Elite prospects take measures to limit coaches’ contact
USA TODAY High School Sports
Andrew and Aaron Harrison figured they could handle it. After all, what were a few more text messages for the 18-year-old twins, even if they are two of the most elite high school hoopers in the country?
That’s why when the NCAA introduced a new rule change on June 15 that, among other things, allowed college basketball coaches to make unlimited phone calls and send unlimited text messages to recruits, Andrew and Aaron didn’t give it a second thought.
“We really didn’t think it would be that serious,” Aaron said. “We were definitely wrong.”
On the first day, Aaron got more than 60 phone calls and 300 texts from college coaches. Same for Andrew.
After another day of what Aaron referred to as a “ridiculous amount of calls and texts”, the twin senior guards, who eventually committed to Kentucky in early October, changed their numbers and funneled all contact through their father Aaron Sr.
“It’s too stressful,” Aaron Jr. said. “You just get overwhelmed and it shouldn’t be like that. It’s too much. Why coaches just text constantly and call all the time is crazy to me, even if they can. You really have to limit that contact if you want to have some type of a normal life.”
It’s an approach that dozens of elite players around the country had taken even before the rule change, or have adopted since its inception.
Simeon (Chicago) wing Jabari Parker, a consensus top five senior, took the same approach as the Harrison twins, changing his number and letting his father, Sonny, handle all calls and texts.
Tyus Jones took a more proactive approach.
As the top player in the 2014 class, Jones, a point guard at Apple Valley (Apple Valley, Minn.), knew that having more than 30 offers spelled a recipe for disaster.
“Me and my family talked to the coaches before June 15 and told them that they didn’t have to go overboard with calling and texting,” Jones said. “It didn’t really make sense because we knew where they all stood. It wasn’t necessary to hear from them every day.”
Not every college coach gets sore thumbs from sending dozens of texts. Some take the “hands-off” approach.
Back in September when Kentucky coach John Calipari extended an offer to Whitney Young (Chicago) center Jahlil Okafor, Calipari told Okafor not to expect him to call constantly.
“Coach Cal said he didn’t see the point of all that calling and texting,” said Okafor, who is ranked No. 2 in the class of 2014. “I loved that approach because he made a really good point when he said, ‘I’m 53 years old, what would we have to talk about?’ Some schools just get out of hand with crazy texts.”
After one coach began sending Okafor text messages simply repeating the name of his college, Okafor’s dad Chucky stepped in and told all of the coaches to keep texts and calls on topic.
“It was just weird,” Okafor said. “I guess some guys like the attention, but, honestly, most of us don’t need it.”
Some schools think that the head coach has to take the lead on elite prospects and stay in constant contact to have a legitimate chance at landing them.
Not true according to Wesleyan Christian (High Point, N.C.) wing Theo Pinson, a consensus top 10 player in the class of 2014.
“I don’t need to hear from the head coach too often,” Pinson said. “As long as I hear from him from time to time that’s fine with me. It can’t be never. That would be a turnoff. But I know he’s busy; just need to talk to him every now and then.”
Still, in the high-stakes game of recruiting where commitments from elite prospects can affect livelihoods, college coaches feel the pressure to pull out all the stops.
The question is: When does it get to be too much?
For Okafor, that answer is simple.
“It’s common sense; you know when you’re calling and texting too much,” he said. “Coaches just have to remember, we already know you want us. Don’t be so thirsty.”