The second July NCAA Live Period concluded on Sunday and we evaluated a plethora of quality prospects at the adidas 3SSB Open and Pangos Terrific 24 West in SoCal and the Big Time Tournament in Las Vegas. There was far more than just prospects to evaluate, as what is currently transpiring off the court is as important to the game’s future as college looking for the right players to offer a scholarship to. We go over the five macro items we learned this past week!
1. There is no Such Thing as Building for the Future Anymore
The bluest of Blue Blood college basketball programs have been re-loading each season in recent years, and have the recruiting reach to successfully do so. Going forward, college teams that traditionally don’t build rosters in such manner are going to be in the same boat and won’t have the luxury of building for a future season, even if that’s been a key to their success and the best strategy for job security. Non-Blue Bloods will have no choice going forward. The days of bringing in a good recruiting class and eyeing a deep NCAA tournament run in two or three seasons down the line is over. That’s because on August 3, the NCAA Board of Directors is expected to go through with the recommendation that the restriction against players transferring multiple times be eliminated. We could see a scenario soon where scholarship players transfer three times in four seasons. The coaches already had to change strategies with the one-time transfer rule, but this new change could potentially open up the floodgates to a completely different looking NCAA basketball landscape. Four-year D1 coaching staffs are going to have to take a JUCO approach to recruiting with the expectation of fielding a new team each season. For the most part, college coaches can no longer afford to take a flyer on a project or project too far down the line on a late-bloomer. The strategy is take the best available now and fill in team holes via the NCAA transfer portal. What we’re seeing is the NCAA’s amateurism model quickly erode away. Revenue-generating college basketball (and football) players are going to be treated as non student-athletes going forward with the ability to use their Name, Image, Likeness (NIL) for their own monetary gain and to be able to transfer without penalty.
2. The Scholastic Live Period Has Changed Scholarship Strategies
There is almost universal applause for the June Scholastic Live Period that began in 2019 as a result of the NCAA’s D1 basketball corruption scandal in 2017–18. College coaches enjoy evaluating prospects in a high school setting, high school coaches enjoy the competition, camaraderie and the chance to network, and scouts also love the atmosphere. In 2021 after a year absence because of COVID-19, college coaches got their first live look at prospects in over a calender year, particularly at Section 7 in Arizona, and offers were flying off the shelf. It was hard to blame coaches, but they quickly fell in love with some solid to fringe prospects. For some of those underclass prospects still around on the 2022 summer circuit, coaches realized they overshot with players they have now cooled on. It happened again in 2022, but with less fervor. One mid major coach we spoke to at length realized he had to be more cautious during the two weekends of the 2022 live scholastic period. “I learned my lesson,” the coach stated. In the scholastic setting, a vast majority of the players are not future D1 recruits so the top players stand out even further. The lesson the coach was referring to was seeing the same player outside the scholastic setting in a high level 17U game with other similarly talented players with similar positional size. One trend we still see happening is a premium value placed on big men (6-foot-9 and taller), which results in some bigs getting over-recruited. Why do we feel they are being over-recruited? Because we’ve seen the prospects a handful of times more in a high school and grassroots setting than the college coaches because of their limited live access. The ace recruiters out there are keeping in contact with recruits they lose out on that are going to a higher level because they are predicting the “bounce back” when the player settles in at the level he likely should have been recruited at all along. The NCAA transfer portal has created a new aspect of recruiting to master: predicting who will eventually “portal up” or “portal down”.
3. Mid and Low Major Coaches are Holding Their Collective Breaths
As if the transfer portal and the looming transfer rule changes aren’t enough to make their job harder, mid and low major college coaches are worried how the fallout of Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) legislation will affect their programs going forward. The reality is little, if any, hard data exists of how NIL deals positively impact the entities that agree to make a deal with a college student-athlete. On average, the return on investment (ROI) for these companies and entities that agree to a NIL deal is not in line with the amounts of money being reported. In the cut-throat world of college men’s basketball and football, schools and boosters know this already and have quickly formed NIL collectives, a cooperative enterprise founded independent of a university by influential school supporters or prominent alumni that pool funds to help create NIL opportunities. They have been created so fast that there are still questions among legal experts if these NIL collectives can lawfully operate as nonprofits and as of now, the NCAA is nearly toothless to regulate them. That’s why many mid and low major coaches are worried, especially among successful basketball programs at these levels whose schools don’t even have football programs. They know their program can’t compete with schools where collectives are already in place or in the process of being created and soon all Power 5 conferences will have at least one NIL collective associated with their program. Simply put, collectives and the “NIL deals” they create are just a proxy for a salary. In many cases, the football and basketball athlete’s NIL value is not in line to what he will collect and right now there is nothing the NCAA can do about it. Without clear NCAA regulation, mid and low majors believe there will be no way to compete with schools that can offer the player compensation through a collective, no matter how good the fit or how hard the program worked to recruit him. The NCAA simply waited way too long to allow student-athletes the basic American right to profit off their likeness (that all other students have long had to ability to do) and the situation is quickly getting out of hand. Mid and low major D1 coaches feel they are the casualties of this amateurism war.
4. Bad Advice Still Runs Rampant
There is no doubt college basketball recruiting is much different than before the corruption scandal of 2017-18 and the onset of COVID-19 in 2020. In fact, scouts have created the term “COVID D2” to describe a talented prospect who would have been a D1 recruit prior to 2020. Since the advent of the NCAA Transfer Portal, college coaches favor experienced players to fill out their rosters. Recruiting borderline D1/D2 prospects is secondary. If the proposed transfer restrictions are lifted by the NCAA on August 3, the recruiting for fringe high school prospects will only become more bleak. Despite the online resources, podcasts and material readily available to prospects and their parents, this month we have realized they are not getting the memo quick enough to how the recruiting landscape has changed. We were shocked to realize the amount of quality mid-major programs that have been “big-timed” by recruits outside the consensus Top 150, including one that just produced a Top 15 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. The “we’re going to wait to see what else comes” in hopes of landing a scholarship from a level higher program has been a hindrance to countless players in recent years. COVID-19 and what it changed in the recruiting world has not been learned fast enough by the masses and is one reason why coaches and scouts feel the transfer portal is out of control. Players that have done their homework on where they want to go to college would be smart to narrow down the list after the June scholastic period, take their visits in late summer/early fall and be prepared to commit and sign during the early period in November. Waiting around until the spring to see if anything “higher” comes can be a risky strategy. In fact, the transfer portal has more coaches staying home during the live spring evaluation period and if the coaches had their way, the NCAA would move the spring calendar to May, instead of April, so that April can be used to host transfer portal visits. It’s important for parents of 2023-2026 recruits to understand the recruiting landscape, set target dates and most importantly, be realistic about the opportunities available. Those scholarship opportunities are not as easy to come by as they were even five years ago. We’ll continue to use this website and the “In The Paint” podcast to educate the basketball community.
5. Columbus (Miami) HS is More Than the Boozers
We were ahead of the curve when it came to putting Columbus on the national map during the 2021-22 season. The Explorers finished ranked No. 45 in the final 2021-22 FAB 50 National Team Rankings after capturing the FHSAA Class 7A state title with a 45-44 victory over a Dr. Phillips (Orlando, Fla.) club that was nationally-ranked the entire season. Leading player Cameron Boozer went on to be named national freshman of the year and is already one of the best 10 players in the country, regardless of class. The 6-foot-8 forward displayed that at Section 7 in June and when leading NightRydas Elite to the Nike EYBL Peach Jam 15U championship alongside twin brother Cayden Boozer, a 6-foot-3 point guard. This upcoming season, Columbus will play a national schedule and fan will quickly find out the team is more than just the Boozer brothers. At the Las Vegas Big Time Tournament, three Columbus players led Team Hardaway (Fla.) to the 17U Invitational title with a 61-57 victory over Lakeshow Fuca 17U (Calif.). Malik Abdullahi, a 6-foot-7 2024 forward, was instrumental with his defensive performance down the stretch in the double-digit come-from-behind title game victory. On two occasions, he went to the square to swat quality inside shots by Lakeshow and had four blocks in the second half. He can defend multiple positions on the perimeter as well and can score around the basket. Garyn Bess, a 6-foot-1 2023 guard, nailed two free throws with seven seconds remaining to seal the victory over Lakeshow and impressed with his quickness and repeated paint drives. Bess finished the title game with 20 points, including two second half 3-pointers. Abdullah, who holds offers from Florida Atlantic University (FAU) and Albany and sports a reported 3.2 GPA, is hearing from many schools that will likely offer soon, or should, if they saw him over the course of the Big Time tourney. Abdullah finished the title game with 12 points after scoring 12 points in the 74-67 semifinal victory over the Salt Lake Rebels (Utah). Bess netted 25 points in the semifinal win and even though he didn’t score in the title game, 5-foot-10 2023 guard Kevin Noriega played a big role in the semifinal win by knocking down two 3-pointers and scoring eight points. How high will Columbus be ranked in the 2022-23 preseason FAB 50?
Editor’s Note: We’ll talk about more prospects in our upcoming Live Period player report.