NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. -- This time last year, back when the NCAA was in the process of altering the recruiting calendar for no good reason, it was unclear if Nike's Peach Jam would continue to be part of it.
Sure, there would still be games.
But initial reports, in response to what was at the time an ongoing FBI investigation, reportedly had the NCAA on the verge of no longer allowing college coaches to attend what had become the signature event of the summer., it would've been a misguided mistake. So let the record show that I'm happy to give the NCAA an immense amount of credit for reconsidering, after officials attended and saw the 2018 Peach Jam up close, and continuing to allow the Riverview Park Activities Center to be a magnet that annually draws college coaches, and dozens of media members, to the humid south.
Did the NCAA still screwup the recruiting calendar?
Every change made was nonsensical and incapable of solving a single issue the FBI investigation brought to light. I hope the decision-makers realize as much with the benefit of hindsight -- even if it's embarrassing that they didn't have the foresight to understand what so many others understood in advance.
Either way, they kept Peach Jam in play. So that's good.
There are six gyms here.
There will be 56 teams here.
So, for the 24th consecutive year, most of the top college basketball prospects in the country will spend this week playing -- often against each other, sometimes in games running concurrently -- under one roof. The only difference between this July and last July is that college coaches won't be allowed in the building until Thursday. But, from Thursday through Sunday, they'll be able to watch and evaluate literally hundreds of Division I prospects -- among them eight of the top 10 players in the Class of 2020, the top four players in the Class of 2021, and the consensus No. 1 player in the Class of 2022, Emoni Bates, who famously shined against Bronny James' team earlier this year while LeBron James looked on.
The best player here?
That's probably Cade Cunningham.
He's a 6-foot-6 guard who plays for the Texas Titans -- a team that dominated Nike's EYBL regular season and features two of the top 10 prospects in the Class of 2020. One, obviously, is Cade Cunningham -- whose brother, Oklahoma State in a development that suggests the 5-star prospect will play in the Big 12 for Mike Boynton's Cowboys in the 2020-21 season.by
The other is Greg Brown -- 6-9 forward who lives just 14 miles from UT's campus and is projected by most to eventually commit to Shaka Smart's Longhorns. So it's safe to assume the UT and OSU staffs will be visible all week.
And that's the good news.
Less than a year ago it appeared the 2019 Peach Jam would be vastly different, and something less, than every other Peach Jam in history. No coaches allowed was the betting favorite. But, ultimately, common sense prevailed. So the stage is set for prospects to spend four days performing in front of coaches in an attempt to confirm they're what their ranking suggests and/or prove they're better than most realize. It'll be a life-changing event for some -- only because the NCAA didn't change it too much.