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The NCAA is trying to destroy AAU basketball

Changes are reportedly coming to college basketball recruiting, and they will be here soon.

Condoleezza Rice Visits ‘FOX And Friends’ Photo by Rob Kim/Getty Images

The NCAA is ready to make drastic changes to the way high school basketball players are recruited by Division I colleges. The summer evaluation period will reportedly be overhauled for 2019, with the goal of lessening the influence shoe company-sponsored grassroots teams and coaches have on recruiting.

These changes are set to be recommended by the NABC — National Association of Basketball Coaches — ad hoc committee to Condoleezza Rice’s Commission on College Basketball in August. The recommendations, which were originally reported by insider Jeff Goodman, are “expected to be implemented swiftly and without much pushback.”

We now have more details on how recruiting will change from Matt Norlander of CBS. This is what you need to know:

  • College coaches typically get three weekends to be on the road recruiting in July at shoe company-sponsored grassroots events. Under the new rules, the coaches will only be allowed one weekend at shoe company events, which will be based around Nike’s season-ending Peach Jam tournament on the EYBL.
  • The second July recruiting weekend will now be five or six days long and will feature regional camps put on by the NCAA, with the help of the NBA, NBAPA and USA Basketball. College coaches will nominate the players invited to the camps. There will be 2,000 players nation-wide invited to these camps, and 1,100 of them will be seniors.
  • June will now feature a live recruiting period as well, which hasn’t been the case previously. Here’s the catch: shoe company events will be barred, meaning coaches will be watching players play with their high school teams in the summer. This is how things used to work before the shoe companies essentially took over the process. In the state of Illinois, the Morris Shootout is one example of a high school-based tournament that could now have college coaches in attendance.
  • Goodman says the objective is to “try to take some of the power away from AAU coaches and give it back to the high school coaches.”

The intent here is clear: the NCAA wants wholesale changes to idea of “AAU” basketball, and it’s starting with the summer evaluation period.

What is the summer evaluation period?

Right now, college coaches are permitted to be the gym watching recruits for two weeks in the spring and three weeks in the summer. This is when coaches pack the gyms at the shoe company-sponsored events and do their scouting.

The players get exposure. The coaches get to see a ton of kids in an organized and competitive setting.

The shoe companies foot massive bills for all this. Essentially, the development of elite high school basketball players is currently being outsourced to Nike, Under Armour, and Adidas. Those shoe company leagues aren’t going anywhere yet, but it’s clear the NCAA wants to diminish their influence in recruiting.

What’s really changing?

Let’s use Nike’s EYBL league as an example. Right now, the EYBL runs four “sessions” in the spring. This is the league’s regular season, where teams come in for the weekend and play about five games each. This year, the sessions were held in Texas, Indiana, Georgia, and Virginia.

At the end of the season, the best teams in the league go to Peach Jam. This is the playoffs and a champion is crowned. This year, that will be from July 11-15, which is an evaluation period, which, again, means college coaches are in the gym. Under Armour and Adidas both follow a similar model.

That’s just one weekend during the evaluation period. There’s a huge showcase in Las Vegas every year too, where the lines are often blurred between the shoe company leagues and teams play in tournaments. This has been a star-making exposure event for years. It reportedly won’t be anymore if the NCAA gets its way.

Why is this happening?

It more or less comes down to this:

When Rice’s commission gave its first report in April, it doubled down on the idea of keeping college basketball a bastion for amateur athletics. Rice’s commission said from the onset that the NCAA must “take control” of AAU basketball, recommending the NCAA run its own events that steer elite recruits away from the shoe company leagues.

This is effectively what’s going to happen. The EYBL and Under Armour Association will still exist. College coaches will still be in the gym at those leagues during the spring, at least for now. But the NCAA is very transparently trying to rework the idea of modern “AAU” basketball, in the process stripping away most of its relevancy and influence.

Is this the right move?

Something was always going to change in the wake of the FBI corruption investigation that led to college basketball assistant coaches and shoe company executives getting arrested. The way these commissions see it, the best thing college basketball can do is break up the shoe company leagues and put a greater emphasis on the role individual high schools play in the development and recruiting process.

That might be a good idea in some specific instances, but it’s also overlooking all of the good “AAU” has done for young basketball players in this country. Grassroots basketball was never all bad. There are so many coaches working for little or no pay just to help young athletes get college exposure. At its core, that’s always what it was all about.

Corruption happened because basketball is a huge business, and the NCAA has decided its players cannot be compensated for their talent. As long as that’s the case, there’s always going to be something of a black market. This is a bandaid, and it’s not a particularly progressive one.

College basketball recruiting will be overhauled. This is only the start.