July is the longest month on the college basketball recruiting calendar. It’s an indisputable fact. Anyone who has participated in the post-Independence Day race will agree what a bear the month is both physically and mentally. After three weeks of coast-to-coast travel and countless games, the natural tendency is to shut it down, take a few days off and rest. Many kids and some college coaches will do just that, but we’re here to tell you that there is no rest for the weary gym rat. August is going to be busy.
The spring and summer of 2010 were tame if you compare them to previous recruiting seasons. The amount of Top 100 level commitments was definitely down and the number of underclassmen making pledges took a nose dive as well. There are two major contributing factors to this trend. First, college coaches haven’t seen the young guys as much in the spring due to the changing landscape of the rules. Secondly, since the spring of 2009, big time prospects have notoriously been late decision makers.
Regardless of what happened in the past, August (especially the next two weeks) is going to bring about a rash of commitments. It’s going to happen. The writing is on the wall and we have four contributing reasons to why we think August is going to be busy on the recruiting front.
Players Know Where They Want To Go
Let’s not be naïve. Some high school players went out in July armed with the knowledge of what school they wanted to attend. There are two big reasons why they didn’t commit pre-July: attention and friendship.
I know you’re going to find this hard to believe (tongue placed firmly in cheek) but some kids crave the spotlight and want to be on center stage in July. The guys who enter the month uncommitted know it is their time to make a splash, their final hurrah in many cases. Guys who are wired up that way aren’t going to commit before July; they are going to ride it out. If you don’t have a Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, or North Carolina scholarship offer, the thinking is you can earn one in July and if it doesn’t happen, you can always pledge to the school you were already leaning toward in August.
The other reason why a player might wait until August or later in the fall, is out of loyalty to his friends or AAU coach. A highly regarded player is going to draw attention from college coaches. The more coaches, the more chances – kids believe – for their teammates and friends to play in front of a crowd and impress.
“There’s a level of urgency that comes into play and its kind of a natural time to do it,” one college coach said. “A guy might be thinking all along where he’s going. He’ll play and say maybe I’ll catch so and so’s eye, then he doesn’t get any calls and just goes ahead and gets it done for the one he wanted anyway.”
AAU coaches often times would prefer to have the stands full as well. If given the choice of having his star player commit in the spring or fall, an AAU coach would more often than not pick the fall because of the exposure a big time player can generate for his team and his program. There are certainly exceptions to the rule but few AAU coaches would endorse a June 30 commitment over an August 1 pledge.
As of August 1, college coaches can place two legal telephone calls per week to senior prospects. “If you’re being recruited by 10 schools, that’s 20 calls a week plus any illegal calls,” one head coach told Scout.com. “Kids and parents get worn down.”
Put yourself in the position of player. You’ve just traveled all over the country, played who knows how many games and put your body through a diet of fast food, Gatorade and wall-to-wall ball. If you’re not tired, you’re not human.
Even before the physical fatigue fully sets in, mentally you’ve checked out. Your ability to analyze, process what’s happening and even have a moment to yourself is hard to come by. Your body and brain are worn down. One telephone call to a school can ease your mind and create that sense of peace you need before you can properly get your rest.
“Coaches and players and parents and AAU coaches are all mentally and physically drained from July,” one head coach said. “There’s nothing better in the minds of a college coach and to some extent in the mind of a kid, just getting this over with.”
Pressure From College Coaches
Kids play hard, coaches work and travel hard in July. It’s the nature of the beast. And many assistant coaches, once they get off the road in July, start feeling pressure to produce. Each has internal stress to produce that next big “get” for his school because that is his job. Each has stress from above because head coaches are getting paid big bucks and fans want their team to lock up recruits they’ve been reading about all month.
Basically, it’s “go time” for college staffs. When you’ve seen a kid play 12 times in 20 days in the last month, you’d like to be rewarded for your time. Ideally, you want to have a kid commit to you before other schools miss on their top targets and you have to deal with more traffic to land your No. 1 guy.
“I think August is important,” one assistant told Scout.com. “If you can prevent (your prospects) from going on unofficial visits then that really helps in the recruiting process. When August comes you have to get guys to commit without taking visits, especially if they’ve already been to your campus. When they start visiting that can drag it out until October.”
Once October rolls around, anything can happen. At that point in the year, you’ve either landed your top guys, are in a holding pattern with an elite player or are scrambling to find more targets. It’s hectic and schools cannibalize targets from other programs as they miss on their priority recruits. Not to mention, in October practice starts and ideally you’re mixing it up with underclassmen if you haven’t been already.
The average fan who thinks his or her head coach just shuts it down after July and hits the golf course isn’t plugged in like he or she thinks.
“You come in and get right after it. You make calls and get right on the phone. Not only are you doing it for seniors, you’re doing it for juniors. You gotta get going. I think a lot of people take vacations but you have to make recruiting calls while you’re gone so you can set up the visits as soon as possible.”
Committing is contagious for a number of reasons. We can’t forget that no matter how physically mature a kid looks, he is a high school kid. He is a teenager and one not immune to peer pressure. Once a player from his high school or AAU commits, it gets the wheels turning.
Taking it a step further, once a player commits to a school the prospect had on his short list, he’s just lost out on an option. Not many kids have the leverage or courage to begin calling a school’s bluff or playing chicken with a scholarship offer from a program they really would consider attending. If you’re smart, you know every time another player commits, it takes away a potential scholarship from you and the school you would like to attend.
Love The One You’re With
This year, the power forward and center positions are extremely thin. On August 1, four big men committed, one of them a Top 100 player, another a lock high-major prospect and two strong mid-level prospects. These situations were not related to one another at all, but they will cause a ripple effect. Plus, the four schools – Dayton, Central Florida, Rutgers and Kansas State – dodged bullets by locking up first tier targets before anyone could move on them after July.
When a position isn’t deep, like the bigs this year, the urgency on the part of the schools gets cranked up with every new pledge. It’s that urgency, combined with the fatigue of last month and the entire recruiting process that leads to busy commitment months like the one we’re about to enter.