The New Media Business of College Basketball Recruiting

May 22, 2010

Make no mistake about it, college basketball is big business.

Recently I was discussing the quest for 2010 big men on the campuses of Kentucky and North Carolina with some fans from both schools.

The reason both schools are working so hard to line up big men for the 2010 year isn’t because they can’t find players. These two schools are so nationally recognized that they have thousands of big men who would bolt to their program if given the opportunity.

In addition to being on a national power, the teams play nearly all of their games on national television, with massive fan bases. Both schools’ basketball programs have a deep reach into pro basketball, which means that players that attend those schools will make connections with coaches, players, scouts and ex-players who can help them land a big paycheck in the future, even if it’s not playing on a roster.

But both schools can’t take just any post player. They need power players, players who are good enough to help them maintain their status as a national force. This is because for big time college basketball, it’s not just about winning, it’s about money.

As a result, college basketball recruiting is a huge piece of the business of college basketball, and has been a cottage industry for some time. There are scouting services and websites that have proliferated over the past few years.

Traditional media and scouting services hate, absolutely hate, the sudden infusion of new people into what used to be their own domain. They sneer at the concept of ‘fan’ websites following high school recruiting and claim that it’s all amateur. This, despite the fact that many new services are run by coaches, journalists or ex-players.

On one hand, the criticism is correct. There is an issue already in high school basketball recruiting where independent people can inject themselves into the recruiting process where college coaches can’t. Traditional newspapers will complain that anyone can start a website, obtain media credentials and get right next to highly sought after recruits. This is a straw man argument, however, because ‘anyone’ can start a newspaper, ‘anyone’ can start a newsletter, and there is no difference between a media outlet which is a printed paper circulating to 10,000 people and a website with 10,000 unique readers.

The only difference between any of these media outlets is management and integrity. Claiming that somehow printed scouting services or newspapers are any more legitimate just because of the method of distribution is a hollow argument. I would point to examples such as the New York Post and other methods of yellow journalism that pervade printed, established media to illustrate that the legitimacy of a media outlet is completely dependent on the ethics of the publisher, and nothing else.

It’s quite easy today to pick up any newspaper and find a story with poor or non-existent source attribution, laden with opinionated bias represented as fact, and in many cases, outright interpretation of the facts. Irresponsible journalism is rampant across printed media, television media and the radio airwaves, so the idea that these legacy media outlet have any credibility in pointing out who is a legitimate news source is a farce.

Are there people injecting themselves irresponsibly into the world of college basketball recruiting? Absolutely. But it’s not limited to online publishing.

One specific item is how there is so much focus on ‘ranking’ players in a particular class. I must preface the following by mentioning that many colleagues who I respect and who have contributed at one time or another to our sites run ranking services and publications. They work hard to produce accurate representations of the talent levels in a given class.

But I have always maintained that our site’s focus was on actual scouting and following the players. Ranking a player as number 10 in his class is not the same as discussing how a specific player will fit in at a certain program or what that player’s specific abilities are.

Rankings are fun for the fans, and they have their place. But for us, we are more focused on strategy, contribution and long term prospects. The perfect example is a 6’8″ post player who can rebound like mad but doesn’t score much. He’s incredibly valuable to a team with scorers on the wings, but in a ranking system he’s likely a dud.

This is not to take rankings to task. I mention the concept of rankings merely to point out that rankings were created by established, printed media, decades ago, in almost all cases by people who had never coached or played basketball at any level.

In other words, exactly the way that those same media outlets complain about the ‘new media’ today.

The difference is now there is far more scrutiny. For us, our sites have contributions from journalists, players, ex-players and coaches. Some of our contributors have worked for or played for NBA teams, some for Division I programs. So while we constantly hear the ‘old media’ complaining about our new media, we can’t help but wonder who decided they were the experts.


Two Top Recruits May Not Play at UNC

May 15, 2010

It’s no secret that the North Carolina Tar Heels need post players.

Given the scramble for remaining 2010 post players that has erupted over the past few weeks, any option of a viable big man will be something the UNC staff will consider. While names like Kadeem Jack (C, 6’9″, 2010) have suddenly become common to UNC fans, two players that UNC wanted to consider will not be available.

Bill Cole of the Winston-Salem Journal reports that Marcus Thornton, a 6’7″ power forward who originally committed to Clemson, and Kevin Noreen, a 6’11’ PF/C who committed to Boston College, both signed national letters of intent Last November with their original ACC commitments. In both cases, coaching changes are the reason the players were granted a release. The ACC has compliance issues with players who transfer from or are committed to ACC schools, going to another ACC school.

UNC has contacted the high school coaches of both players.

The rule is that transfers from one ACC school to another will lose a full year of eligibility. That means that if either player chose to play at UNC, they’d have to sit out a year, but going to any non-ACC school would mean they could play right away and keep their four years of eligibility.

This also affects Georgia Tech and Virginia, both of whom have extended scholarship offers to Thornton.

ACC schools can appeal the ruling, but in recent cases, the ACC hasn’t allowed a deviation regardless of whether the player has actually played for the school or not.


Basketball Recruiting Roundup 11/27/2008

November 27, 2008

Some minor notes today… Jamil Wilson (SF, 6’7″, 2009), the slashing player who was at one time listing Duke as a possibility seems to have completely moved away from the Blue Devils and is leaning more towards Michigan State, Texas, Oregon or Marquette. We are moving our tracking of Wilson over to our Basketball Recruiting blog, where we discuss national players.

Wilson is not expected to decide on a school until March, but he has said he was impressed with his visit to Michigan State and it seems that if he was to decide before then, possibly the Spartans would be the team he’d go with.

John Henson Makes An Impact

If you are a high school basketball coach, hearing that a 6’10” player suddenly transferred to your school is great news. When that player is UNC recruiting commitment John Henson (SF, 6’10”, 2009), a player who has a great shot at being a first round NBA pick, it’s the surprise of a career.

John Henson arrived at Florida’s Sickles High School and made an impact before he’d even played a game or attended a practice, putting the high school into the national recruiting scene. He continues to bring good fortune to the school, and should make them a serious contender for the state title. Yeah, he’s that good.

ACC fans who root against Carolina are not going to like the lineup next season of Davis, Zeller and Henson – three players who will likely all end up in the NBA.


Kenny Boynton and the big game

October 11, 2008

Kenny Boynton (PG/SG, 6’2″, 2009), being heavily pursued by Duke and Georgia Tech, will have to be ready to play on bigger stages than ever before, more often than ever before, if he decides to come to the ACC, with a rabid fanbase and almost all games televised.

Boynton seems to be the type of player who would thrive in this environment, as evidenced in this story from the Miami Herald:

“I look forward to the big show,” said Boynton, who averaged a state-best 34.5 points as a Parade All-American a year ago. “I always want to put on a bigger performance so I could give fans their money’s worth and they could come back to watch me.”

John Henson and his sister

Meanwhile, UNC commit John Henson (SF, 6’10”, 2009) has relocated to the same state as Boynton, and ESPN has an article about Henson and his sister, Amber, who is also a solid basketball player, thinks that some of the attention she gets is because of her brother:

Amber says she doesn’t mind playing in her brother’s shadow. She thinks name recognition helped her.

“Now he’s doing his own thing and I am doing my own thing,” Amber said. “I kind of like it because his name’s out there and people [say] ‘That’s his sister; she must be good, too.’ Then I kind of get my shine.”

Maryland in in with 2009 big man

Oh, and Maryland is in the final two for big man Jordan Williams (PF, 6’10”, 2009), in competition with St. John’s.


Boo Williams’ McAdoo Swings Through the ACC

September 23, 2008

James McAdoo (PF, 6’8″, 2011) is big time, already on the big schools’ radar as a sophomore. UCLA and Florida have made no secret that they want the prolific big man, already extending offers according to Scout.

However, this weekend, McAdoo visited the campuses of UNC and Duke (not a bad idea OR difficult given the mere eight mile distance between the two) and will swing through Wake Forest this weekend. Business as usual for Wake, who by some reports was planning to host Noel Johnson (SF, 6’7″, 2009) and got a commitment from Ari Stewart last weekend. Johnson committed to USC, which had seemed to be where he was leaning. I would speculate that Johnson felt getting playing time at Wake might have been difficult with Al Farouq-Aminu and Ari Stewart, if Farouq-Aminu stays for more than one year. He also considered Georgia Tech, but recent moves led him to conclude that USC was the best fit for him.

At any rate, McAdoo, a player from Norfolk, Virginia, seems to really like Duke and UNC, although he does not have offers from them yet. He was on the Chapel Hill campus as was 2010 UNC commit Kendall Marshall.

As always, if you’re a college basketball fan who can’t get enough of this stuff, sign up for the email list.