Debate continues over unlimited contact with basketball recruits

  • Article by: JASON GONZALEZ , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 17, 2013 - 11:21 AM

With unlimited contact by college coaches to star recruits, does it promote bonding or exhaust players?

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Star Tribune photo illustration by Tom Wallace and Billy Steve Clayton. Text recruiting of young athletes.

 

Recruiters fawning over Apple Valley’s Tyus Jones required the nation’s top-rated junior point guard to implement a new move of misdirection to his repertoire.

Upon each request for his phone number, Jones recites 10 digits that belong to his mother.

“They don’t need to call all day or night. Nothing over the top,” said Jones of college basketball coaches eager for his attention. “I definitely give out my mom’s phone number a lot.”

A change in NCAA rules in October 2011 reformed men’s basketball recruiting practices to allow unlimited contact with players beginning June 15 after their sophomore year. The deregulation unleashed limitless phone calls, text messages, e-mails and private messages on social networks to elite high school athletes such as Jones and other highly sought players.

The NCAA, which believed the changes would help coaches and recruits build stronger relationships and reduce influence of third parties such as AAU coaches, is also considering such deregulation in football and women’s basketball.

To manage the attention, star athletes sometimes utilize parents or coaches as intermediaries, or try to manage when and how often they can be contacted. But with cellphones as indispensable commodities, these teenagers often end up dealing with buzzing and ringing that they either have to answer or ignore.

“All … the … time,” said Rashad Vaughn of the frequency of incoming messages. The Cooper shooting guard, who has yet to narrow his college considerations, said he has received up to 30 messages in a single day. One night in January, he heard from coaches at North Carolina, Louisville, Florida, Iowa State and Baylor.

“It’s nice, I guess,” Vaughn said of the attention. “Sometimes it’s overwhelming.”

Reid Travis of DeLaSalle — a forward who, with Jones and Vaughn, is rated among ESPN’s top 40 recruits in the Class of 2014 — gets an average of five texts and three calls a day. Those rates are rising. Sometimes his phone responds with “no longer accepting calls at this time.”

“I try to get back to them on Sundays,” Travis said. “It can be overwhelming. But it’s just there.”

Debbie Jones was ready for the attention directed at her son.

“We had a plan, and that included calling coaches and telling them one text message or one phone call a week is enough,” she said.

Changing recruiting rules?

For now, NCAA Division I football and women’s basketball maintain limitations on when athletes can be contacted. But attention even during periods of approved communication can be intense. After an AAU tournament in Minneapolis last summer, Savanna Trapp — a 6-9 center on the Esko girls’ basketball team — spent the two-plus-hour drive home on the phone with college coaches.

Hopkins girls’ basketball All-America forward Nia Coffey was quickly turned off by persistent coaches and immediately involved her parents.

“The recruiting process is stressful enough and now that you can talk to players 24/7, it is even worse. It can be a bit much,” Coffey said. “There definitely should be rules to control that.”

The NCAA had been considering proposals to extend unlimited contact using various types of communication for football and women’s basketball recruiting, originally saying it had received only positive feedback since making the change to men’s basketball. But examples of communication overload similar to that experienced by Minnesota’s elite athletes now has the committee rethinking things.

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