Indiana’s coaching staff was crystal clear with Ibi Watson about what it would take for the Pickerington (Ohio) Central guard to earn an IU offer.
“I visited (Bloomington) about a month ago,” Watson said. “They showed me around campus and told me they wanted to see me play high-major players, and play confident and aggressive.”
Watson earned MVP honors at the Best of the South tournament in Georgia over the weekend, leading his All Ohio Red squad to a tournament title.
On his way home, he got a phone call — that offer was waiting at the other end of the line.
“They said that I showed that,” Watson said. “I felt like I just showed that, when I play with confidence, when I play aggressive, I can be one of the best shooting guards in the country.”
A 6-4, 180-pound guard, Watson has seen his recruitment spike just in the last few days.
He doesn’t have a ranking on Rivals, where his profile also includes offers from Akron, Dayton, UMass, Miami (Ohio), Toledo, Ohio and Western Kentucky. But since the weekend, Indiana offered. Michigan, the program of his old mentor and Pickerington Central alum Caris LeVert, is ramping up its interest. The same can be said for Iowa, VCU and Florida.
“A lot of big schools have started coming on strong lately,” Watson said. “They love my shooting ability. They love my athleticism and my natural scoring. They love the fact that I have a lot of potential, and that I have great potential for defense as well.”
What’s changed for the rising senior?
“I just went into the (Best of the South) tournament with a mentality to be super aggressive, take over, try to be the best player every time I step on the court,” he said.
Having already hosted Watson on an unofficial visit, in addition to extending its offer, Indiana has had a chance to make its case to the Ohio guard. Assistants Tim Buckley and Chuck Martin have joined head coach Tom Crean in IU’s pursuit, and Watson said he feels he’s “connected with (Indiana’s) coaches.”
The Hoosiers have at least three spots open in their 2016 class.
“I just really enjoyed the plan they had for me and that they had for the program,” Watson said.
Watson’s All Ohio Red team has tournaments left this month in Milwaukee and Louisville.
He had originally planned to have a final decision by the end of July, and to commit then. But his rapidly expanding recruitment has altered that tack slightly.
“I wanted to commit right after July,” Watson said. “But right now, it’s just about when I feel completely ready to commit. …
“I don’t have an exact date. Just when I feel right.”
Follow Star reporter Zach Osterman on Twitter: @ZachOsterman.