By Joe Henricksen
Megan Fox is a Hollywood bombshell, a 24-year-old beauty on the covers of magazines, the big screen and a top 5 regular on Maxim's Hot 100 List. She was engaged to Brian Austin Green (Huh?) but the engagement was broken off last February. (There is a point to this story being in the Hoops Report blog. I'm getting there.) So Fox and Green break it off. No biggie. Heck, he's 36 (12 years older) and of "Beverly Hills 90201" fame. Though he was of the less cheesy males on "90201", so says my wife, he's still Brian Austin Green! And she's MEGAN FOX! Come on! That's like Robert Di Niro in the movie "The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle" or Lebron playing in Cleveland!
But now the Hoops Report wife informs me Fox and Green are back together as of this month. Just like that the two are engaged -- for a second time. On again? Off again?
The early commitment in basketball recruiting has often been compared to the whole engagement process: A prospect commits to a school, starts buying t-shirts and sweatshirts at that school's bookstore but nothing is final until signing day; the girl gets the engagement ring, says yes, sets a date but nothing is final until she walks down that aisle and the two of them both say, "I do." You just never know.
And the same can be said for those on the outside looking in at those two timeless traditions -- the early basketball commitment and the engagement periods. The ring on that girl's finger signifies she's taken, while the commitment that prospect gave signifies he's taken. In theory, they are off limits. Some guys (both on the open dating market and college coaches) will respect that and some won't. And I do mean in both cases. But we all know so much can happen -- and does.
The early commitment comes in all shapes and sizes. Jereme Richmond, a high-profile talent, gave coach Bruce Weber a commitment in November of his freshman year at North Shore Country Day. He stayed true and signed exactly three years later in November of his senior year at Waukegan. A year before, Cully Payne, who was a month out of 8th grade, gave DePaul and coach Jerry Wainwright a commitment before he stepped foot in the halls of Burlington Central High School. The circumstances changed and he ultimately de-committed. He then committed to Alabama and de-committed due to coaching changes. Payne ended up at Iowa.
There are endless early commitment stories like these across the country. And the stories, which have gone on for several decades, all have different twists and turns with some uglier than others.
The early commitment is not intended to be treated as or resemble a 30-day money back guarantee. A college coach and program can't afford to get in the habit of throwing commitments back to the sea after reeling them in, while prospects should think long and hard before de-committing from the school they felt was right in the first place. Prospects and college programs just don't reunite very often like good 'ol Fox and Green did.
The early commitment, which has been happening more in recent years due to more offers being put out there earlier in players' high school careers, is really all about trust. A coaching staff has to trust their talent evaluations and projections of a player more than ever before. College coaches are having to identify players at an earlier stage of a prospect's career and be comfortable and willing to pull the trigger with an offer just to keep up with the current recruiting landscape. College coaches have to trust that the player they offer -- and who just might commit to them early -- has the makeup and mindset to continue to work hard and get better as a player.
The prospect has to trust his instincts. They all get the sales pitch from college programs. But filtering what's true, what's not and the sincerity of it all is almost a form of art players and their parents try to perfect through the process. They have to trust that while they are committed the school stays true to them as well.
Yes, it's a two-way street. And yes, circumstances can certainly change with the player or the program, but it should be left up to the player that committed and the school that received the commitment to sort that out. There are unwritten rules in college basketball recruiting, which some follow and respect and others don't. But the good ones in the recruiting game stay away from a committed prospect until they are no longer committed.
So getting an early commitment can be a blessing, especially if the world were a perfect place and the dirty, seedy, filthy part of recruiting didn't exist. A high-major program can nab a commitment from a talented but under-the-radar player before the big wolves (Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas, etc.) get involved. A mid-major school can secure an early commitment from a player they would have had no chance at if the recruitment had extended through the fall of the player's senior year.
Plainfield Central's Derrick Marks committed early to Albany. Last December, just a couple months into his junior basketball season, the talented 6-2 guard gave the America East Conference school a commitment. He found what he believes was a great fit for him. Marks built a relationship with the staff and program and he has stayed true to that commitment. And Albany, which made NCAA Tournament appearances in 2006 and 2007, made Marks a priority early on. Albany did its homework, identified a piece that would be perfect for them and, to the credit of the Great Danes staff, got the job done.
These are the types of early commitments you really appreciate, where both the program and player find something that works, is shared and is ideal. This wasn't a kid committing early to Kansas, Kentucky or Duke, a commitment others would view as a "no-brainer." This wasn't a kid committing early to the Big Ten or the Big East, conferences that have produced multiple Final Four teams in recent years. Marks found what he was looking for early in the process, was fortunate to feel that comfort level and looked to take a load off his shoulders as he played out his final two years of high school basketball. And he remains committed. And this is exactly the type of commitment --and others like it -- that should be respected by college programs across the country.
In the recruiting business you hear all too often of college coaches still actively recruiting prospects that have given a "verbal commitment." There is an unwritten rule in basketball recruiting that those players are off limits. No coach in the country wants a player that is committed to them being recruited -- or even contacted -- by other college programs. So why do some still do it to others? Why do men continue to hit on an engaged girl?