NBA Free Agency Gives Fans a Taste of College Sports Recruiting

Ishtiaque HossainCorrespondent IJuly 7, 2010

CLEVELAND - APRIL 27: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers reacts a after being fouled and making the shot while playing the Chicago Bulls in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on April 27, 2010 in Cleveland, Ohio. Cleveland won the game 96-94 to win the series 4-1. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

July 1 was a merely a week ago, yet it seems like an eternity. Every television network, radio station, print, and online media outlet has kept the world alert and on its toes. Not an hour has gone by that we haven't been updated on the NBA's 2010 Free Agency Madness.

In a matter of two days or so, megastar free agents like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh will have chosen their destinations to play basketball and earn, for a lack of better numbers, gazillions of dollars. 

Fans and media alike are caught up in the frenzy, reloading web pages and refreshing Twitter accounts feverishly, making sure nothing is missed in that span of one minute.

One day we hear LeBron loves Chicago. The next day we find out he's staying in Cleveland. Later we find out Bosh will join Wade in Chicago. Some reports say they'll all play together in Miami

Now it turns out that Bosh and Wade will play together in Miami, with LeBron deciding on Thursday.

Fortunately, this diva act will be over soon. 

Unfortunately, however, also finished will be the drama, rumors, and charade circling this summer's free agency you NBA fans are loving so much. What will you pro fans ever do?

This is where college sport comes in. If you want drama, he-said-she-said chatter, plot twists, last minute change of hearts, and commitment rumors stemming from a prospect's mother's hairdresser's cousin's brother-in-law's college roommate's gardener, then college recruiting is the way to go.

In the world of college football and basketball, the regular and postseasons matter the most, but you can most assuredly say that the recruiting season is just as important, so much so that it is treated as another whole season in itself.

Recruiting isn't the lone moneymaker in college sports, but it is definitely the single biggest catalyst in program success and league revenue after wins and ticket sales. 

As far as recruiting's impact on program success is concerned, the proof is in the pudding. In college football, the SEC has been leading the country in recruiting rankings year-in and year-out for a while now. 

Result? The last four BCS National Championships, and six out of the 12 total BCS Championships, belong to the grand ol' SEC.

Recruiting also makes or breaks coaches. Ty Willingham wasn't a bad coach, but his inability to recruit big names at Notre Dame led to his downfall. Had Willingham brought in better talent, his paltry record may have been tolerated a little longer like it was with football's version of Jabba the Hut, Charlie Weis.

Likewise, recruiting ability also works the other way around. For instance, game day tactics and strategy aren't exactly Lane Kiffin and John Calipari's forte, but their superior recruiting prowess makes them top-dollar candidates for national powerhouses like Kentucky, Tennessee, and USC. 

Why else would Kentucky pay $32 million for a guy who doesn't know how to run a proper offensive set or call a timeout? Calipari's first year success at UK wasn't on the court; it was on draft night when five Wildcat players were selected in the first round.

That feat can't be overlooked, but it definitely would not take place without relentless recruiting.

Superstar names like Derrick Rose and John Wall have been and will be making highlight reels on SportsCenter. You see them now on their respective NBA teams, but only a short time ago were they high school players rigorously recruited by top basketball schools in the country.

Follow recruiting, and you'll find your next Rose or Wall years ahead of their professional careers. 

Lastly, but certainly not the least, recruiting keeps the average college Joe engaged in his favorite school's performance year-round. Fans subscribe to recruiting sites that give high school player rankings, commitment rumors, prospect stories, and insider information privy only to premium members.

These sites, along with ESPN's extensive coverage of National Signing Day, has made college recruiting a near billion dollar business.

There is a saying that "college football is religion in the south." I would respectfully disagree with that statement. In the south, college football is not religion; it is much more important that that.

In a world where football occupies more days in a person's week than worship does, recruiting coverage has gradually turned into a staple of southern life. 

So you see, my dear NBA fan, the hoopla you are drowned in at the moment won't last very long. All three big names are expected to sign by week's end or early next week.

This year's free agency resembles the craze and anxiety felt around National Signing Day every year. The storylines are eerily similar, and the steps these owners and general managers are taking to get these players to sign are nothing short of what the Nick Sabans and Urban Meyers do to achieve the same goal.

The only thing keeping free agency from completely looking like recruiting's National Signing Day is LeBron sitting at a desk with three hats, each resembling the teams most pursuing him.

That image actually isn't unfathomable, considering the hour-long special he has scheduled for his announcement Thursday night.

Life, after that, will go on as usual. Only if you want it to, that is.

You can end the drama and gossip here if you like and wait another whole year until stars like Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant become free agents.

You could, however, join me and the millions of college recruiting fans alike who know of no breaks or dead periods in the topsy-turvy, maniacal, yet wonderful world of college recruiting.  

The choice is, like for LeBron and Wade, ultimately yours.


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