominence in college basketball. People generally have a hard time accepting that a coach can have such immense recruiting success without cheating. In this case, I think that ESPN, or maybe just Mike Fish, is just searching for a story that is not there.

I will definitely be staying on top of this story in the days to come and will continue to spread the truth.

To be continued...

10 comments:

  1. If it turns out that Mark Adams is Perea's legal guardian as has been reported, then case closed in regards to Hanner.

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  2. the red flag is where does $200,000 a year for travel expenses come from?

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  3. heyhey, if that's a red flag, then you better raise one for every major AAU program in the country. Do you think travel expenses are paid for out of mommy and daddy's pocket to fly half way across the country every weekend?

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  4. i'm aware IN Elite is not the only one doing it, but IN Elite is in the barrell today. So it still begs the question: where does it come from?

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  5. Adams refused to provide ESPN.com a list of donors but said a majority of funds have come from himself, his girlfriend of 15 years, his ex-wife, his brother and sponsors of Indiana Elite -- including adidas, which has provided shoes, uniforms and a "small amount of money."

    Adams is adamant, however, that there are no hidden A-HOPE contributors, writing in an email response: "That is it! No one else! Not one penny from anyone remotely related to Indiana University or any other college."

    yes, that's it. other than the giant shoe company locked into a multi-million dollar deal with the university and its coach, there's no one else!

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  6. This is something it would take fairly wealthy people in order to do. On the surface, these don't appear to be those kind of people.

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  7. Adams claims he sunk his life savings into A-HOPE and is retiring after next year because he just can't afford to do it anymore.
    In terms of the adidas relationship, you can't possibly call it an unfair connection that Indiana Elite is sponsored by adidas and so is Indiana University. What do you expect Indiana Elite to do? Be sponsored by no one? Choose Nike like Purdue, Ohio State, Kentucky, etc? All AAU teams need sponsoring if they want to afford the gear/travel to national tournaments/exposure for their players/etc. It is unfair to call out Indiana Elite for something that not only isn't against any rules but is just a part of AAU basketball.
    There are other schools sponsored by adidas, most notably Kansas, Notre Dame, Michigan, NC State, Nebraska, Tennessee, UCLA, Wisconsin, and Texas A&M. Does that mean that if any Indiana Elite kid goes to one of those schools, it is unethical? How about all of the Nike AAU programs that feed kids to Kentucky, Duke, UNC every year? It's part of the business. It may not be the greatest thing, but it is LEVEL PLAYING FIELD.

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  8. McGary is from Chesterton, IN. That is all.

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  9. Changes made, thank you for pointing that out.
    Honest typing mistake. Don't let that small mistake make or break your opinion on the site!!
    and thanks for reading!

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  10. Windy City Source>>> That is some excellent writing you did there. Everything brought to the surface, not full of misleading information, easy to follow, no finger pointing...However you would make a terrible investigative reporter...thanks again Great work

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