College basketball prospects who commit early quickly turn into top recruiters for their new schools

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Dalen Terry is a top-40 prospect in the Class of 2020, a gifted wing with size who has the same dream as everybody else here at USA Basketball's Junior National Team Minicamp -- specifically to someday play in the NBA. But first, he'll do at least one year at Arizona. And he's spent the past week working hard to make sure he's surrounded by comparable talent when he gets there.

"[Arizona coach] Sean Miller wanted me to commit [early]," Terry explained Sunday, a few minutes after completing camp at the United States Olympic & Paralympic Training Center. "[The staff] wanted me to commit early because they knew I could get guys. So they told me a bunch of guys [to target], and then I came back [to them] with even more guys. We had a conversation about who to get at; I was just mentioning a lot of players. And they were saying, 'Can we get them?' And I was like, 'Yeah, you can get them.' So I'm gonna keep recruiting them."

Whom, exactly?

"Dawson Garcia. Adam Miller. ... DJ Steward. Jaden Hardy. Skyy Clark. All those guys," Terry answered. "And I think I'm doing good. We're bonding as a group right now -- having those conversations at the lunch table, at the dinner table. It's just a real good thing."

Welcome to high-major basketball recruiting in 2019 -- where the players, as opposed to the coaches, do a lot of the heavy lifting. It happens via Facetime. It happens via group-texts. And over the past week, here in the shadows of Cheyenne Mountain, it happened pretty much everywhere as some of the best Class of 2020 prospects who are already committed used every available opportunity to recruit for the school to which they have pledged their allegiance.

For Dalen Terry, that's Arizona. For Jalen Johnson, that's Duke.

"I've been recruiting DJ Steward, Mark Williams, Walker Kessler. ... Those are the main three," said Johnson, a 5-star wing who committed to Duke in early July. "There's a lot of recruiting going on here."

"But I feel like I've recruited the most people," Terry countered. "I think I've recruited more than Jalen."

"A guy or two commits to a school, then those guys go hard at certain kids. So it's a thing, for sure."Texas coach Shaka Smart

Thirty years ago, teenagers were, for the most part, reduced to communicating with people they regularly saw in-person. But, thanks to social media and technology in general, the world is presently small. So it's simple for groups of kids from all over to text and talk everyday. And this is how some of the most intense recruiting is now done.

For college coaches, the goal is simple: get a high-level prospect other prospects wouldn't mind playing with to commit early, then turn him into the staff's fifth recruiter -- yes, at events like USA Basketball's Junior National Team Minicamp, but also via Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook and plain-old text message. It's an approach, it should be noted, that worked brilliantly for Memphis coach Penny Hardaway. He secured a commitment last November from 5-star big James Wiseman, who then turned his attention to recruiting 5-star forward Precious Achiuwa, 4-star guard Boogie Ellis and the rest of the prospects who ultimately comprised the nation's top-ranked recruiting class. Wiseman, at one point, even acknowledged he was working like a member of the Memphis coaching staff.

Now, Terry is trying to do the same thing for Arizona while Johnson is trying to do the same thing for Duke. In fact, I'm told, there's a group-text featuring possible future Blue Devils that's super-active and likely to help produce another monster class for Mike Krzyzewski. And, on a related note, I'm also told that one of the reasons John Calipari's staff at Kentucky was thrilled to get an early commitment from 5-star wing B.J. Boston this past weekend is because he's a well-liked talent who will enthusiastically spend the coming weeks and months working to help bring additional elite prospects to Rupp Arena. 

"I think it's a thing," answered Texas coach Shaka Smart when I asked how prevalent prospects recruiting other prospects to join them in college has become. "A guy or two commits to a school, then those guys go hard at certain kids. So it's a thing, for sure."

And it's only going to become more of a thing.

The best high school prospects in the country have watched, for years now, the best NBA players in the world recruit each other to preferred destinations, and now they're using every resource available to do the same thing. It's trickle-down team-building, if you will. And it's happening at this very moment.

The top recruiters aren't just coaches anymore.

The top recruiters are also players.

These camps provide the face-to-face time. Those group-texts help close the deals.

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Gary Parrish is an award-winning college basketball columnist and television analyst for CBS Sports who also hosts the highest-rated afternoon drive radio show in Memphis, where he lives with his wife... Full Bio

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