In two weeks, college basketball recruiting changes significantly

Unlimited calls and texts from coaches to recruits soon to be OK

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March 31, 2014 | 7:50 pm

Men’s college basketball recruits may want to start keeping their cellphones fully charged.

Or they may not.

An NCAA rule-change goes into effect on June 15 that will radically change how the basketball recruiting game is played. It will let men’s college basketball coaches make unlimited phone calls and send unlimited text messages to players who have just finished their sophomore years of high school.

The current rule: Coaches can call a recruit once per month from June 15 after his sophomore year to July 31 after his junior year, and make two calls per week to a recruit starting Aug. 1 after the player’s junior year. Text messages from coaches to recruits had been off-limits altogether.

That, perhaps all coaches agree, is better than getting messages across via other channels like AAU or high school coaches. Now, players can seemingly get to know coaches better and vice versa.

Perhaps players getting more familiar with coaches in the recruiting process will help lower the transfer rate in men’s basketball that seems to grow with each passing off-season.

Iowa assistant coach Andrew Francis is on the recruiting front lines for Fran McCaffery’s Hawkeyes men’s basketball program. He likes the change, though it will mean more work for him.

“There are pros and cons with every rule-change involving recruits,” Francis said. “But obviously, having the ability to have direct contact with recruits will always be a great thing and a chance to develop a relationship that you don’t really have when you get in touch with someone else and play that triangle game.

“It can be difficult at times when you involve other people.”

The new rule would seem to give recruits more control, which is a good thing. If they want to pick the brains of recruiters to the point where they feel they know exactly who and what they’re being sold, good. If they want coaches to back off and let them breathe, good.

The trick for the coaches is to know how hard a sell they need to use with each recruit.

“It could get out of hand for some elite players,” Francis admitted. “That could be a concern. As a parent or mentor of a recruit, they have to set some parameters.”

What’s to stop a coach from trying to talk to recruits daily, and multiple times a day? Well, nothing. But it’s like any courtship. Sometimes, the more aggressive you are, the more you turn off the person you’re pursuing.

“You don’t want to be overbearing,” Francis said. “You want them to feel the love from your end, as people and not just basketball players.

“You have to use good judgment. You can call one day and have a great conversation. Should you call back the same day? That could be overkill.

“My philosophy is it’s not my place to put any kind of heat on any young man. It’s a big decision in their lives. Our job is to inform them and develop relationships, to shine a positive light on our program and coaching staff, and the young men in our program.”

Good coaching is vital to a team’s success. But without strong recruiting, a program has a much-lower ceiling. Good recruiters in college sports seldom worry about being unemployed.

“I personally love it,” Francis said. “It’s a chance to know young men and their families and share what you’re trying to do.

“With anything in life, there are moments of frustration. It’s hard work. But any time you want to get high achievements, you’ve got to work to get those achievements. But while recruiting is hard work, I love what I do, so it doesn’t seem much like work.”

Just this week, Isaac Chew left the Illinois staff to take an assistant coach’s job at Marquette. One published report said Chew, hired six weeks ago from Missouri by new Illinois head coach John Groce, is getting about a $100,000 bump up to about $250,000 per year in making the move.

Chew had spent a year at Missouri as its key recruiter after helping build the Murray State program.

The majority opinion is that Iowa had a very good 2012 recruiting class. McCaffery is the deal-sealer, but much of the heavy lifting is done by his assistants on the road. And soon, more than ever, on the phone.

 

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