The Scouting Service Quandary
The biggest story right now in college sports revolves around scouting services and street agents. All of this is coming to light after multiple media outlets reported that the Oregon football program allegedly paid one man who owns a scouting service over 25,000 dollars.
Before anyone gets too carried away, it is important to realize a few things. First of all, if you think your favorite school doesn't use and pay for scouting services you are wrong. Every school in the country uses them, and they are used from volleyball, to basketball, to football. In this day and age they are very necessary for college coaches, and a lot of them provide value. Also it is important to note that the vast majority of scouting services aren't run by trainers or advisors, but by people who actually do scouting.
In basketball the NCAA's Basketball Focus Group has made several rules intended to limit scouting services. Their goal is to get rid of the bogus scouting services that force colleges to pay money to have a chance to get a kid out of a particular area or organization.
However in doing this, combined with the decision to cut out the April evaluation period, what the NCAA has done is make scouting services all the more powerful in the hoops game. For an article in the upcoming Scout Recruiting Yearbook, coaches were asked about the power of scouting services, and they all agreed that they have become increasingly important.
The problem is due to the recruiting calendar being condensed in terms of days the coaches are allowed out. They now have to take the recommendations of scouting service publishers and many schools offer kids without ever seeing them play a game of basketball. It happened with Anthony Davis this past spring most notably, but several other kids as well.
It is an interesting debate, how does the NCAA eliminate the bad scouting services while not penalizing good services that schools genuinely use and rely on. Also they need to figure out a way to give the coaches an opportunity to actually see kids play in competitive situations, because right now there is far too great a reliance on outside opinions as opposed to coaches actually seeing kids play.
It is the month of March, and depending on your area of the country that means state tournaments are either winding down or they are in the early rounds. What this means is for big time prospects all across the country this is winning time.
Now it isn't fair to simply state that unless a kid wins a state title or advances far in the state tournament he doesn't possess the winning qualities that are so important once a player gets to college. Obviously there are other factors that go into a state championship beyond one's control. No matter how good a star player might be if the four other kids on the floor with him aren't good, that team isn't going to win a state title. It is really that simple sometimes.
However what is important is big time players step up at big times. There is no greater time for a high school player to assert his will and dominance than during the state tournament. Now every kid is entitled to a bad game, but the ability to shine when there is a big stage, that as much as anything can be a predictor of college success.
Coaches everywhere are searching for more than ability. They are looking for those qualities that get a player and a team into the winner's circle. Even with so many college coaches in the middle of conference tournaments and even NCAA Tournament preparations they will find a way to watch kids play during their state tournaments.
Of course it is to impress perspective recruits, but as much as anything it is to see if the kid has the intestinal fortitude to step up and make a big play when his team needs him if the most. If a kid is able to do that, odds are the coach will want that player to lead him into games at the next level.
Historically this isn't the busiest time for commitments, but this past week was one where a bunch of decisions were made.
Clearly the biggest name to come off the board was J.P. Tokoto. The top 50 ranked small forward in the 2012 class decided on the North Carolina Tar Heels over the Wisconsin Badgers. Tokoto, who was once considered a top 10 player in the class, was thought to be a UNC lean for a while, and after a thorough look at all of the schools on his list he decided to be a Tar Heel.
While Tokoto garnered the most headlines, numerous other commitments were made. In the 2011 class Devin Coleman picked Clemson, while De'End Parker and Christian Behrens both picked the Cal Golden Bears. Beherns is a big man with some potential while Parker is a JUCO standout. Also in the 2011 class Chris Anderson pledged to the University of San Diego as well as Jason Cuffee to Wright State.
The class of 2012 saw some commitments come as well. Codi Miller-McIntyre received an offer from Wake Forest and pulled the trigger nearly immediately becoming the Demon Deacons first pledge in the class. Also the Colorado Buffalos tapped into their in-state talent by landing a commitment from Josh Scott.
Finally the de-commitment parade in the 2012 class continued with Shawn Smith. Smith pledged to the University of Central Florida in January, but decided that was too quick of a decision and is now open in the process.