BOZICH | Mr. Anonymous (OG Anunoby) has become Mr. Indispensable for Indiana
The Indiana coaching staff was scouting two other players when OG Anunoby caught their attention at an AAU event -- even though he ranked the 280th prospect in the nation.
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (WDRB) – The first prospect the Indiana University basketball coaching staff chased in Atlanta during the summer of 2014 was Nick Marshall. The second was Jaylen Fisher.
Everybody else was a footnote.
ESPN described Marshall as a 6-foot-11 beast. The recruiting services ranked him as one of the top 50 prospects in America. Fisher was as a junior point guard. Coaches wanted to be there every time Fisher twisted his hips.
OG Anunoby was footnote – a 6-foot-8 footnote with a 7-2 wingspan, but a footnote nonetheless. His anonymity was enhanced because his name and phone number were missing from the AAU coaches’ handbook.
IU coach Tom Crean and his assistant Steve McClain started a July morning in Atlanta, watching Marshall and Fisher at an Under Armour event.
But another kid kept blocking shots. And knocking loose steals. And dunking offensive rebounds.
“Tom turned to me and said, ‘I think we’re looking at the wrong guy; Go find out who he is, “ McClain said.
His name was OG Anunoby.
“I knew they were looking at Nick,” Anunoby said. “I thought if I played real well they would look at me. I liked Indiana. I liked coach Crean, their players and their style of play.”
Ask the Big Ten who he is.
Ask Jamal Murray of Kentucky who he is.
Ask me who he is, and I’ll tell you that Anunoby is a primary reason that Indiana will continue to play in the East Regional of the NCAA Tournament Friday night against North Carolina. He’s the guy who helped crowd Murray when he missed eight of nine three-point shots against IU last Saturday, blocking him once on the perimeter.
Who blocks a three-pointer?
"OG does at practice," said IU senior Max Bielfeldt. "We've learned to look for him coming."
Other than Yogi Ferrell and Thomas Bryant, I can’t name a player who has had a more dynamic impact on IU’s play over the last month. Steals. Blocks. Dunks. Keeping guards out of the lane. Keeping forwards off the block. Look beyond his 4.6 points and 2.9 rebounds.
“He’s got these long Go-Go-Gadget arms and he just throws them up there and all of a sudden the guy he’s guarding can’t see the basket,” Bielfeldt said.
Even though he was considered the third-best college prospect on his AAU team.
Even though he was ranked the 280th best prospect in America in the composite rankings by one national recruiting service.
Even though he grew up in Jefferson City, Missouri but played for an AAU team based in the Memphis area.
“Indiana fans aren’t different than any other fans,” said McClain, who just finished his first season as the head coach at Illinois-Chicago. “Some get hung up on where guys are ranked. Tom has never gotten hung up on where guys were ranked.”
Not with Dwayne Wade. Not with Victor Oladipo. Not with Anunoby. The first two were not Top 100 recruits, but they are NBA players.
“If you work for Tom, he makes sure you understand that you shouldn’t care where a guy is ranked,” McClain said. “You should care how a guy fits and how hard he plays.”
Did OG Anunoby believe that he was the No. 280 prospect in America?
“Yeah,” he said, smiling. “Probably. I got hurt. My name wasn’t in the (AAU information) book.”
McClain said that Indiana started chasing Anunoby after Iowa, Northwestern, Vanderbilt and other schools had already been calling and writing. Crean closed the gap quickly because Anunoby had a connection to Bloomington: His uncle worked as a professor at IU. His aunt worked in Bloomington, too. He had visited the campus several times.
This is the way it has unfolded this season. Marshall, the guy Indiana scouted in Atlanta, played in 32 games for Memphis, starting only once. He averaged 3 points and 2.6 rebounds. Fisher is a high school senior who committed to UNLV, which fired its coach.
Anunoby has launched himself into the consciousness of college basketball. On offense, he can play off guard and either forward spot. On defense, he can guard all five positions.
Mr. Anonymous has become Mr. Indispensable, playing 26 minutes (a season high) against Kentucky after scoring 14 points (a season high) against Chattanooga. In two NCAA Tournament games, Anunoby has made 9 of 11 shots, including three of four from distance.
I asked Anunoby if he was still the No. 280 player in the Class of 2015?
“I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t know.”
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