Tuesday, July 29, 2008

7/29 - Some Links, Some News

-Before I get to the main point of this edition of Some Link, Some News, let me update you on a couple of transfers. Jordan Crawford, who averaged 9.7 ppg and 3.4 rpg for the since-imploded Indiana Hoosiers, has decided that he will transfer to Xavier (where he will coincidentally join prep player Terrell Holloway, who originally committed to Kelvin Sampson at Indiana). Crawford fits in well with the Musketeers system, but don't they already have about eight versatile wing players (Derrick Brown, CJ Anderson, Dante Jackson, BJ Raymond)?

These next two are a bit older. Curtis Kelly, the UConn transfer, has decided that he will play for Kansas State where he will have two years of eligibility left after sitting out the 2008-09 season. A big, athletic, lefty power forward playing for K-State. Sound familiar? Derrick Jasper has decided he will join UNLV.

-Now to the main theme: the way that coach's get around recruiting restrictions. We talked about this on BIAH a while ago, but Jeff Goodman gives another look at Bruce Weber and his recruiting of younger players. The more I think about the younger recruitment, the more I am torn on an issue. For one thing, it is a very effective tool for a coach whose team has been struggling in recent years to build a rapport with local talent. And regardless of whether or not coaches are allowed to recruit these guys, scouting agency's and recruiting websites are still going to rank them, so does it really hurt for coaches to watch them or recruit them?

The biggest problem I see is the effect it will have on the player's. It can put unneeded pressure on a player to commit to a college before he has even decided on where he will attend high school, especially in places in the midwest where high school sports are so important. It could also be a deterrent to the player's work ethic. It is hard enough to convince young stars who dominate their competition to work on and develop their game, but if they already have big 10 coaches on their doorstep when they are 13, it could convince the kid that he has already "made it", when in fact they still have a very long way to go. The most detrimental effect, however, could be to the kids psyche. Let's say, for example, that the player in question happened to hit puberty early, and is, in effect, a "man" when he is 13 or 14 - he is stronger, taller, and more athletic then everyone he is playing against at his age (hopefully, for a kid like this he will be playing up a level, i.e. against older players, but you never know). What happens to him when everyone else catches up, and the school he committed to decides they do not want him anymore. That would be pretty humiliating and depressing for anybody, and could ultimately effect his career.

-Another interesting, and kind of funny, recruiting trick is one that Dana O'Neill wrote about over the weekend. Apparently, Indiana assistant coach Bennie Seltzer got word that a player he went to watch didn't think that any Indiana coaches were in the crowd. So to avoid having to face that problem again, Seltzer has taken to wearing Indiana's red and white pinstripe warmup pants everytime he goes to watch a recruit play.

-Gary Parrish has written two very interesting pieces (here and here) on some of the more subtle recruiting techniques that you rarely hear about, both coincidentally involving summer and AAU coaches. The first is about Miles Simon, who after being let go by Arizona has started coaching the LA based Pump N Run Elite. They just sent Jrue Holiday to UCLA and Larry Drew to UNC, and still have Solomon Hill, Tyler Honeycutt (both '09), Tyler Lamb and Kendall Williams (both '10) on the roster. The article talks about how summer coaches use their connection with these star recruits to land themselves jobs at big time schools. He also highlights Chris Walker's hiring at New Mexico and Emmanuel Richardson at Xavier (and how they coincided with the recruitment of players from the T-Mac All-stars and the Gauchos). As Parrish says:

Simon will be an intriguing candidate for some West Coast school, because he now knows the SoCal kids on a personal level thanks to this summer spent developing relationships without NCAA guidelines hindering his moves. That's a huge bonus, and if you don't believe me you should've seen Richardson and Walker in their Xavier and New Mexico shirts this past season, working the jobs they "officially" got a little less than a year ago.

The second article by Parrish highlights a little known technique schools use to get players onto their campus. They are called Elite Camps. What the school does is hold a camp for 15-20 players that they are recruiting, and hire the player's summer league coaches to give a speech. It doesn't matter what it is about, because the only reason they are hired is to get the players to come to the camp. Let me explain. Let's say I am living in DC and coaching a team with two top recruits on it. UCLA (a school the players would never be able to afford to visit on their own) will pay me, say, $5,000 to come give a speech at their elite camp, with the (unwritten) understanding that a portion of that money is to be used to get the players to LA. This is all legal, apparently (Billy Donovan is even quoted in the article - he says some interesting things as well).
Now I know what you're thinking: How exactly is this legal?

Answer: It's legal because the NCAA does not regulate who universities hire to work summer camps, meaning Oklahoma State's Travis Ford could hire my uncle or John Wall's AAU coach to work his camp, and there's no NCAA guideline preventing him from doing it.

Furthermore, the NCAA can't regulate how much AAU coaches can be paid for working a camp any more than it can regulate how much Louisville pays Rick Pitino for doing a radio show or how much Washington spends on pregame meals. Everything is OK as long as the pay is consistent -- meaning Oklahoma State is in the clear provided it pays every AAU coach who works a camp roughly the same amount, regardless of whether the pay is $500, $2,500 or $5,000.

(It's also worth noting there is nothing preventing a school from hiring the same AAU coach to work five different camps in one summer. In that case, a $5,000 payday for one afternoon of talking could turn into a $25,000 windfall for five afternoons of talking, and do you see how this is a slippery slope?

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