Over the last week few days, some of the biggest name writers in college basketball (including our buddy T.J. Walker) have descended upon Peach Jam, the biggest AAU event in the country. And over the last few days virtually every single one of them have written the same article, about how the NCAA’s proposed changes to the July college basketball recruiting period are awful and will ultimately hurt the sport. CBS’s Gary Parrish wrote about it here. NBC’s Rob Dauster did the same here. I encourage you to check out both articles.
Now before we get into the meat of this article, let’s first explain what the rules changes are for those of you who might not have been paying attention.
Under the current model, coaches have a handful of select weekends (mostly in April and July) when they can be out on the road recruiting, mostly by attending AAU tournaments. However, after the FBI probe last fall, the NCAA became worried about the influence of sneaker companies (mainly Nike, Adidas and Under Armour) on the recruiting scene and decided that they’d like to alter the July recruiting period. They’d do away with the sneaker-organized events (like Peach Jam, the Under Armour event in Atlanta etc.) and instead host regional camps run by the NCAA. The best players at each camp would then advance to a national, All-Star type camp later on in the summer.
Again, the ultimate goal would be to reduce (though not completely eliminate) the role that sneaker companies play in recruiting. In theory, fewer sneaker-run AAU events mean less control of players by AAU coaches and handlers, which in theory means less shady business in recruiting. Putting aside the dumb stereotype that all AAU guys are bad people (something that couldn’t be furthest from the truth) let’s simply look at the idea of running All-Star camps instead of summer tournaments. Because the simple truth is – that as Parrish and Dauster explained in their articles – it’s an awful idea, one that not only does little to actually help even the best players, but instead will actively hurt hundreds and hundreds each and every year.
To explain why, it starts with the simple premise of understanding what “AAU basketball” is, a simple concept that Condoleezza Rice and the people put in charge of “changing college basketball” never really understood.
For starters, “AAU basketball” is much more than just a few events run by Nike, Adidas and Under Armour, where the best players play in front of college basketball’s biggest name coaches. Sure, that’s part of it, which is why you saw John Calipari and Bill Self and Sean Miller hopping from event to event this week. However, that’s only part of it.
First off, “AAU basketball” often starts at ages as young as six or seven-years-old. Secondly, even at the highest levels (for 17 and 18-year-olds) it’s not as though it’s only the best players playing for the biggest name coaches while wearing Nike or Adidas. Instead, for every one Peach Jam, there are dozens of tournaments played by mostly low and mid-major recruits, for low and mid-major coaches.
As a matter of fact, while so many other college basketball writers were at Peach Jam this week, your favorite writer (me!) was actually at one of those events. It was called the “Pangos Premiere 80 Event” in Los Angeles, and I can tell you this: There were no John Calipari’s or Sean Miller’s sitting in chairs on the baseline, nor were there any James Wiseman’s or Cole Anthony’s on the court. Instead, there were a few Pac-12 assistants and mostly coaches from schools that you never hear or unless they make the NCAA Tournament out of one-bid leagues. I didn’t see any “Kentucky” or “Michigan State” polo shirts, but did see plenty of “Northern Colorado’s” and “San Francisco’s.”
And on the court, there were, frankly, a bunch of players who you’ll probably never hear of unless they get their “One Shining Moment” in a March down the road. There was Gabe Toombs, a powerful wing player from Utah who – after an extensive Google search – doesn’t even have a 247 Sports recruiting page. There was Andrew Graves, a 6’10 forward who told me that his only offer was Utah State – at least until the Utah State coaching staff got fired this spring. Now he’s not quite sure who is recruiting him. There was a kid named Demetrius Calip who threw down a monster dunk that left the whole gym shook (including me, who can be seen in the freeze frame with my right hand in the air)… but has seemingly no big offers.
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) July 12, 2018
And really, the Pangos Premiere 80 is what AAU basketball is about. It’s not about the 8-10 kids every year who we know will be lottery picks. It’s about the hundreds who are fighting for a single scholarship offer in hopes they might be able to continue their careers and get a free education. That’s what the Rice Commission didn’t understand and why their proposed change would be a disaster. Fewer events mean fewer opportunities for kids to be seen. Many of the kids at the Pangos Premiere 80 might not have even been invited to the proposed regional camps, and many others certainly wouldn’t have advanced to the second and third stages where more college coaches can see them.
To use an example more close to home, how much has the July evaluation period helped someone like Dontaie Allen, who is seemingly picking up a couple new offers every hour? You think it’s hurt him by going to Atlanta for the Under Armour event? On the flip side, even as good as he is, you think agents and shoe reps are surrounding him like vultures trying to funnel money to him? Don’t be ridiculous.
As a matter fact, most kids are a lot like the Gabe Toombs and Andrew Graves and Dontaie Allen’s of the world, guys just hoping for a chance to impress college coaches and earn a scholarship.
It’s something that the Rice Commission and the NCAA don’t fully understand.
It’s also who will be most impacted if these proposed rule changes go into place.