NCAA Basketball: Why High-School Scouting, Recruiting Is Ruining the Game
National Signing Day is quickly becoming a national holiday. College basketball fans are glued to their televisions or computers, crossing their fingers that a coveted five-star recruit chooses their school over countless others.
College basketball is changing its identity from a four-year coaching and developing process to a one-and-done finishing school for NBA talents.
So what is this emphasis on high school recruiting doing to the college game?
Well, in short, ruining it.
No longer do fan bases have sentimental favorites to become attached to and cheer on for four years.
Players are gone just as soon as they arrive and coaches are left scrambling to fill holes in their roster.
No longer is it supposed to take a few years for a player to develop and learn the college game. If they cannot contribute right away they are obviously not good enough.
Still not convinced? I’ll keep going.
Here are the reasons that college scouting and recruiting are ruining college basketball.
Too Much Pressure
There is just too much pressure all around.
Too much pressure on players to pick the school their family, friends, fans, etc want them to.
Too much pressure on coaches to snag the right recruit and change the fortunes of their program.
Too much pressure on college players who want to outplay the five-star freshman and keep their starting spot.
No one needs all that pressure.
High schoolers are not supposed to turn into ruthless businessmen at the age of 18. College is the last chance they have to still be kids.
Just because they are good basketball players does not mean that they should consider different things than other college-bound kids.
Basketball players rarely get to think about things like location, curriculum or student body. Instead they make decisions based on conference, playing time and coaching style.
College coaches could fail to convince a recruit for a number of reasons. Maybe their school is not close enough to the player's home base or is too cold in the winter or the mascot is not energetic enough.
No matter the reason, if a coach does not land a coveted recruit, it is nobody's fault but his own.
There is absolutely no reason that everyone involved in college basketball needs to deal with that much pressure, especially when it involves players who are not even in college yet.
Lessens Coaching Impact
Last I checked, college coaches were supposed to mold their players, improve their skills and prepare them for the real world.
In this age of the one-and-done and high schoolers aching to jump right to the NBA, the impact of college coaching is continually lessened.
Twenty years ago when players almost always stayed in college for four years, the game was different. Juniors and seniors with more complete games and higher basketball IQs were dominating while underclassmen bided their time learning and honing their game.
Now, freshmen expect to contribute right away. Highly skilled players don't accept coaching as readily, then declare for the NBA draft before their coaches can make much of a difference.
Rarely do you see players like Draymond Green or Darius Miller stay in college for four years and steadily improve.
Even more rarely can you find players like these two who have adapted their games to fit what the team needs.
College basketball can be too reliant on individual statistics mostly because everyone wants to be a superstar like LeBron James and Kobe Bryant.
Coaches like Bill Self and Rick Pitino prove every year that great coaching makes teams incredibly successful, yet neither team had one go-to player.
Almost no one predicted that the Kansas Jayhawks and Louisville Cardinals would be in the Final Four but because the two coaches molded their players and really coached, the teams outperformed all expectations.
It is just too bad that such impressive coaching jobs are so few and far between.
Lessens Importance of Seniors
I admit it (to be honest, I proclaim it proudly and excitedly), I am a Kentucky Wildcats fan. So why do I care about seniors? Kentucky hasn't had a senior since John Calipari took over three years ago, right?
On arguably Kentucky’s two most talented teams—2010-11 with John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins and this past year with Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist—my favorite players have been seniors.
Without Patrick Patterson in 2010-11 and Darius Miller this past season, neither team would have had as much success as they did.
There is no greater joy as a basketball fan than watching a player for four straight years, seeing them grow as a basketball player and eventually become the leader of a team.
Freshman can undoubtedly fill leadership roles, but they simply can’t do the same things that a senior leader who has been through a complete college basketball career can.
Seniors are truly playing their last year of college basketball and have a fire and passion that is almost never seen in underclassmen.
With the emphasis on incredible high school talent and bolting for the NBA as quickly as possible, there are just not enough skilled seniors to go around.
Encourages One-and-Done Mentality
Controversial argument time. I think the rule forcing basketball players to wait until their class is one year removed from high school to enter the NBA draft is stupid.
Either the rule should be abolished completely, allowing basketball players to jump right from high school to the NBA, or everyone should be required to spend two years in college.
One year serves no purpose. The first year I spent in college was a blur of meeting new people, learning to live without my parents and eating a lot of fast food.
College students who play basketball barely even have time for that. They are at practice 24/7 and have little time in between to do things like learn to cook food, do laundry or any get accustomed other growing-up life skills.
Even if players are wildly successful in the NBA after spending just one year in college, it does not mean that they are truly ready for life on their own.
An article about Kwame Brown, the much maligned No. 1 draft pick straight out of high school, detailed the major growing pains young kids must go through.
Brown ate fast food for at least the first month after he was drafted because he did not know how to grocery shop.
So maybe letting kids go straight from high school to the NBA isn’t the answer, either. But I can’t imagine there is much difference between a player who spent one year in college and one who did not go at all.
If Anthony Davis had waited just one more year to have his seven-inch growth spurt, it is likely that a no-name school like Middle Tennessee State or Idaho State Technical Institute would have been graced with his talents instead of the Kentucky Wildcats.
With the emphasis on finding the best high school players who can contribute right away, colleges often overlook solid players who can become very good (if not great) with a little coaching.
College boosters, officials and fans all want to recruit the next big thing. And with players getting that kind of billing as early as fifth grade, big names are necessary.
So what happened to those players who fought for a spot as walk-ons, gradually improved and eventually earned scholarships and starring roles?
To put it bluntly, those players have all but disappeared.
Coaches try to recruit as many four- and five-star players as possible and too often pay little or no attention to those who might need a bit more seasoning.
And those players can be the best one day. Thomas Robinson averaged just 2.5 points per game while playing seven minutes a contest in his freshman year.
But as everyone now knows, he put in the time and became one of the best players in the country his junior season.
Those are the stories fans love, but those same fans are pushing for blue-chip recruits right and left. And college coaches are listening.