Kingsley Okoroh is a 7-foot-1 center from England that played his high school ball at Westwind Prep in Arizona last season. On Monday, Okoroh announced that he was committed to Tennessee.
Then on Tuesday, Tennessee head coach Cuonzo Martin took the head coaching gig at Cal. An hour later, Okoroh announced that he was committed to Cal as well.
It may seem like Okoroh flip-flopped at the last minute, but in all reality, nothing has changed: Okoroh committed to play basketball for Cuonzo Martin. There are exceptions, but for the most part, if you’re playing high-level college basketball, you’re picking your school based on the coach that’s running the basketball program. If there was ever a perfect example of this, you’re looking at it right here.
And it’s also a perfect example of why waiting to sign a National Letter of Intent until the spring signing period is a good idea. The spring signing period actually starts in mid-April — April 16th this season — and lasts until May, which means that it takes place after the majority of the coaching carousel happens. NLIs are binding, meaning that the schools can force the athlete to lose a year of eligibility if they decide not to enroll and are not given a release. Waiting until the spring helps to ensure that the coach that a player wants to play for is still at the program the player is planning on signing with.
It doesn’t come without its drawbacks, however. If the player isn’t good enough to be waited for, that program might give a scholarship to a comparable player willing to sign early. It’s hard for someone other than an elite level prospect to convince a coaching staff to wait, but it’s an option worth looking into for every potential college basketball player.
Because if the coach you commit to leaves, you want to be able to follow him out the door.