Larry Bird looks at the state of Indiana's 2010 draft class and sees the same thing he always does — players.
Lots of them.
"Indiana has a lot of talent, and a lot more on the way from what I hear," Bird said during his pre-draft news conference. "The reason is that Indiana has a lot of coaches teaching them the right way to play the game."
Coaches have been as synonymous with Indiana basketball as the players themselves.
For every star such as Bird or Oscar Robertson, there's a Branch McCracken or Bob Knight who stand every bit as tall. For every innovator like John Wooden, there's a Tony Hinkle, the man who introduced the orange basketball. For every Bobby Plump, Glenn Robinson or Adrian Dantley, there's a Marvin Wood, a Gene Keady or a Digger Phelps.
But coaches understand this is a player's game, and few states can match Indiana's gold mine.
This year's crop of draft hopefuls includes homegrown players such as Gordon Hayward, Luke Harangody, Armon Bassett and Robert Glenn. There are also "converts" such as Tory Jackson and Jordan Crawford, who left Michigan to play college ball in the Hoosier State — and for good reason.
Over the past three years, 5.5 percent of all NBA draft selections played prep or college ball in Indiana, the nation's 16th most populous state. Seven of those 10 players — Greg Oden, Mike Conley Jr., Eric Gordon, Courtney Lee, George Hill, D.J. White and Jeff Teague — were first-round picks. White, who attended Indiana University, was the only one not to play prep ball in the Indianapolis area.
Where will all of this year's draft hopefuls wind up? Tune in Thursday night.
Hayward, clearly, will be the first Indiana player chosen. The 6-foot-9 forward gave up his final two years of college eligibility after leading Butler to the national title game and is projected to go as high as No. 8.
Many have questioned whether Hayward is strong enough or a good enough outside shooter to thrive in an NBA offense, which puts a greater emphasis on individual skills than Butler's system. One of Hayward's ex-teammates, Avery Jukes, has said he believes Hayward will thrive in a one-on-one game.
"We didn't have very many isolation plays or things like that in our (Butler) offense," Hayward said after Monday's workout in Indy. "So I think the way Butler is, you don't really get to see the full package because everyone's about the team. We're not an NBA-type team, but that's the reason we got to where we were."
Other players are all trying to make their case with NBA scouts.
Harangody, Notre Dame's former Big East player of the year, is trying to prove he's healthy after missing five games late last season with a bruised bone in his right knee. Some project Harangody, who attended Andrean High School in northwest Indiana, as a second-round pick.
Jackson, the Notre Dame point guard who is hoping to get drafted, thinks that would be a steal.
"He's just a great, great player," Jackson said after working out for the Pacers last week. "I can't wait to see him put on a uniform and see what he can do."
Bassett and Crawford must answer different questions.
The one-time starters for Kelvin Sampson's Hoosiers each served suspensions for violating team rules during their final season in Bloomington. Both left the program after Tom Crean was hired, wound up transferring to Ohio schools — Bassett wound up at Ohio University, Crawford at Xavier, where he made the NCAA tourney and declared early for the draft.
Bassett, a Terre Haute, native, first transferred to Alabama-Birmingham and left before playing a game. He also was suspended indefinitely by Ohio in May after pleading not guilty to an assault charge. Bassett didn't waste any time waiting for scouts to ask the questions.
"I think they know I'll bring it up, and I'll be honest with them about the whole situation," Bassett said before heading to Milwaukee for another workout in front of Sampson. "It's made me stronger. But like we did during that process (at Indiana), we tried to keep it in house and that's how I'd like to keep it."
Purdue's Chris Kramer and Keaton Grant, like Bassett and Jukes, worked out with the Pacers, but Kramer, Grant and Jukes are not expected to be drafted.
Glenn could surprise after averaging nearly 20 points per game last season at IUPUI. Just the fact that he was called in by the Pacers and could be called again Thursday night is a major accomplishment.
"Two years ago, if you had told me Robert would have had this opportunity, I would have laughed at you," Jaguars coach Ron Hunter said. "He still has a long way to go, but he's going to be making money somewhere next year."
Just like the other players with Indiana ties.
Next year's class should keep the Indiana trend going with Purdue's JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore and Butler's Matt Howard playing their final college seasons with the possibility of even higher-profile underclassmen joining the mix.
If Bird had his choice, he'd take most of the Indiana guys — past, present or future.
"Yeah, I'd like to have some of those guys, too," Bird said, grinning.