Earlier this year the NCAA made a series of changes to reform boys high school basketball recruiting. According to a press release from August 14, 2018, the changes were meant to “promote integrity in the game, strengthen accountability and prioritize the interests of student-athletes over every other factor.”
But so far, Eau Claire’s top basketball players do not feel as though their best interests have been taken into account.
“They looked at the top 1% of athletes who were going to college and being paid because some coaches would do some dirty work... and (the changes) take away from so much else,” said Dalton Banks, of Eau Claire North.
The most disheartening of these changes was the limiting of the number of summer “live periods” during which NCAA coaches can watch and recruit youth basketball players playing in AAU tournaments across the country.
Previously, there were three “live” evaluation periods in July; however, this year, that number was dropped to just one, with regional basketball camps taking the place of the other AAU tournaments.
“It’s terrible,” Banks said. “It takes away so much opportunity for kids to show coaches what they’re about.”
This shouldn’t come to a surprise for the NCAA. The association knew this was going to happen. Andy Katz, a college basketball correspondent working for the NCAA, said it himself in his article explaining the rule changes.
“While there has been some criticism that players will be overlooked,” he wrote, “there actually will be more opportunities to see them at the high school and AAU level over the course of the calendar year.”
But according to both Banks and Eau Claire Memorial’s Caden Boser, not all scouting opportunities are created equally.
The boys said they are not happy with the new camp set-up. They said these camps are often filled with boys trying to show off their individual talents to coaches and it hurts players like Banks, who are skilled passers and who know how to do the little things to help a team win.
“When you’re on an AAU team, on a team environment, everyone is playing together, you’re moving the ball,” Banks said. “But when you go to these camps, you’re playing with kids you don’t know, and everyone is just trying to show off what they can do and it’s just a tough scene.”
Banks’ AAU coach, Al Harris of D1 Minnesota, said the change has really hurt Banks and players of his ilk. These players on the bubble between a mid-major and high-major offer are not in the limelight, and therefore might only get one, if any, opportunity to show off their talents in front of scouts.
For Boser, it meant Northern Colorado, a college that had been in touch with the Memorial senior, hadn’t had a chance to see him play until last weekend.
“Schools have fewer resources and fewer days, so they have to be really focused on where they’re sending their guys,” Eau Claire Memorial’s basketball coach Chad Brieske said. “In the past, you could spread yourself out more.”
It’s created fewer opportunities for collegiate scouts to find those “diamond in the rough” players at lesser-known tournaments.
“It is definitely unfortunate for the kids,” Harris said. “I think it has hurt a lot of players and their opportunities. For athletes that are working so hard, and you boil it down to two evaluation periods, it might make them a little sour about where they’re at and the opportunities they’ve had.”
It made last weekend particularly important for Banks and Boser, who played in one of the few live period AAU tournaments.
“It’s tough,” Banks said. “You know you’re playing for your future.”
Both boys said they were happy with the way they performed and are looking forward to continuing to show off their talents as the summer AAU schedule begins to wrap up.