19
September , 2017
Tuesday

Darryl Slater

Richmond Times Dispatch
Oct 22, 2010

Last month, something happened behind closed doors in Chicago that could change the way college basketball teams build their teams. The Conference Commissioners Association voted unanimously, 31-0, to eliminate the July evaluation period starting in 2012.

The period is really two, 10-day periods, during which college coaches travel across the country and watch recruits play at events. Each event is a veritable buffet of talent for the coaches – a chance to see several or more recruiting targets in one location, sometimes (but not always) playing against top-flight competition.

Beyond that, why is the period so important?

The coaches used to be allowed to evaluate recruits during April at AAU events. No longer. Now, the offseason evaluation period consists only of July. This past summer, coaches could evaluate from July 6-15 and 22-31. (Here is a story about what a coach does when he is on the road evaluating in July.)

Yes, this year’s NCAA recruiting calendar also permitted coaches to evaluate during the school year – from Oct. 6 to March 31 – with the exception of Nov. 9-12, Dec. 24-26 and March 16-22. And every college coaching staff in the country does watch kids during the school year.

But July lets the coaches get the most bang for their buck. Moreover, many high-level recruits spend the school year playing with and against inferior talent at the high school level. Unlike college football, which has no equivalent to summer-league/AAU teams, college basketball recruiting has centered more on the summer scene for years.

Can’t the coaches just watch video of players? Absolutely. They can do that any time. The “evaluation” periods listed on the NCAA recruiting calendar merely designate the times when coaches can see a kid in person. But any coach will tell you that there’s nothing like seeing a player in person on several different occasions.

It seems that almost everybody other than the Conference Commissioners Association is opposed to eliminating July. The coaches, of course, have rallied against it, in the form of a letter that the National Association of Basketball Coaches sent to its members. Longtime recruiting analyst Dave Telep also believes eliminating July is a bad idea.

Now, July isn’t totally gone – at least not yet. According to the ESPN.com story linked in the first paragraph of this entry, the NCAA Division I Board of Directors will meet Thursday to determine what to do with the Conference Commissioners Association’s recommendation. And that’s all the 31-0 vote was – a recommendation. But certainly a strong one. All 31 Division I commissioners – including the ACC’s John Swofford – voted to eliminate July.

Here now, some reaction to the news from Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg and his older brother, Brad, who coaches Radford – a Big South school that doesn’t have the same recruiting budget or philosophy as major-conference schools, such as Tech.

“I think it’s a huge mistake,” Seth Greenberg said. “The one thing about the summer is it gives you an opportunity to see the masses. I’m not just talking about Virginia Tech and BCS conference [schools], but across the board. Talk about being fiscally responsible. It’s irresponsible if you eliminate the summer. It gives you an opportunity to see a number of kids in one setting, whether you’re Virginia Tech or whether you’re Radford or whether you’re Roanoke College. You can go to Orlando, you can go to Augusta, you can go to Phoenix, you can go to Las Vegas – and for a reasonable amount of money, you can see a number of different prospects. It’s impossible to do that during the season.

“I think the other thing is, they eliminated April and they thought that the [AAU] basketball [events] would disappear. Well, there’s more basketball being played in April than there’s ever been. I just think that they can’t legislate morality. Let’s make the right decision. Do we cut it back? Yes. Two seven-day periods [in July] and give us April back. That would make sense. [April] was two weekends. That would be a great compromise. But to eliminate it is not going to resolve the problem. You’re gonna see even more kids transfer. Let’s face it: Three or four hundred kids transferred last year. If we don’t have opportunities to evaluate them, more and more kids – and universities – are gonna make bad decisions.”

Seth Greenberg said the ACC’s coaches voted unanimously at their media day Wednesday in Charlotte, N.C. “to try to get the college commissioners together to spearhead the reasons why they need to keep the July recruiting period. That was one of the priorities for us … that we need to spearhead a move to keeping July viable.”

Swofford was not at media day, because he was having hip-replacement surgery. But Karl Hicks is the ACC’s associate commissioner for men’s basketball and “our conduit” to Swofford, Seth Greenberg said. So the coaches are going through Hicks to voice their opinion.

Why does Seth Greenberg think the commissioners voted to eliminate July?

“People are so paranoid about the transgressions and the horror stories,” he said. “But it’s not what people perceive it to be. Our business is no different than any other business. You’re gonna have good and bad lawyers. You’re gonna have good and bad doctors. You’re gonna have good and bad financial managers. But that shouldn’t be the reason to change a rule. What’s in the best interest of the kid? Well, the best interest of the kid is April makes sense because they’re not running 10 straight days from event to event [as players are in July]. So that’s a positive. The commissioners are concerned about them missing school. They’re still going to these events [in April]. So that’s still transpiring. We’ve got to stop being so reactionary and let’s make decisions in the best interest of the good of the group.”

Brad Greenberg can relate to his brother’s comment about “fiscally responsible.” At Radford, he can’t spend lavishly on recruiting. This summer, he drove seven hours to Indianapolis for a tournament.

He said July is “a tremendously cost effective way for mid-majors and and low majors and non-Division I schools to be able to see hundreds of prospects in a financially prudent way. If they don’t have the April period and they don’t have this, it would really make it very hard for us to evaluate a large enough pool of players to make a good decisions, certainly that could possibly give you a chance to sign players in the early signing period. [The early period, this school year, is Nov. 10-17. The regular period is April 13 to May 18.]

“Our recruiting isn’t like a lot of bigger schools, where they get their senior classes filled so early with their commitments that they’re focusing on underclassmen for a whole winter before these kids even become seniors.

“There are so many kids transferring right now, [eliminating July] would be a great hardship to the decision making process. It would make it much more difficult to effectively evaluate players. And we’re talking about offering scholarships, for a public school, that might be the equivalent of $150,000 to $200,000 worth of value over the course of a player’s four years. If you’re at a private university, it could be $300,000, $400,000 of an investment that you’re not having the right information to make those kind of decisions. It’s very short-sighted for conference commissioners to think that it’s in the best interest of universities and basketball teams [to eliminate July].”

As for in-season recruiting, Brad Greenberg said, “We can go out, but it’s hard for a coach to go out without missing practice if the kid is four hours away and is playing a seven o’ clock game. Our travel is different. A big-time school can get on a plane and go and not worry about it. We drive four or five or six hours. How about the schools that happen to be located in an area where they have to get on a plane no matter where they go?

“I think you should be able to go see the kids as much as you want to see them. And if your school gives you a certain budget that prohibits you from doing it as much …

“But these are important decisions. These are decisions that affect the school. They’re decisions that affect young men. With my background in the NBA [player personnel director in Portland, general manager in Philadelphia], I think the evaluation process is equally or more important than the recruiting process. I think deciding on which players you really believe have the best chance to fit in your school, and for those players to know what they’re getting into, too, so they make the right decisions. I think the process has been sped up so much, you’ve got kids being offered scholarships so early. Coaches don’t know what they’re getting, even, when they offer a scholarship.

“When I was a player personnel director in the NBA, getting ready for the draft, I would watch a kid seven, eight, nine times in person, hopefully, study a whole bunch of tape and at the end of it all, still, hope like heck you were lucky that what you thought you were getting you got.

“In college, there’s some programs that feel if they see a kid one time in a summer league/AAU game, they’ve got to offer or else they have no chance. They watch the guy play in a semi-artificial setting on a team that maybe practices once a week, two weeks before they play in a tournament, and they’re making a decision based on that. Now, that’s hard. I find it hard.

“We’re very deliberate with our recruiting, and it hurts us some. Some schools think they’ve got to offer scholarships to every kid or else the kid won’t think that they’re interested. We don’t do that. We tell them, ‘We take this evaluation process serious. If we offer you a scholarship, you’ve got a scholarship, and if you tell us you want to come, we’re taking you.’ A lot of schools will offer 25 scholarships to cover their tail and then when No. 21 says yes, they go, ‘Well, we’ve got to check your grades. And you have to come on an official visit. We have to see how you do the first semester.’ They start back-tracking because No. 21 isn’t the guy they really want. He doesn’t know he’s a backup until he tells them he wants to come, and then they start hemming and hawing.”

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