The trend of players choosing a college before a high school (cont.)
NCAA still regulates contact
Parents who would prefer that their kids wait until they've at least experienced one Homecoming dance before choosing a college shouldn't worry about coaches applying undue early pressure. NCAA rules regarding contact make it somewhat easy for parents to shield their youngsters from the perils of recruiting. Even though the NCAA doesn't consider a player a "prospective student-athlete" until he enters ninth grade, coaches must abide by rules that prohibit them from initiating contact with players until the summer between their sophomore and junior years.
So while Polee has been committed to USC for almost two years, Floyd won't be allowed to call Polee or his parents until June. That's fine with the NCAA, which doesn't recognize scholarship offers until they are accompanied by a National Letter-of-Intent. Basketball players may sign a NLI no earlier than November of their senior year of high school.
"We always stress that verbal commitments are non-binding and young people can't make a formal commitment until they are old enough to sign an NLI," NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn wrote in an e-mail.
Most face-to-face contact between coaches and young recruits comes at elite camps on each coach's campus. Otherwise, the player or his parent must call the coach, or the college coach must use an intermediary such as an AAU or high school coach.
Bryan (Texas) High coach John Reese, whose son, J-Mychal, is one of the top guards in the class of 2012, said his son received two scholarship offers -- from Arizona and Texas Tech -- during the summer between seventh and eighth grade, but otherwise J-Mychal has been allowed to enjoy a relatively normal early adolescence. "Nobody's beating down our doors or calling us daily," John Reese said.
Reese said he has advised J-Mychal to pare down his list of potential suitors, but the elder Reese hopes his son will hold off on a decision. Some parents of young elite prospects are curious about the trend of early offers because they don't know how it might affect their child.
Tim Peters, a Plano, Texas, tech firm CEO whose son, Zach, is a 6-8, 220-pound eighth-grade power forward, said nothing can prepare a parent for the unique challenge of negotiating a rapidly accelerating recruiting process.
"There's not a how-to book that lays it out for you," Peters said.
The problem -- critics of the early offers say -- is that unless the player has Greg Oden-type talent, the plan can change. In other cases, a coach may get fired and the new coach may cut loose all his predecessor's committed players, leaving them scrambling to find scholarships.
Howard Avery said Michael accepted Gillespie's offer with his eyes open. If Kentucky upholds its end of the bargain, Avery intends to uphold his.
"Commitment means commitment, at least in my mind," Avery said. "If facts change, that's a different story."