How Early is Too Early to Begin Recruiting?
Posted On: 10/20/15 10:15 PM
What age is a player is deemed to be a “recruit”? Currently, NCAA college coaches are not allowed to directly contact a prospect until June 1 entering their junior year in high school. In reality, the recruiting process begins much, much earlier than that. Whether it is through mail to the prospect’s school, communication through school/summer coaches, recruits attending college games or colleges attending recruits’ games, there are plenty of methods to kick start the recruiting process far before college programs can contact recruits directly. College coaches are unable to contact families directly before that date, so many times you will see them navigate through a recruit’s high school or summer coach to have that prospect call THEM (recruits are allowed to call college coaches as many times as they want), in an attempt to get a dialogue started early.
The question becomes, “At what point is it too much, too early?” I have seen this process begin as early as 7th grade. You hear about the tabloid cases where Lebron’s kid is getting offered shortly after birth, but the reality is that kids are beginning to start and think about this process as early as 5th/6th grade.
The majority of the activity above is pretty manageable. Yes, high school coaches will have headaches when a current freshman gets a bulk, non-hand written, we’ll keep an eye on you letter from a D1 school and the parent can’t understand why their kid is playing JV. No doubt about it. In terms of calling coaches (per their request), this doesn’t need to take place until fall of your sophomore year, and should be in a pretty limited capacity. Very few decisions are going to be made at this point
The one area that makes me cringe is how early kids are being offered scholarships. Yes, you have your “blue chip” recruits (ex. Jahlil Okafor) that are no brainers before they even reach high school. These aren’t the guys I’m talking about. I’m talking about the offers that go out to prospects as an “educated guess” or to better position themselves in a given market for recruiting in the future. We have created a system where programs can extend a scholarship at any time (or age) with no obligation on the schools’ part to maintain that offer. This allows schools the ability to guess and be wrong, with the upside that if they’re right about the prospect, they will have been the “first in”.
Here is where the real problem comes in…if you patrol any of these kid’s Twitter pages, the majority of them maintain the goal of going “D1”. Human nature tells us that once we reach our goals, we can let our foot off the gas (the great ones don’t, but you know what I mean). Immediately when that scholarship is extended to an 8th, 9th, or even 10th grader (based on an educated guess), that young athlete is led to believe that his (or her) goals have been achieved in some capacity, thus opening the door for complacency. At this juncture, there is little (or no) research to confirm a young man’s (or woman’s) habits both on and off the court (maybe 1 in 10,000 freshman/sophomores in high school have an infrastructure that confirms they are prepared to be a Division 1 student-athlete). Nonetheless, offering a scholarship at this stage validates that whatever they have been doing to this point is right. This can lead directly to a lack of ability to handle criticism, and even worse, inhibit the pursuit of new information.
What would I propose? I would recommend that we keep all of the interaction rules the same, but that no recruit can be offered a scholarship by an institution at ANY level until April 1st of their junior year.
Here is why:
- Colleges can actually do their research. They can watch a kid 8-10 times before feeling pressure to offer a scholarship because someone else did.
- Kids can play with less stress longer. They don’t have to worry about “if I play well today, I can get a scholarship offer”.
- Colleges will rescind fewer offers and prospects will honor more commitments because the process has been more thorough.
- Evaluations from media outlets will be more transparent because rankings will be based on quality of play vs. offers accumulated.
- Kids won’t be as attracted to the new shiny offer, because everyone offers in a smaller window of time.
- The recruiting process doesn’t get stale because schools don’t feel the obligation to call for the 100th time and ask “how’s it going?”
In closing, I’m not sure if there is one answer to the question of “How early is too early?”. I think the most important thing is making sure you know the process intimately, as well as the ways in which it can impact kids. As always, knowledge is power.
Published by Prep Hoops Co-Founder, Nick Carroll
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