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Rule changes meant to speed recruiting are helping do the opposite

by | College Basketball Recruiting Blogger
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Simeon Academy's Jabari Parker, the nation's top prospect, still has 10 schools on his list. (US Presswire)  
Simeon Academy's Jabari Parker, the nation's top prospect, still has 10 schools on his list. (US Presswire)  

Where are all the commitments?

That's the question everyone has been asking since the end of July, when the college pledges were supposed to start coming in nearly every day. The increased communication the NCAA allowed between coaches and prospects was expected to speed up recruitment and get players to make better-informed commitments -- and quicker.

Since July ended, the only top-100 commitments have come from Mike Young (Pittsburgh), Markel Crawford (Memphis), Tyler Ennis (Syracuse), Jordan Woodard (Oklahoma) and Kris Jenkins (Villanova). There were a handful of other BCS-conference commitments, but in general it's been a slow August.

At this time last year, nine top-100 recruits -- including four top-40 prospects -- had pledged after the AAU season. There were also another eight BCS-conference pledges during the first three-plus weeks of August.

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Sure, five-star wing Nick King and top-100 prospect Josh Brown are expected to make their commitments Monday, but that won't help the class of 2013 catch up to 2012 when it comes to the early-pledge count. During the first week of September last year, six 2012 prospects decided on BCS-conference schools, including five-star guard Ricky Ledo (Providence).

So what happened this year? Why is almost 60 percent of CBSSports.com's Top 100 still on the board?

One of the rule changes the NCAA implemented back in October was that schools could pay for the prospect and his parents to take an official campus visit. Previously, only the player would get his flight and lodging paid for. With parents allowed to see the campus too, some coaches believe parents are more involved than usual this season. As a result, players are waiting to take their official visits -- which cannot take place until the school year begins. That has already occurred in certain parts of the country, but not everywhere. In the Northeast, for instance, high school doesn't typically begin until after Labor Day.

Another NCAA rule change announced in October was the deregulation of contact between colleges and prospects. The NCAA lifted all restrictions on communication on June 15, enabling schools to send unlimited text messages and make unlimited phone calls to prospects after their sophomore year.

Before this season, there was a long list of high-major prospects that would wait until official visits to make a decision. It helps players to compare the schools and to see what each campus offers.

With multiple schools talking to prospects on a more consistent basis, though, the kids have built stronger relationships with even more colleges. As a result, it's harder for kids to cut a school from their list.

"Prospects feel the need to take their officials because they've built meaningful relationships with more than one school," one coach said.

Other coaches are pointing to the lack of distinction between high-major and mid-major prospects this season. The depth at the top of the 2013 class is outstanding, but it tends to thin out a little bit toward the end of the top 100. Players who are getting mid-major looks right now think they're high-major prospects, and they are willing to wait it out. On the other hand, high-major schools don't think these middling prospects are good enough, and are holding out on actually offering a scholarship.

Meanwhile, several five-star prospects have yet to trim their lists, almost forcing schools to hold scholarships open for these primary targets. In some cases, a secondary target might want to commit, but a school can't accept the pledge for fear of not having enough room for a five-star prospect.

Jabari Parker still has 10 schools on his list; Julius Randle has about the same; Aaron Gordon only recently cut his list; the Harrison twins are still interested in five; and James Young isn't ready to make a decision. If these prospects have not officially eliminated a certain school, it's almost impossible for that school to give up on the chase and just accept a secondary target.

The final reason falls on our lap. By "our," I mean "the media." Once a player commits, he receives far less attention than an uncommitted prospect of the same caliber. Moreover, he no longer feels the love of multiple colleges recruiting him.

We all saw the attention Shabazz Muhammad and Nerlens Noel received this past season. Their every move was documented, and their announcement took place on ESPNU. If a prospect can hold out for that sort of attention, why would they pass that up? Had Muhammad and Noel committed last summer, there would have been far less hoopla surrounding their recruitments.

If popularity is the goal, it doesn't make sense for a five-star prospect to commit in the summer.

"Kids want the attention these days," one coach said.

In the end, that might be the biggest factor. Kids want to be recruited at the highest level and they want the biggest media outlets to cover their decision.

As a result, they wait -- and so does everyone else.

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