The biggest story this summer in the world of college basketball has been how different sport’s offseason regimen is going to look 12 months from now.
In April, Condoleezza Rice’s Commission on College Basketball recommended sweeping changes for the sport, including the creation of NCAA-run recruiting events in the summer. Since then, everyone associated with college hoops has wondered what those events might entail and how their formulation might alter the sport’s established summer setup.
Now, via a slew of NCAA releases on policy changes Wednesday afternoon, we have our answers.
What’s changing here?
The biggest change as far as recruiting is concerned is that the NCAA, the NBA, the NBA Players Association, and USA Basketball are all going to work together to hold “camp-type events” at the end of July that will attract the top 2,000 or so high school basketball players in America and all of college basketball’s top coaches. The camp attendees will be comprised mostly of high school seniors and juniors, with a few elite sophomore receiving invitations. No freshmen will be invited, and there will be no shoe company presence at the camps.
These camps, as of now, will be in direct conflict with the biggest annual tournaments put on by both Adidas and Under Armour. Under Armour and Adidas will now be faced with one of two options: Move their premiere tournaments up and hold them at the same time as Nike’s famous Peach Jam tournament, or keep everything the same and bank on at least some of the nation’s top talent choosing to bypass these camps.
So Peach Jam is staying the same?
It appears so.
Earlier this month, Jeff Goodman reported on Twitter that the NCAA’s plan was to take control of the entire July evaluation period, effectively ending the Peach Jam’s reign as the most important recruiting event of the calendar year. Almost universally, college basketball coaches railed against the idea.
“If there’s one thing we’re going to miss evaluating with the new calendar and the new rules, it’s the Peach Jam,” Notre Dame coach Brey said during the 2018 event. “I’d actually argue that maybe we keep this one AAU weekend together so we can go to the Peach Jam, but obviously there’s a move to change that and July will look different.
“If you would poll the coaches, 95 percent of them would say that this is the best event to evaluate in and keep this. I think Nike has done a great job having the best players. The EYBL has got the best players. And you know, just the setting here with the intensity and what’s being played for — it’s like the national championship — how the arena is set up with the people up top and the energy in the building, it makes for an unbelievable atmosphere.”
Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski added that “It would be sacrilegious if they took away summer basketball.”
Ultimately, it seems as though the NCAA heard the pleas from the coaches and opted to compromise. The Peach Jam will remain as is, but the rest of the July live period will look dramatically different.
Will these new camps tie into the changes regarding players having agents?
It’s a safe bet.
Perhaps the most noteworthy change announced by the NCAA on Wednesday was that “elite” high school and college players will now have the opportunity to be represented by an approved agent. That change begs the question of how the NCAA is going to determine which players are “elite” and which aren’t. The easiest solution would seem to be that any player who receives an invitation to this new July camp will also earn “elite” status and therefore be permitted to hire an agent.
Is there anything else in this new plan that benefits the coaches and college basketball programs?
Sort of. As of right now, coaches are forbidden from paying in-house visits to recruits before they have fully completed their junior year of high school. The new rules will allow coaches to have unrestricted in-home visits with recruits during the April evaluation period, which will otherwise remain unchanged.
Also, student-athletes can now take up to 15 official visits beginning on Aug. 1 before their junior year of high school. Schools can now pay for 28 official visits over a rolling, two-year period.
Will any of the other recruiting months change?
There will be some slight changes to April as mentioned, but May will remain a “quiet month” without any recruiting events. The last two weeks of June will now include a number of these NCAA-sponsored camps. The camps will be regional, and participants will be playing with their high school teammates, sort of like the traditional team camps that were more popular before the rise of AAU basketball.
Who does this hurt the most?
Aside from Adidas and Under Armour, the real losers here are the “diamond in the rough” kids who would have been discovered at one of these July tournaments.
This past March, Bob Huggins told the story of being up early at an AAU event and noticing a kid full-court pressing all by himself “on the furthest court you could be on.” Huggins watched the kid for the rest of the game and fell in love with the way he played. He had no major scholarship offers and hadn’t even been evaluated by most of the scouting services, but Jevon Carter wound up getting offered by Huggins based largely on sheer luck. Carter wound up becoming an All-American, a two-time Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, and the No. 32 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.
Players like Carter are the ones who are going to be most adversely affected by these changes, not the can’t miss five-star prospects like Marvin Bagley and DeAndre Ayton.
Who does this benefit the most?
It’s hard to see how this really benefits any of the major players involved, outside of the coaches who wish they had more time to golf. The off-the-radar gets get hurt, the can’t miss prospects have to participate in camps instead of tournaments they seem to enjoy playing in, the shoe companies and the grassroots basketball organizations take a significant hit, and the coaches no longer get to evaluate prospects in a setting they’ve become comfortable in.
The only real winner here would seem to be the NCAA, which has been eager from second one of the FBI investigation into college basketball to lump the lion’s share of the blame for the sport’s issues onto the shoe companies and the “seedy” world of summer basketball.
The runner-up winner would be Nike, which gets to keep its premiere event while its rising competitors are forced to adapt.
What is this going to change, really?
Outside of stories like Jevon Carter’s being harder to come by, nothing really.
There were positive changes announced by the NCAA on Wednesday that will provide added benefit to the student athletes the institution is supposed to be protecting, but the changes to summer recruiting don’t fall under that umbrella.
This is essentially window dressing by the NCAA, which continues to push the narrative that the warts that were revealed last fall were the product of shady outside influences and not its own inherently flawed infrastructure. This is noise for the sake of noise, change for the sake of change, running in place in the wake of a natural disaster that demanded movement.
At least Peach Jam lives on.