For college basketball coaches, the month of July used to mean three long weekends of evaluating recruits in competitive club-ball events around the country, culminating with an all-you-can-eat hoops buffet in Las Vegas.
Changes prompted by the NCAA’s Commission on College Basketball now limits coaches to exactly one week this month. They’ll scatter across the Southeast this week to take in Nike’s Peach Jam, Adidas’ Summer Championships and the Under Armour Association Finals, but they better work quickly and efficiently.
After this week, coaches are oallowed to watch only the four regional NCAA-operated individual camps and part of a USA Basketball Junior team camp. Coaches are no longer permitted to watch the previously massive Las Vegas tournaments at the end of the month, prompting some events to end and others to stream the games so coaches can watch remotely.
“When all three major shoe companies had their events over three (weekends), it was fine,” said Frank Burlison, a longtime Southern California-based recruiting analyst. “The high major programs, especially the ones who could charter flights, would kind of bounce back and forth and cherry-pick who they were recruiting, and then Vegas kind of showcased everybody.
“What you have now kind of makes it tougher.”
The NCAA commission’s recommendations led to cutting back club-ball evaluation periods to one weekend in April and another in July, along with the addition of high school team tournaments in late June and the individual NCAA-run camps from July 22-28. USA Basketball also scheduled its junior team camp from July 24-28, with college coaches allowed to watch the final two days.
Jerry Meyer, a 247Sports.com analyst based in Tennessee, says the recruiting calendar changes don’t “mean the death of summer ball and the apocalypse like some people are thinking.” However, he said the changes will make it harder on coaches.
“I don’t think they’re really happy about it because they have less time to evaluate,” Meyer said. “You can’t waste any time since you just have this period. It’s definitely taken some of the air out of July.”
Josh Gershon, a California-based analyst for 247Sports.com, said some coaches view this weekend as the “finale” of the July period, since there is no telling how valuable the NCAA-run camps will be. The NCAA says a total of 1,600 players have been invited to those four camps nationwide, with one to be held at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix.
“I think a lot of coaches are viewing this week as ‘this is it,’” Gershon said. “Usually, they can go out and watch this week, then come up with names and figure out guys they want to track and spend the next two weeks tracking them. I guess there will be a couple of them in the individual camps but it’s a camp setting and it’s difficult to evaluate.”
But the Wildcats can also use this all to their advantage: Their deep pockets, and the availability of a private jet if needed, can help coach Sean Miller and his assistants move about the Southeast this weekend. They can then attend all four NCAA camps, plus the USA Basketball event, later this month.
While Miller is expected to spend much of his time at the Peach Jam, where a majority of his 2020 targets will be playing, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the coach or an assistant pop up at the Adidas Summer Championships. That tournament takes place in Birmingham, Alabama, four hours away for those who have to drive.
“I think Sean typically uses a private jet to move around, but Arizona always has its top prospects in the Peach Jam,” Gershon said. “Arizona tends to recruit a lot off the (Nike-sponsored) EYBL circuit, with the assistants moving around between the Peach Jam, Under Armour and Adidas.
“When you’re at Peach Jam, you realize the difference in recruiting budgets between schools and within a lot of other conferences. In the Pac-12, only Arizona and maybe one or two other schools will have a private jet available.”
Either way, it’s still a lot of running around. Burlison said he expects the UA staff to focus on its “boatload” of Peach Jam targets, then scatter around the Southeast. Arizona could possibly also send somebody to a Southern California event that will feature five-star Las Vegas guard Daishen Nix, one of the few UA targets who is playing elsewhere this weekend.
One of the UA’s key 2020 targets, five-star wing Ziaire Williams, is not expected to play in the Southeast this weekend after having just returned from Greece, where he helped USA Basketball win a gold in the FIBA U19 World Cup. Williams is scheduled to play in USA Basketball’s minicamp later this month, an event UA staffers are certain to attend.
Most other UA targets in the classes of 2020 and 2021 are expected to play in the Southeast this weekend — including Pennsylvania power forward Donovan “Puff” Johnson, whose father told the Raleigh News and Observer he will now remain in the class of 2020 rather than reclassify to 2019.
While this week and the USA Basketball event still offer plenty of July exposure for the high-major prospects such as Williams and Johnson, late bloomers could suffer under the new format.
Unless they, too, hustle to make an impression this weekend.
“The chance of guys being discovered in July by the upper-tier programs is less,” Burlison said.
“I think for the bulk of the upper-tier programs like Arizona or whoever, by now for the most part they’ve already decided who they’re recruiting and the evaluation part for the most part is already done. Occasionally somebody like Sean Miller might say (in July) ‘Hey, we didn’t know he was that good.’ But that doesn’t happen too often.”