NCAA: Recruiting Is A Sneaky Trickster

The college basketball offseason is important for a number of reasons. Between coaches changing schools, players transferring and recruiting, there are as many stories going on as there are during the season. However, we tend to put too much stock in a lot of these moves. More stock into something that just doesn’t equate to a program’s success in the way we think it does.

Still, coaches changing schools is a pretty big deal. Land or lose a certain coach and multiple programs’ futures can be altered.

But that is where the really important stuff ends. Especially when you consider the fact that transferring has become such a regular thing, with so many players leaving schools, that every school’s fortunes are getting hit via a kid taking his talents elsewhere.

Programs losing talent, though, is kind of understood at this point. Recruit a four-star prospect, he doesn’t see as much action in his first year or so, and the player leaves the program for a more ho-hum type of school for more playing time. Really, if the kid wasn’t as good as the coach thought when he recruited him, losing a guy who played eight minutes per game isn’t that big of a deal.

What is that big of a deal, is the fact that the coach, player, and fans all overvalued his worth to begin with. Why? Because college basketball recruiting is the sport’s sneakiest trickster, almost a phony, near con-man. It’s an eater of the souls of the people who had realistic expectations to being with.

A slew of recruiting service websites have their top-whatever lists out for the 2014 class. Makes sense. The scouts for each site have had years to watch these kids play in tournaments, summer camps, etc. Yet somehow, magically even, they also release top-whatever lists for the 2015, 2016 and even 2017 classes. Which is like a pop-culture expert releasing a top-10 movies for the summer of 2017 list just based off of a project being funded. Not filmed, not casted, not even written, but just funded.

That is what we are doing with college basketball recruiting. We minimize actual player evaluation in the name of putting together lists, getting fanbases all riled up, in the name of looking smart – I guess.

That’s not to say that there is no value in recruiting service websites. Most of them do a great job evaluating the talent. Seriously, they have a tremendously difficult job to do. Out of the hundreds of thousands of potential Division I players each year, these scouts narrow the skill of each player into categories – usually via “stars” or “grades” – and do a solid job of getting it close to right.

However, it is just close to right.

How many four-star basketball players are there for each offseason? As an example, ESPN has at least 100. So, in theory, there are at least 100 players in the 2014 class that are deemed as being good enough to be listed as four-star recruits. Only 29 of those 100, though, are deemed to be good enough to be considered as five-star recruits.

Although, 29 is still a pretty high number. I mean, that’s 29 guys who are going to a slew of programs billed as being a five-star recruit. That sort of thing gets fanbases all hot and bothered throughout the entire country.

Are all of these players that good, though? Will all of the 100 four-star players have that much of an impact as you tend to think a player with that rating will have?

Of course not. It isn’t realistic to think that every scout was right while evaluating a player. It also doesn’t help that a slew of these players will transfer at a later date, meaning that player will actually be of little to no consequence to the original program he committed to.

By the time it is all said and done, there are expected to be over 600 players who have transferred from whatever program they originally committed to this offseason. Of those 600, most of them are three-to-four-star rated prospects coming out of high school. So, yeah, think about that for a second.

Again, I am not trying to diminish the worth of scouting, evaluating, and letting us know which high school prospects are going to be good college players. It is more of a hey, keep your expectations at a reasonable level type of thing.

Because we get so excited over recruiting, people tend to make rash predictions regarding the future of programs or the said players. I’m not talking about the recruiting service scouts either. I am talking more about people who have seen a high-grade of a player who isn’t coming out for a couple of years, but saw a YouTube highlight clip of him and now wants to compare him to LeBron James or Kevin Durant.

The keyword there being “highlight clip,” as in the person has a preconceived notion of the player because he saw the player being

May 27, 2014; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) reacts after a play against the San Antonio Spurs during the first quarter in game four of the Western Conference Finals of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

graded as a five-star level recruit and saw a video of him that is designed to only show him doing great things. So, yeah, naturally the person is going to think that this kid is great. Then, that person is going to talk about the prospect as if he knows how great this kid is going to be because of a highlight clip. Raising the level of expectations for that player, and whichever program he eventually decides to commit to, to crazy new heights.

We do all of that even though we know it is starting to look like that the crazy, YouTube sensation, highly rated 2016 prospect is either going to transfer from his original commitment or not be as good as advertised.

Just temper yourself. It is okay to get excited about your favorite program getting the 10th ranked 2023 recruiting class. Just be cautious going forward, because not only is evaluating talent years ahead of schedule one of the toughest things in the sport to do, but the player himself just might not be as good as we thought, and/or is as likely to finish his time with his program as he is to live-up to his four-star grading.

Really, if each recruiting class is full of well-over 100 four-star basketball player, how good are they anyway? They can’t all be great, right?

Whatever being a four-star prospect it supposed to mean anyways.


Tags: College Basketball Ncaa Recruiting

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