The bottom line here, of course, is recruiting edge. Have some Five-Star superstars gone to a particular college because a station-master was an assistant at that school? "The total number of kids who have gone to a certain school because of Five-Star, in all the years that Five-Star has existed," Garf says, "does not equal the number of kids in one year who attend a college which sponsored a camp they went to."
It's a difficult claim to prove. Rumors are rampant that certain universities use their on-campus camps as recruiting tools, thereby violating NCAA rules, particularly the one that prohibits a college camp from providing a free or reduced rate for a camper.
"I'm sure that's a fairly common practice," says Yeager, "and it doesn't do any good to see a canceled check, because there's a you-give-me-a-check-I'll-give-you-back-cash arrangement." Still, the NCAA has uncovered only one significant summer-camp violation in recent years: Auburn University was put on probation for one season partly because it provided a free ride or reduced fee to seven campers in 1979.
Of the 30 incoming freshmen listed as All-Americas by Basketball Times—selected, incidentally, by Garfinkel and Konchalski—only two will attend universities where Garf's station-masters have worked as assistants—Dave Rivers (Notre Dame) and Michael Brown (Syracuse). By contrast, six of the 13 players on last year's Kentucky roster and four of the top 12 on North Carolina's attended the camps of Hall and Smith, respectively. And so it goes.
Rest assured, the Halls and the Smiths will never allow themselves to be legislated out of the camp business. The right to run a summer camp is often written into coaches' contracts, and camps can add as much as $100,000 to a coach's income. Rest assured, too, that they won't push Garf very far. Maybe they'd vote against him under the cloak of anonymity, but it's a different ball game when they're on his turf at Five-Star. They walk on eggs. They need this man. Camps like Five-Star and B/C are smorgasbords, and the coaches congregate like hungry wolves.
Both Cronauer and Garfinkel run their best camp weeks between June 15 and Aug. 1 because the NCAA dictates that only during those six weeks may coaches evaluate talent. August is a "dead month" with the camps off-limits to coaches. All the camp operators make noise about "taking care" of their campers in front of the college coaches, but each uses the maximum-exposure angle to sell his camp. Certainly the kids know the score. "There are much better players on the playground around Washington in the summer," said Tyrone Jones, a former Washington, D.C. Dunbar High star who is headed for Kansas. "I go to camp so the coaches can see me."
At camps, college coaches on scouting missions can't engage players in private conversation; the NCAA toughened its stance on this rule when it got complaints that coaches were turning a so-called accidental "bump" into a 15-minute Q & A. Coaches seem to observe the rule. Not that they're paragons of law and order. There are simply too many other coaches around who'd squeal on them if they didn't.
Coaches have found alternate ways to communicate, like wearing the colors. For example, there was Marquette's head coach, Rick Majerus, at the Evansville camp, decked out in a huge blue shirt with MARQUETTE in bold gold and white letters. "He knows I'm here all right," said Majerus. "He" was Robert Barnes, a 6'8" center out of Racine, Wis. Majerus was babysitting, simply hanging around to let the player know he was there. Too bad: Barnes chose Wisconsin. Brooks attracted a lot of babysitters at Five-Star, but Knight was not among them.
Besides the babysitting and maybe a quick wave—waving is O.K., says Yeager—there's little else a coach can do in the summer besides go home and write letters to a recruit. Says Chris Washburn, a 6'11" center who's going to N.C. State, "All the letters were pretty much the same. They said how glad they were to see me play at camp and how they wish they could've talked to me." It sounds a little silly, but that's how the recruiting game is played these days.
Before Brooks got to Five-Star last summer, he had gotten some bad news: The Indiana High School Athletic Association had prohibited its athletes from attending the AFBE camp in Princeton. IHSAA bylaws state that a camp must be open to all students, and clearly AFBE wasn't. No competitive camp truly is, but the IHSAA had other problems with AFBE. "Because of the free plane rides and all of that," said IHSAA commissioner Gene Cato, "I'm not sure it doesn't violate some of our rules on amateurism." This year the IHSAA allowed its players to attend AFBE, provided they paid a fee comparable to that charged by other camps; AFBE and the IHSAA agreed on $125.