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Notre Dame pursuit of Torres exemplifies new recruiting trend

By Jeff Borzello | College Basketball Writer
Notre Dame's Mike Brey is the latest to recruit a player who had just committed to another school . (US Presswire)

Austin Torres commited to Central Michigan on Sept. 23. Four days later, Notre Dame coach Mike Brey walked into Torres' house and offered him a scholarship.

Torres still was committed to Central Michigan during Brey's in-home visit and still was committed when he told Brey he wanted to go to Notre Dame.

"I told coach Brey on Thursday that this was a dream and something I wanted to pursue," Torres told CBSSports.com. "I was sure I wanted this to happen. And then I decommitted on Friday."

And therein lies the issue.

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Unlike college football, commitments in basketball usually hold significance. There rarely are "soft verbals," and players often are considered off-limits once they make a college pledge. It's certainly not against the rules to pursue a committed player, but it's frowned upon by most in the college game. At least, it has been in the past.

Since there are no rules being broken, there's no recourse. Coaches have to keep recruiting their prospect even after a commitment; they still have to go their games and essentially "babysit" them to ensure other schools don't sneak in and steal a commitment. Essentially, nothing is set in stone until a player signs his binding letter-of-intent, which a prospect can't do until November of his senior year.

Lately, people have talked about basketball becoming more like football in the sense that committed players aren't officially off the board until they sign. That Brey -- one of the more well-regarded coaches in the game -- moved in on a player who verbally committed to Central Michigan could be a signal that verbal commitments are not considered as strong as they used to be.

Sources close to Notre Dame confirmed the above timeline -- and also confirmed that Brey never made an effort to reach out to Central Michigan coach Keno Davis regarding Torres.

"It was a difficult phone call," Torres said about his own phone call to Davis on Friday. "But I felt like it was the classiest thing to do. It's better me than my coach."

Should Brey have done the same -- three days earlier? It's not against the rules to recruit a committed player, but Brey and Davis have an established relationship -- having coached against each other in the Big East when Davis was at Providence. A phone call to Davis letting him know that the Irish planned to offer Torres a scholarship really wouldn't have hurt anyone.

Torres has ties to Notre Dame. He grew up in Granger, Ind., about 20 miles from the South Bend campus. His mother played soccer at Notre Dame. His biological father played football there. His grandfather also attended Notre Dame. Moreover, Torres' mother has a great relationship with Notre Dame because of her work with Coaches vs. Cancer. Several coaches interested in Torres reached out to Brey to get a feel for the kid; Brey had watched Torres' AAU games because his teammate Demetrius Jackson was a primary Fighting Irish target.

But Torres was never the right fit for Notre Dame -- at least not until after he committed to Central Michigan. Perhaps not coincidentally, Jackson's commitment to the Fighting Irish came one day before Brey offered a scholarship to Torres.

"He talked about, 'I know it's kind of late and I know you're committed, but we're looking for a guy like you in 2014. But why wait if we have that here in Granger?' " Torres said. "He said he regretted not going after me."

This wasn't a player rumored to be wavering in his commitment for a long time. This was a player who had been committed for a mere three days before Brey decided to make a move on him.

Brey's relationship with the Torres presents a unique situation, but it still looks questionable from an outside perspective. All coaches develop relationships with the prospects they are recruiting; most limit those relationships if that prospect commits to another school.

When other coaches see someone like Brey recruiting a committed player, will they find the practice acceptable? Some other coaches are already answering that question.

"Once a kid commits, now you know who you have to beat out," one coach said.

Players changing commitments in college football is a regular occurrence. Prospects verbally commit to a school and continue to take visits to other schools; no one thinks anything of it.

In basketball, that hasn't been the case, though that might be changing. Of the coaches CBSSports.com contacted Monday, nearly all of them believed that the recruiting of committed players has increased in recent years.

When top-10 junior Trey Lyles decommitted from Indiana in early August, Hoosiers head coach Tom Crean took to Twitter to complain about the state of affairs in basketball recruiting.

"I told my staff today that my football coaching friends think fb recruiting is like mbb recruiting because you have to deal with so many people that get involved," Crean tweeted. "We think that more and more people never stop recruiting other school's pledges. We are both right. Way of life."

While some coaches admitted having to adapt, they also are not fond of the trend.

"It's coming from football into our sport," one said. "A commitment isn't what it used to be."

That's certainly the case -- with Brey and Notre Dame now among those ignoring the unwritten rule.

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