Delayed commitments benefit players, add general intrigue

by | CBSSports.com Senior Writer
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This is how it should be, how the system was intended, with the top prospects still undecided heading into the tail end of August and official visits on the horizon, actually holding true meaning and value to the recruiting process.

The official visit has turned into a virtual afterthought, almost a foreign concept these days as nearly all of the top basketball prospects have tended to make their decisions earlier and earlier, some before the start of their sophomore year in high school.

The most common reason for the official visit of late? A way for a committed player to get a free trip to party and hook up with college girls.

Mitch McGary, who will visit Michigan, UNC and Duke, wants to see what the schools have to offer. (Brewster Academy)  
Mitch McGary, who will visit Michigan, UNC and Duke, wants to see what the schools have to offer. (Brewster Academy)    
This year it'll be more than about solely hooking up.

Next month will be pure mayhem as nearly all of the elite players in the Class of 2012 remain on the board and will travel around the country to be wined and dined by college coaches in an effort to receive a verbal commitment.

The nation's top player, Shabazz Muhammad, intends to take all five visits before making his decision. Mitch McGary, the third-ranked player in the country, has already set up official visits to Michigan, North Carolina and Duke.

"It's definitely going to be a deciding factor in my choice of college," McGary said of the official visits. "I want to go there, visit the schools and see what they have to offer."

CBSSports.com national recruiting analyst Jeff Borzello has only four of the top 27 players in the country spoken for -- while ESPN.com has four of the top 26 verbally committed and Scout.com has five of the top 29 who have pulled the trigger.

"I had no idea 22 of the 26 were still available," said long-time recruiting analyst Dave Telep, now with ESPN.com. "I honestly can't tell you why that is, but what I can tell you is that big run hasn't come yet."

No one truly knows the reason this group has so methodically gone through the process. It boasts a few, but isn't filled with guys starving for attention, kids that want to draw out the process seeking headlines and phone calls.

Maybe the lack of the April recruiting period has contributed to the Class of 2012, but there was no April evaluation period last season and guys were flying off the board early and often.

Whatever the case, that big run that Telep hasn't seen yet is looming -- and that bodes for an exciting month of September.

"It's going to be fun," Borzello said. "I prefer it this way because kids committing early usually leads to de-commitments."

One year ago, 15 of Scout.com's top 25 players were off the board by the middle of August.

Now the only ones who have entered into some semblance of holy matrimony are rail-thin 7-footer Isaiah Austin (Baylor), Arizona-bound power forward Grant Jerrett, hard-nosed big man Cameron Ridley (Texas) and wing Rasheed Sulaimon, who has pledged to Duke.

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"These dudes are not in a hurry, that's for sure," Scout.com national recruiting analyst Evan Daniels said.

And that's the way it should be.

These kids, for the most part, enjoy the leverage over the coaches. They are talented enough that nearly everyone will wait for them to make their decisions. So why not go on at least a few of the NCAA's allotted and allowable five official visits to get an in-depth feel of the university, the staff and the players?

"Visits are certainly going to mean something," Daniels said. "They are definitely going to play a role."

"And that's a good thing," Borzello added.

"Because they matter," continued Telep.

Official visits may continue to have an increased value -- especially if one of the recruiting changes that goes into effect is that official visits will be moved up from the beginning of a player's senior season to April 15 of his junior year. However, you may never again see a year like this if the NCAA passes legislation that would allow more communication between college coaches and prospects.

"It's about to get sped up with the unlimited phone calls and texting," Daniels said. "No doubt about it."

But I'm enjoying the Crawl of 2012 -- and also hoping and praying that the junior class -- one that has only a single committed player among the Top 25 -- moves at a similar pace.

Not only because it adds a sense of intrigue for the fans and recruiting analysts, who are admittedly in the dark with the current group of future stars.

"This is good," Daniels said. "It makes it more challenging for us."

More importantly, though, it arms kids with critical, necessary information.

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