InRecruit shines a light on the 99 percent

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“You have the top 150 kids every year who are steered one way or another, and it’s always the same schools and kids with the same ability level who have that opportunity. There are a few success stories for kids outside that process every year, but we wanted to change the way this process works.”

That’s how Joseph Rocco describes the recruiting process. In a phone conversation with NBCSports.com, Rocco described how he and former Villanova star Malik Allen set out to change that paradigm, by creating the social media platform inRecruit.

“After Malik retired from the NBA, he was looking for something other than a broadcasting or low-level coaching gig,” Rocco said. The two friends, who graduated from Villanova together in 2010, decided to combine their talents and knowledge. While Allen was forging a ten-year NBA career, Rocco was practicing law. It was a perfect match.

From the beginning, they focused on making productive relationships available, not only to the mega-talented one percent, but also to kids who might not be on anyone’s radar. Their goal: to open up the lines of communication that would not only allow blue-blood programs to keep track of the big name recruits, but also help connect lower-level athletes with the right schools, be they DII, DIII or junior college.

“We have the eye of the top schools and the top recruits, and that’s good for us as a company,” Rocco said. “But at the end of the day, this platform is built for those kids outside the 1 percent. That’s most of us.”

Allen and Rocco made sure to design the platform to appeal to all stakeholders in the recruiting process: fans, athletes, journalists, coaches and even parents. Including parents was important for both men, who serve as godparents to one another’s children.

“There is no platform out there that recognizes parents as an integral part of the process,” Rocco said. “It’s their child’s future. You can’t even join inRecruit if you’re under 14 years of age without a parent’s approval. You have to involve parents or it’s not going to work.”

The beta test of inRecruit just launched in July, but two years of work went into the platform’s look and function. The Allen/Rocco team spent two years meeting with coaches from college (most notably Jay Wright and the Villanova staff), high school and the NBA. In order to make sure nobody runs afoul of the governing body’s rules, inRecruit was designed with direct input from the NCAA as well.

“We wanted to set this platform up for coaches not to be able to fail,” Rocco said. “People come down hard on the NCAA, but it’s a tough job. Social media are difficult to regulate. They write a rule based on what they know at the time, then technology leaps ahead.”

In a way, inRecruit and similar programs may end up shining some light on the often sordid business of recruiting. So much of what people don’t like about recruiting happens in the dark, directed through middlemen. Social media is so public, it may make the process less shady. “You have the opportunity to have more transparency in the process and that makes it easier for regulators and the public to see what’s going on,” Rocco said.

Right now, inRecruit is focusing on growing their network. Jay Wright and Villanova signed on first, and the Penn Quakers got wind of the service and signed up as well. In addition, Rocco says high schools, junior colleges and programs from top to bottom of the NCAA structure are creating accounts every day. Kyle Lowry of the Toronto Raptors signed up, and Rocco says that ability to be effective across national borders is the next big thing his team hopes to tackle.

“Coaches have told us they’d love to see this available for places like Italy, Spain and Nigeria. That ability to go international is definitely important.”

The internet is a big place. Perhaps inRecruit will be basketball’s organized meeting place amongst the chaos.

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

John Calipari reminds Kentucky fans to remain classy in defeat

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Before traveling to Phoenix for the Final Four festivities, Kentucky head coach John Calipari used his Twitter account in an effort to diffuse the anger members of Big Blue Nation have directed at a referee following a heartbreaking loss in the Elite Eight.

In the days following the season-ending loss to North Carolina, some fans — not all — have harassed official John Higgins. They’ve flooded the Facebook page of his roofing business, leaving negative reviews and lowering his company’s star rating. Some have gone even more extreme, going as far as sending death threats over the phone.

Based on the replies, some have received the message. Others haven’t. The latter, despite it being a small but vocal group, can, unfortunately, paint a fan base with a broad brush.

Mark Emmert: NCAA Board of Governors to meet ‘in the next few days’ to determine N.C.’s tournament standing

AP Photo/David J. Phillip
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GLENDALE, Ariz. — Late on Wednesday night, the state of North Carolina reached an agreement to repeal the controversial and discriminatory House Bill 2 law, which is commonly known as the bathroom bill.

The NCAA had given the state a deadline of Thursday morning to make a change in this law or they would miss out on hosting NCAA tournament game until the 2022 season, so it’s not hard to connect the dots here. The pressure the NCAA asserted on the state helped create a change.

The question is just how much of a change, as many believe that the repeal does not do enough to change what is discriminatory about the law.

“What distinguished North Carolina,” NCAA president Mark Emmert said, “there were four distinct problems that the board had with that bill, and they removed some of them but not all of them. If you removed two or three of them, is that enough?”

The NCAA Board of Governors have stretched out the process of determining future tournament sites as far as possible, Emmert said, meaning that a decision on this new bill will be made soon.

“Because this happened on such short notice, we have to find a time to get together with the board, and that will probably happen in the next few days,” Emmert said, and in those meetings, the board “will determine if this [new] bill is sufficient change.”

“I’m personally very pleased they have a bill to debate and discuss. Hopefully we can be in a place where we can announce the board’s decision early next week.”

Gonzaga’s Mark Few named AP Coach of the Year

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Gonzaga head coach Mark Few has added to his program’s banner season with an individual award, being named AP Coach of the Year on Thursday afternoon.

Few led the Bulldogs to their first Final Four. The Zags enter the national semifinal with a 36-1 record. Up until Feb. 25, they were flirting with a perfect season. A loss to BYU is currently the only blemish on their season.

Few also won his 500th career game during the course of the 2016-17 season. Since 2014, two coaches from outside the major conferences have earned his honor. Gregg Marshall was named AP Coach of the Year in 2014 after leading the Shockers to a perfect regular season.

This was a very competitive race this season. Sean Miller lost two players expected to be key pieces this season — and had Allonzo Trier miss 19 games — but guided Arizona to the Pac-12 Tournament championship. Jay Wright led Villanova to another Big East title despite two cornerstone pieces — Ryan Arcidiancono and Daniel Ochefu — gone from last season’s national championship team. For a while, Baylor’s Scott Drew seemed to be the favorite. The Bears didn’t receive a single vote in the preseason top-25 poll but went on to earn a No. 1 ranking.

Few’s season continues on Saturday against South Carolina.

Frank Mason is named AP Player of the Year

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Kansas point guard Frank Mason III was named the AP Player of the Year on Thursday afternoon.

The senior floor general for the Jayhawks headlined the AP All-American team, which included UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball, Villanova Swingman Josh Hart, Purdue big man Caleb Swanigan and North Carolina small forward Justin Jackson.

Mason averaged 20.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, 5.1 assists, and shot 49 percent from behind the 3-point line during the 2016-17 season. He helped guide Kansas to its 13th consecutive Big 12 regular season title.

He becomes the fourth senior in a row to win the award, preceded by Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine, Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminksy and Creighton’s Doug McDermott.

He had previously been named player of the year by NBC Sports.

TJ Leaf declares for the 2017 NBA Draft

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UCLA freshman forward TJ Leaf announced he is declaring for the 2017 NBA Draft on Thursday afternoon.

The 6-foot-10 Leaf averaged 16.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.1 blocks per game. His shooting numbers were also impressive, connecting on 62 percent of his field goals, including 27-of-58 from beyond the 3-point arc.

This news comes six days after Lonzo Ball officially announced he had played his last game at UCLA. Neither move is shocking, with Ball in the running for the No. 1 overall pick and Leaf also pegged as a first round selection.

The Bruins will have quite a bit of turnover next season with guards Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton exhausting their eligibility. UCLA head coach Steve Alford has a six-man recruiting class set to come in to help replenish the roster. It’s led by versatile forward Kris Wilkes, point guard Jaylen Hands, and big men Cody Riley and Jalen Hill.