Tom Crean doesn’t know the numbers. He doesn’t want to know the numbers, either. I tell him I have those numbers, but Crean isn’t interested.
We’re talking about incoming IU freshman Grant Gelon of Crown Point, one of the most unlikely signees in Crean’s eight years at Indiana.
Gelon made four appearances this month with the IndyStar Indiana All-Stars. He played 43 minutes. He took 15 shots, 12 from 3-point range. How many did he make? We’ll get there. Those are the numbers Crean doesn’t know, or care to know.
“I don’t put a lot of credence in all-star type games,” Crean was saying this week. “Grant’s not an all-star game kid. We recruited him because of what he can do in a system, and how much better he’s going to get if he gets stronger.”
Grant Gelon is a project to be sure, rated a two-star recruit by Rivals.com. When Indiana offered him a scholarship before his senior year at Crown Point, Gelon had one other offer: Western Michigan.
Grant Gelon grabs IU coach Tom Crean’s attention at Adidas Invitational
So who is this dark horse recruit heading to the red royalty of Indiana? IU fans around the state got a glimpse this past month. They saw him play 43 minutes in four all-star games. They saw him take 15 shots, 12 from 3-point range. How many did he make?
Slow down. We’re getting there. Grant Gelon knows you care, believe me. We talked about you a few weeks ago, whoever you are. He has heard the IU fans wanting to believe the best, and the IU detractors hoping for the worst. IU basketball is a lightning rod. Gelon is the Hoosiers’ only in-state recruit this year.
That puts him at the tip of the lightning rod. And it’s storming out there.
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“Nothing I can do about it,” is what Gelon says, repeatedly, to questions about being in the eye of a statewide storm. Whatever anybody says, you’ve got to let it go. People are going to say what they say.”
Whether he has the physical tools for what awaits at Indiana, we’ll see. But from what I can tell, Gelon can handle it mentally. He sounds 18, going on 25, and talks like he doesn’t know exactly what’s out there, which is probably true. He has no Twitter account, and his Facebook page hasn’t been updated in years.
“If he’s not on the basketball court,” Crown Point coach Clint Swan is telling me, “he’s out hunting and fishing or pulling fence posts with his grandfather. I just think his mental makeup is right for this. He’s not your typical teenager. He loves the outdoors and he loves shooting the basketball.”
Gelon hasn’t avoided all of the noise, not even in his home gym. The visiting crowd from Chesterton was giving it to him on March 4 at the Class 4A sectional, and Gelon responded with 20 points, what Swan was calling “the best game of his career.”
What happened to him eight days later when Crown Point played Warsaw in Michigan City was so notable, so ugly, it made the local newspaper:
“The Region gets criticized for being ‘rough’ and ‘unsportsmanlike’ all the time,” wrote Steve Hanlon in The Times of Northwest Indiana. “But what many Warsaw fans were chanting about Gelon was very poor.”
For what it’s worth, the Twitter mentions of Grant Gelon were mostly positive — if overwhelmingly curious — going into the IndyStar Indiana All-Star series. Then came those four games. The Twitter mentions changed. Not for the better.
The IU recruit averaged 2.5 ppg. He took 15 shots and made four. He was 2-of-12 on 3-pointers. He received the fewest minutes on his 3-1 team, and despite the Indiana roster being reduced to eight players for the final game of the tour, he played just seven minutes.
“Nothing I can do about it,” is what Gelon told me.
Says Crean: “We didn’t recruit him to win all-star games. And I don’t think he’s going to look good in those games.”
To be honest, Gelon did not look good. To be clear, it might not matter.
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High school all-star games are the domain of ball-dominant guards like Eugene German of Gary 21st Century, who led the Indiana All-Stars in scoring three times in four games and averaged 20.8 points, more than a point a minute.
It was during the third all-star game, at Bankers Life Fieldhouse when Indiana was beating Kentucky 106-84, when I texted Crean about Gelon, whose first appearance off the bench had the crowd murmuring in anticipation.
“Fans want to see him light it up,” I texted Crean, “and he’s not getting the chance.”
Answered Crean: “Grant will get a lot of open looks here.”
Despite averaging just 15 ppg, Gelon led the state in 3-pointers as a junior and senior. That says two things: He can really shoot from distance … but otherwise doesn’t score much. There is room in college for a player like that. In two years at Indiana, Nick Zeisloft made 128 of his 147 field goals from 3-point range.
“I had no hesitation after watching him shoot the ball,” Crean says. “What we saw is a guy who can come off screens and can create room with his footwork. You projected him as a guy who can dribble into his shot. He’s going to space the floor, and he’s going to get open looks.”
Swan was telling me about an 8 a.m. AAU game, when “other kids are still wiping the sleep from their eyes, and Grant comes out and hits 11 3s and scores 43 points.” Swan tells me about a Crown Point game earlier this season when Gelon hit six 3-pointers — in the first quarter. And he tells me about the time Gelon hit a dozen 3-pointers.
“He was in eighth grade,” Swan says.
‘Indiana should be excited’ about 2016 signee Grant Gelon
Recruiting rankings never materialized for Gelon, who isn’t ranked among the top 300 recruits nationally by most analysts, but Crean’s seen that before. He reminds me about unsung Victor Oladipo, a lottery pick in 2012, and even less heralded OG Anunoby, projected as a 2016 NBA draft pick had he entered the draft. Crean is not comparing Gelon’s ceiling to theirs, just noting that where a kid is ranked can be misleading.
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” Crean says. “For us, the way we can develop him, Grant is going to be fine.”
Grant Gelon reported earlier this month to Indiana. Games start in November. One way or another, lightning will strike.
Find IndyStar columnist Gregg Doyel on Twitter: @GreggDoyelStar or at www.facebook.com/gregg.doyel