The Indiana Hoosiers are one of the top ten college basketball programs of all time, and they have had great players like Isiah Thomas, Steve Downing, Mike Woodson, Calbert Chaney and this list could go on for seemingly forever. Today we will look at the biggest disappointment in Indiana Hoosiers’ history. These are guys that much was expected from, but little was attained.
It’s difficult to be genuinely disappointed in a man who never donned the cream and crimson, but Indiana fans can only dream of what could have been when they reflect on Larry Bird’s Hall of Fame career.
The small-town boy wasn’t prepared for the size and number of people surrounding him on campus during his 24-day scholarship at IU in 1974. As a small-town kid from a small Indiana town, he wasn’t used to such an expansive campus with so many people around him.
According to Bird’s memoir “Drive,” Indiana University veterans like Kent Benson hazed him for his country dress and accent. The size of the campus and the treatment from a player like Benson led Bird to drop out and return home to French Lick to work as a garbage man for a time. What if Larry Bird had stayed at Indiana?
Marty Simmons was a standout basketball player at Lawrenceville High School during his high school days. By 1983, he had scored 2,986 points – third among all scorers in Illinois high school basketball history. To this day, Simmons ranks sixth all-time in career points scored.
In his Freshman year of 1984, Marty played well at times and helped the Hoosiers advance to the elite eight, where they lost to the Virginia Cavaliers.
The Roof fell in on the Hoosiers in 1985, and Simmons was a big part of that season not working out. Marty scored 85 points in 23 games and after the season transferred back home to play for the University of Evansville.
Baker, a point guard who averaged 13 points per game in high school, earned himself a place on the first McDonald’s All-America team alongside future Indiana Hoosier teammate Ray Tolbert. With all those accolades behind him, expectations were high for Baker as the successor to legendary point guard Jim Wiseman.
None of it ever materialized.
Baker averaged 3.1 points and 2.6 assists per game as a freshman but was ultimately one of three players dismissed from his team in December during his sophomore season. No official reason was given then; however, widespread Hoosier marijuana use would later come to light.
Lyndon Jones earned his place as a Hoosier alongside Marion High School teammate and fellow Mr Basketball winner Jay Edwards. Together they achieved three consecutive state championships and were expected to carry those winning ways forward when they both signed with Bob Knight to continue playing basketball together.
Edwards endured a difficult career yet still achieved remarkable individual success – setting a national freshman record for three-point accuracy and earning him an All-America selection as a sophomore. Then, Edwards left for what would prove to be his short NBA tenure.
Jones’ career at Indiana University lasted four seasons; during that time, the Hoosiers enjoyed great success. They won 93 games and two Big Ten titles with Jones on their roster, but to say he was a major factor is an overstatement.
Jones’ highlight came during the 1988-89 Big Ten title season. As a sophomore, she averaged 8.4 points and 3.4 assists per game while playing third wheel in a three-guard lineup with Edwards and senior Joe Hillman.
That season, Jones recorded more points and assists than in any of his two following seasons combined. Unfortunately, with the arrival of an anticipated 1989 freshman class, he lost out on his expected starting job and never again achieved more than a role-player status.
Delray Brooks was a 1984 co-Mr. Basketball in Indiana and USA Today’s National Player of the Year, joining Danny Manning as the only two high schoolers invited to try out for the U.S. Olympic team.
Once Brooks arrived in Bloomington, all the accolades seemed to have been bestowed upon someone entirely different. Brooks started 12 games as a freshman but averaged only 3.6 points per game. The following season his scoring dropped to 2.4 points per game in 13 minutes of action, and Brooks decided enough was enough.
He left for Providence, where he formed an impressive trio with point guard Billy Donovan and coach Rick Pitino. Unfortunately for Brooks, the Friars fell one game short of earning him a national championship shot against his former team, which he pledged to treat like any other game.
Romeo Langford was recruited as a 5-star prodigy out of New Albany High School in Indiana and named Mr Basketball – an award given to the most outstanding high school basketball player in the state of Indiana. Despite receiving offers from high-profile colleges like Kansas and Louisville, he chose to remain home and play college ball with Indiana University; CBS even described him as “the chosen prince” of IU!
Langford, in High School, was treated like a rock star, and when he got to Indiana University, he was supposed to guide the Hoosiers back to relevance. None of that ever happened.
Was this all Langford’s fault? Probably not as the coaching was poor, and to many people expected way too much out of Langford, but he was a massive failure at Indiana, he did have some big time games, but absolutely massive expectations caused the failure for him.
Wilkerson didn’t even make it to Bloomington before he lost his Mr Basketball title. He was stripped of it after walking off the Indiana All-Star team for being benched during a game against the Kentucky All-Stars. He set in motion an IU career marked by two controversies for every highlight he achieved.
As a freshman during the 1993-94 season, Wilkerson was embroiled in controversy when he and Bob Knight exchanged words on the sidelines after being pulled from a game against Michigan State; the pair clashed heads while in the bench area. During the NCAA tournament that followed, Wilkerson suffered a horrific broken leg that would ultimately cost him his following Basketball season.
In January 1996, Wilkerson was arrested after police responded to a domestic disturbance at an off-campus apartment complex. Knight’s punishment was swift and harsh:she immediately dismissed Wilkerson from the team.
If you enjoy hearing from the legends of pro sports, then be sure to tune into “The Grueling Truth” sports shows, “Where the legends speak”
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