By Joe Henricksen
All you Class of 2013 and 2014 college basketball prospects out there, keep those cell phones charged.
With today's teens, that task won't be too difficult as the device is now permanently attached to them. I personally saw it all earlier this spring when it comes to the whole teens-can't-survive-a-minute-without-their-cell-phone generation. As a player was fouled and headed to the free-throw line on the AAU circuit, he takes his cell phone out from the pocket of his shorts and checks his phone as he walked to the other end of the floor to take his free throws.
Beginning this past weekend, Division I men's college basketball coaches are now able to send unlimited texts and make unlimited phone calls to recruits who have completed their sophomore year of high school. Coaches are now also able to send direct messages on Twitter and private messages on Facebook.
Prior to last Friday, coaches were allowed to contact a recruit just once a month between June 15 after their sophomore year and July 31 after their junior year. Then from that point coaches were allowed just two contacts per week, with text messages completely against the rules.
There are pitfalls with this new legislation, with the biggest being high school kids absolutely bombarded with text messages and phone calls from college coaches every day, all day. Imagine the weekends of the July evaluation periods later this summer when top players from around the country are being watched and evaluated on the AAU circuit? These kids will be leaving the floor with college coaches surrounding the court ready to text and call ... "Loved your game today." ... "Just watched you. Can't get you out of my mind." ... "I was there. Did you see me?" ... "How close are you with Jabari Parker again?" ... "Call me ASAP!!!" ... "Were those the new shoes I sent you? Oops. DELETE now! LOL." ... "Great game! Will call you at 6:30, 8 and 11 tonight." ... "Why aren't you picking up!?!?!"
There is also a risk of rising phone bills for recruits, though that has been reduced somewhat due to the various calling and texting plans families now have. Plus, kids can now nearly always identify who's calling and simply not pick up. That should send a message to a college coach loud and clear during the recruiting process.
On the other end of it, college coaches will now have to really think hard about how many calls they make and how many texts they send to individual players going forward. Before. coaching staffs had to monitor and check with one another how many times they had contacted a prospect so they didn't break the rules. Now, coaching staffs will need to communicate well with one another as to how many times each of them have called and texted a specific prospect so they aren't driving the kid crazy. There was always a built-in excuse for not calling a prospect religiously: it was against the rules. Now, coaches will need to worry if they are calling a prospect too much or not calling enough. Where will the "annoyance" threshold be for the student-athlete?
I can see an exchange like this after a prospect finally has had enough: "Coach, did you NOT get the hint when I didn't pick up your previous 43 call attempts and didn't respond to your 94 text messages?"
And the biggest loser of this rule change? The wives of college coaches. You thought your husband was on the phone a lot BEFORE?
But here are the three reasons why the Hoops Report believes the new rule is good.
1. The rule limiting phone calls and texts was absolutely too difficult to completely monitor and enforce. Not only were the rules being constantly broken by those that just simply ignored the legislation, but there were also so many ways around the rules. It's not too difficult for a coach to have a second phone in addition to his school-issued phone. You really think Kelvin Sampson and his boys at OU were the ONLY ones breaking this rule?
2. With more direct calls and texts, college coaches can eliminate the middle men just a little bit more. Yes, there will still be people college coaches will have to mess with, schmooze, cater to and tell them what they want to hear in order to "recruit" the prospect. But with more access to the player, it will mean less time dealing with the often-dreaded third parties for college coaches. They won't need to touch base and reach out to the handlers and/or AAU coaches quite as much as before.
3. The most important aspect of the limitless calls and texts is the building of relationships. Coaches can now spend more time on the phone getting to know the prospects they are recruiting, while the prospect can get a much better feel for those coaches they really want to get to know better. While it's true that prospects could always just pick up the phone and call a coach to talk, remember, they are teenagers and time passes quickly before they get around to the to-do list. College coaches, with complete phone access to their targets, will now take even more responsibility to develop the relationship.
Hopefully, this will be one step in trying to shrink the growing number of college basketball transfers across the country. There have been too many prospects committing very early in the recruiting process, before they've really built any type of trust and relationship with the coaching staff of the program they committed to.
While the NCAA has been labeled many different ways when it comes to their recruiting rules and regulations, the organization has made a few positive steps of late. In addition to the phone calls and text messaging changes, bringing back a couple of "live periods" in April was a positive as well.
The recruiting calendar is far from perfect when it comes to evaluating high school talent. And this massive and near-impossible undertaking of monitoring Division I recruiting practices continues to be problematic. But at least there has been a movement to improve them both.
Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport