By Joe Henricksen
It wasn't that long ago where the current recruitment of Rock Island's Chasson Randle and De La Salle's Mike Shaw would be just another normal recruiting storyline as we head to August -- still three months before the National Signing Day in November. The buildup to that Wednesday Signing Day in November of a player's senior year would start about right now. Instead, it seems the buildup begins the moment a player is clearly identified as a high-major talent, which can come as early as their freshman or sophomore year in high school.
But the recruiting path Randle and Shaw have chosen are no longer the norm. The offers are thrown out earlier. The players get on campus earlier. Unofficial visits become more regular than trips to the movies with the girl. Prospects play with a college program's players on campus more than ever. Again, the whole process is at warp speed in comparison to the 1980s or 1990s and, as a result, the commitment is often expected earlier.
Arguably the biggest difference in basketball recruiting today in comparison to 10 or 20 years ago, at least in terms of perception, can be summed up by the recruiting process both Randle, Shaw and a few other high-profile recruits have taken. Both Randle and Shaw are coveted prospects, ranked among the top 100 players in the country and two of the top 10 players in the state of Illinois' loaded Class of 2011. The other similarity between the two is both remain uncommitted, which brings us back to the difference in recruiting today. Uncommitted? Still? Blasphemy!
Whether it's the frustration of college coaches who are getting used to the new wave of early commitments or fans being obsessed with recruiting and conversing on message boards, the recruiting climate and attitude have significantly changed. Patience has been totally lost. The process and expectations have clearly been altered, from offers going out earlier than ever and more and more early commitments being given. What also has changed is the thought process by fans (and maybe even college coaches to a degree) that every kid, every prospect, is identical in terms of how they look at recruiting and choosing their school. Each case remains a separate identity, a story played out within itself.
The days of everyone waiting it out, playing through the summer, taking the good old-fashioned "official" visits in the fall and most all of the commitments coming in the weeks prior to signing day are over. There is a whole lot more pressure today for a kid to commit early and get it over with than 10 or 20 years ago.
A college coach can think to himself, "Hey, the kid has been on campus six, seven times, we've recruited him hard for three years, he knows what we're about, sees the make-up of the roster and exactly what we have to offer. Why is he still questioning us and so indecisive?"
The point is every recruiting scenario plays out so differently and changes abruptly -- often without notice. The Hoops Report hears different thoughts, opinions and perspectives every week. And it should be expected. The recruitment can change, including the minds of a teenager and all the people surrounding that player. And considering all the aforementioned facts, a few of these prospects have been dealing with all of this for three years. The mind can twist and turn a little in 36 months. And whether fair or not, decisions made during the recruitment and at the end of it often leave people, including college coaches, scratching their heads and saying ... "Huh?"
There are recent high-profile recruitments in the memory bank that did extend past August, including ...
Derrick Rose. The Simeon great waited it out and committed to Memphis in November of his senior year. But even that one didn't have the anticipation as most everyone knew or at least assumed it was Memphis, even after a last-minute visit to Illinois spurred conversation and hope for fans in the state of Illinois.
Julian Wright. It appeared Homewood-Flossmoor's 6-8 athlete and national top 15 talent had planned to wait it out a bit longer before abruptly committing to Kansas. Wright, who had Illinois and Arizona high on his list, committed to Kansas in September. This commitment came after an in-home visit from coach Bill Self and before having stepped foot on the Kansas campus -- and after having just completed visits to both Illinois in late August and to Arizona in early September.
Sherron Collins. The Crane star was supposedly open heading into the fall (wink, wink), but a trip to Kansas' Midnight Madness in the middle of October was enough to cancel his expected visit to Illinois.
Iman Shumpert. While not anywhere close to the degree that Anthony Davis of Chicago Perspectives blew up this spring and summer, the former Oak Park guard is probably the last Illinois prep player to shoot up national rankings as quickly as Davis. After a coming-out party performance at the King James Classic, Shumpert went from nowhere to a top 50 talent nationally just after his junior year. In the end the 6-4 Shumpert committed to Georgia Tech over Marquette and North Carolina in mid-October.
And others that ended before July even hit ...
Evan Turner. In this one the commitment came before the July evaluation period, surprising a lot of people by the timing and the choice. Illinois felt it was in good shape with Turner, but the future No. 2 NBA Draft Pick committed to Ohio State in late June.
Jon Scheyer. This one came much earlier -- in May of his junior year. Pretty much all along Duke was the school to beat, with Illinois making a strong push at the end and making the decision at least emotional for Scheyer.
Now the state's top prospect, Anthony Davis of Chicago Perspectives, has announced he's made his decision but isn't ready to announce just yet. Another new and different twist. Maybe this will lead to a new type of press conference in the future: "Thank you all for coming today. After thinking about this long and hard, I am announcing today that I know where I'm going."
(Off topic here but ... speaking of Kentucky, imagine if Davis does commit to the Wildcats. Remember, Kentucky landed a monster 2010 class, the No. 1 class in the nation, with four players among the nation's top 25. And in 2011 they already have commitments from Michael Gilchrest, who by many is regarded as the No. 1 player in the country, and point guard Marquis Teague, who is considered by some to be one of the top five players in the country. And to add Davis to this mix? That could mean three of the top five or six players in the country in 2011. Mercy! Would this be the best collection of high-major talent in a two-year period in college basketball history?)
Yes, there are still plenty of top-rated and talented prospects on the board. In fact, of the national top 100 players nationally, fewer have committed by Aug. 1 in the Class of 2011 than in the past couple of years, which contradicts the "new wave" a bit. But in general there are still far more early commitments heading into August than we saw a decade or two ago.
Which brings us back to Shaw and Randle, two Illinois star prospects who have been in the prep basketball limelight for a few years now. These two have taken their time. And is there really anything wrong with that? In some cases there may be a need to rush, such as if a "dream school" is out there for a prospect and they don't want that scholarship snapped up by someone else. But in what is the biggest decision a kid will have to make up to this point in his life, there isn't anything wrong with playing it out, analyzing and weighing the pros and cons. It's like sitting down at a great, high-class restaurant with the ideal ambience and encouraging the chef to rush through his gourmet food preparation. Sure the chef has done it a thousand times, but he still needs to take his time. And you don't put a whole pig on a rotisserie over a fire pit and expect to feed your pig roast guests within the hour. Take time, enjoy the process.
Shaw, who recently visited DePaul and was expected to be on campus at Illinois on Wednesday, has the two in-state schools, along with Michigan State, Marquette and Notre Dame, all in the mix. Randle has made it clear it's down to Purdue, Illinois and Stanford. By all accounts, these two are great kids. And this is for sure: there aren't many players (if any) who enjoy playing, being on the floor and competing, more than these two. The recruitments of these two appear to be going down the old-fashioned way -- down to the wire with final impressions being made on late visits.