|Louisville assistant coach Kevin Keatts was one of the first to make use of the new rules. (US Presswire)|
The first text message to Chris Walker last Thursday night came through right at midnight, from Louisville assistant coach Kevin Keatts. Florida, Kentucky and Florida State followed immediately after, while Kansas assistant coach Joe Dooley joined in later on Friday.
Whenever we talked to Walker for an update, nearly every response included some form of: "They're still coming in."
There was a similar situation going on at the NBPA Top 100 Camp in Virginia, where five-star rising junior Jaquan Lyle woke up on Friday morning to 27 texts from college coaches.
"It's crazy, but I'm blessed to be in this situation," Lyle said.
Of course, Walker and Lyle weren't the only prospects experiencing an increase in phone activity late last week. At midnight Thursday into Friday, Division I coaches were able to begin making unlimited calls and sending unlimited text messages to prospects in the classes of 2013 and 2014. This was the first time there were no restrictions on contact between players and coaches.
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My colleague Matt Norlander wrote a preview of the rule change last week, with most coaches in favor of the new unlimited contact. Heading into the period, nearly all parties were looking forward to the new rule, although some parents were slightly wary.
There were plenty of unanswered questions, though. Would coaches start wearing out recruits? Would recruits get bored of all the contact? After the initial midnight rush, would the contact calm down?
Above all else, would recruits actually like it?
With one full weekend of the rule change in the book, we are starting to get some answers -- and well, there are mixed feelings among some of the top high school recruits in the classes of 2013 and 2014.
On the one hand, players are enjoying the chance to get to know head coaches and assistant coaches better than they would have with just one or two calls per week. Players often complain that coaches are different during the recruiting process than they are once the player gets on campus. While that will still happen (let's face it, we all act differently once we get what we desire), it's going to be much easier for recruits to get a true feel for a coach's personality with constant interaction.
"Now that they have unlimited texts and calls, it's better to interact with coaches and not have to do it in limited amounts," rising senior Roschon Prince said. "They can get with you whenever and you can reach them at anytime."
"It allows communication to be easier and the relationships of the players and coaches gets better," added Austin Colbert, another uncommitted top-100 prospect in the class of 2013.
Communication is obviously the biggest key in the new rule. There will be far less confusion when it comes to questions over whether a college indeed extended a scholarship offer to a potential prospect. Moreover, with the old rule, it was difficult to gauge the interest level of a school in a prospect -- and vice-versa. Making the allotted one or two phone calls per week isn't very hard; schools can do that with dozens of potential recruits, even if the interest level is low.
Now, players will get a true idea of which schools are interested and where they stack up compared to other potential recruits.
"You can bond with the coaches and you can get a better feel on who you mean the most to," four-star shooting guard Sindarius Thornwell said.
E.C. Matthews, a top-100 prospect in the class of 2013, said he received multiple texts from schools that he did not previously know were recruiting him. As a result, it's no surprise he likes the new rules.
"It was an honor to me," Matthews said. "Not a lot of kids get this opportunity."
Of course, there's a flipside to the increased contact with restrictions eliminated. With no more NCAA-specified rules, it's up to the coach and recruit to basically set the guidelines on communication. With the rule in effect for only a few days so far, the initial fervor by coaching staffs has yet to completely die down.
As a result, the process has been a bit overwhelming for some prospects.
"It's getting a little out of control," senior Jarquez Smith said. "Sometimes I have more than one school calling at a time. Sometimes I'm just tired and don't answer."
"It's just, like, I'm trying to practice and talk to my people, and we get consistent calls," four-star 2014 prospect Stanley Johnson added.
Zach LaVine, a rising senior from Bothell (Wash.), noted that it has been time-consuming to talk to coaches more often, and he could see it getting "annoying" in time.
That's where the future questions about this rule come into play. Will there come a point when the recruits are getting bored of the coach contacting them every day? Are the coaches cognizant enough to adjust their recruiting patterns if they are going overboard with text messages and phone calls?
Of the 15-20 prospects interviewed for this column, at least a handful mentioned that some form of power by the player is necessary, whether it's an agreed-upon time that coaches can make contact or simply letting a phone call go to voicemail.
"You are in complete control as to when you choose to answer the phone or not," Colbert said. "[Also], simply saying you don't want to talk."
Forward Jordan Mickey said he also thinks coaches realize they need to do everything in moderation or they risk pushing the kid away. For 2014 prospect Jalen Lindsay, the main reason he has enjoyed the period so far is the fact coaches are not contacting him incessantly.
Despite all the differing thoughts from the student-athletes, overall opinion coalesced for the most part. To the question, "On a scale of 1-10, how much do you like the unlimited texting and calling?" all but one or two recruits gave a number in the 6-8 range.
Come on, when you think about it, exchanging texts with Josh Pastner and Tom Crean or talking on the phone with John Calipari and Rick Barnes is not all that bad for a 16- or 17-year old.
"I think it's great," Walker said. "I actually like talking to them every day."
Will the new rule lose its luster?
In the end, that will be up to the coaches and players involved. It's a rule for them; they need to iron out the wrinkles.