One Question Mailbag - Hoops Recruiting
I started responding to this tweet and realized I'd need two or three tweets to get my answer in. So I figured I'd just bring it over here and answer. This post won't count as a click - just consider it a longform Twitter answer to a question about basketball recruiting.
Here's the question:
Here's my honest answer.
I haven't paid attention?
I know that a ~shrug~ is an annoying way to answer a question but it's the truth. Go through my entire Twitter feed and my entire (now-expanded) catalog of articles: I don't think I've said one thing about hoops recruiting since Luke Goode committed in April. I didn't write my yearly summer "needs" post, I didn't identify any targets, I barely followed along.
The reason? It's threefold: 1) Covid prevented AAU ball + fall visits, 2) my shift on how I cover recruiting, and 3) recruiting excitement exhaustion. I have about 45 minutes here before I fall asleep - let's see if I can crank through all three in 45 minutes.
Without AAU ball and without fall visits, there's not much for me to follow. I don't subscribe to any recruiting services nor do I read any premium message boards, so my recruiting info generally comes from reading AAU reports from national writers (the ones that aren't behind paywalls) and watching YouTube videos of summer tournament performances. I also paid attention to who was visiting who and in what order. This is where I honed my #take that I wanted to prioritize Tim Finke (now at Wright State) over Talen Horton-Tucker (just won a ring with the Lakers).
None of that was possible this year because of Covid. So that puts almost all recruiting information behind paywalls. I don't think it's right for me to pay for that, so without anything to pay attention to, well, I didn't really pay attention.
2. Recruiting shift
I wrote about this during the spring in a long, rambling 5,000 word post. Read it if you want (it will cost you a click), but I'll just sum it up here. With recruiting - mostly football, but also basketball - I'm at this "all I can REALLY do is evaluate the players when they verbal" point. I'm never going to contact recruits, and I'm never going to have recruiting scoop (I'm a fan, and a fan contacting a recruit - even a credentialed fan - would basically be an NCAA violation), so for a guy who writes words about college sports that basically leaves me with "evaluate the recruit after he commits".
And as each year passes, I find that I care about recruiting less and less. Please note that this is not the "WHO CARES? I'll just see who signs on signing day" #take that your angry uncle has towards recruiting. Recruiting is everything - it's why we're #5 again - and I'll never be "who cares?" about recruiting.
But as far as priorities for me (and that's fan-me and not reporter-me), recruiting interest has fallen off quickly. When there are LLUOI posts to write, I'm totally there. Other than that, I've started to care less and less. So maybe I am your uncle.
3. Recruiting exhaustion
This is the biggest of the three. Call it boy-who-cried-wolf syndrome.
I'm part of several group texts. Honestly, probably 85% of my knowledge of names we're recruiting comes from two of those group texts. It's kinda funny. This is literally my job now, and I learn about recruiting buzz from my friends who are sitting at their desks at work.
This year, those two group texts have blown up with excitement over at least, I don't know, half a dozen names. This guy is close to committing, I think we're the leaders for this guy, hearing good things about this guy. And none of it panned out.
I don't know where my friends are getting their information. But from a distance, I'm confused as to why they're so addicted to recruiting information. If the last six names they've tossed out with "the buzz is really solid with this one!" have all fizzled, why are they getting excited about a seventh name?
And that's not a shot at the coaching staff. I'm not saying "Underwood isn't going to land another recruit again so why bother". I'm saying that someone is telling my friends that the vibes are good, and after half a dozen "I guess the vibes weren't good" disappointments, at some point you have to start to wonder if the vibe-meter is off, right?
I know I can't say that without sounding like I'm taking a shot at everyone covering recruiting, but I'm just trying to tell you what my blind-nil experience is like. I intentionally place myself in the dark, and from my dark corner, the only recruit who approached "we're in full pursuit and I think we might get him" this year is Jordan Nesbitt. And that's coming from people who I talk to in that dark corner. Seemed like it was going to happen right up until it didn't.
All of the other names this summer and fall, for me, were the same experience. I'd be somewhere around 20% chance (either we were only casually recruiting the kid or the kid was clearly not interested), everyone I know would be up near an 80% chance. They'd be devastated at the news of no verbal and I'd be shrugging.
I hope that makes sense. I'm really not saying what you think I'm saying. I'm not saying "be like me and don't follow recruiting because it's dumb". I'm saying "maybe sometimes people get a little too close?".
And that's not "everything is fine", either. We don't know what happens with Trent and Da'Monte and the extra year provided by the Covid waiver, but we do know that Ayo and most likely Kofi will be gone. Miller and Curbelo can step into the Ayo hole, but Kofi leaves a very large hole. Luke Goode cannot fill that (he's a 3-4). Not to mention the fact that we're currently #5 in the polls and need to turn that into a high-end recruiting class.
I'm just saying that I don't seem to align with everyone I talk to when it comes to basketball recruiting. I wish I had more LLUOI posts to write, but there didn't seem to be any Miller/Dosunmu situations in this class. We did land Goode early, but now we're back to "wait until spring" recruiting again.
I should probably go through those numbers again. Brad Underwood has signed 20 players to a letter-of-intent here (21 if you count Bernard Kouma). Any guesses as to how many players signed in November?
Four. Ayo Dosunmu, Coleman Hawkins, Andre Curbelo, Luke Goode. Four in the fall, 16 in the spring.
So despite my hopes that Hawkins and Curbelo last year (plus Goode this year) meant that we'd be recruiting in a more "normal" way, it looks like we're back to what it's been for every class. Skip the fall formal and go to the spring fling.
Add all of that up (it was really more like five points, not three), and I'm mostly shrugging because I truly honestly haven't paid much attention. The class didn't have any Adam Millers (in-state must gets) so there wasn't a headliner to follow, and I never really paid much attention to some recruits my friends obsessed over (Bryce Hopkins, TyTy Washington), so I'm in this situation where have friends dialing 911 while I'm figuring I'll just check on what that noise was in the morning.
Besides, the transfer rule change happens in maybe six weeks (every player will be immediately eligible upon transferring) and recruiting will change forever. Jason Preston will look pretty good in orange and blue, don't you think?