Almost from the time that the NCAA eliminated the April “live” period from the recruiting calendar around five years ago, the majority of stakeholders involved in grassroots basketball, college coaches and athletes clamored to have it re-instated as valuable tool on the recruiting trail. In a rare stroke of common sense, the NCAA brought back the evaluation period for recruits this April, which runs for the next two weekends, starting each Friday at 6:00 p.m., and ending on Sunday’s at 4:00 p.m. This means that college coaches can attend events in person during those time periods, and scout prospective players.
The major original intention of eliminating the April evaluation period was to curtail the influence of tournaments and events on high school athletes, which was said to have negatively affected academics. The amount of events did not decrease. It increased. And scouting services and websites served as even more of a lifeline regarding prospects to college basketball coaches. The infrastructure in place in terms of travelling teams and tournaments was not diminished in any way by college coaches not being able to attend events.
The next two weekends will be particularly telling in terms of the priority-level recruits have with the respective programs. With only six days to have face time and evaluate the top players, the appearances of head coaches at each tournament or event will traditionally be telling in who they will make their strongest runs at to secure as a recruit in the 2013 class.
Another positive impact in bringing back the live period in April will be for unsigned high school seniors. They will have two weekends to go all out and potentially land a scholarship offer from a program that has openings for their next year’s rosters. At well-attended events, there will be numerous players that will walk away from a game or two well-played with a D-1 scholarship in hand and an education paid for.
This weekend, Minneapolis and Las Vegas are the epicenters for tournaments, with Pittsburgh in honorable mention. Nike’s first leg of their Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL) for their 40 sponsored teams kicks off in Minneapolis, which will also have at least two other large tournaments on-going, the Best Buy Spring Classic and the NY2LA Sports Spring Extravaganza, which are primarily attended by unaffiliated teams.
In Sin City, adidas is putting on an event new to this year, the V.I.P. Exclusive Run, which features many of the grassroots teams under their umbrella in an early season showdown meant to counter Nike’s league. Also, longtime SoCal event promoter and AAU coach Dinos Trigonis will run the Pangos Spring Showdown in Vegas, which appears to have a strong West Coast field. Another tournament that is completely loaded is the Under Armour-sponsored Hoop Group Pittsburgh Jam, which will feature squads on the burgeoning Under Armour circuit, as well as traditional Northeastern power teams.
While grassroots basketball rosters can and do change, here are the probable squads and shoe circuits for the top-10 players in the national 2013 class:
- Jabari Parker, 6-7, SF, Mac Irvin Fire – Illinois (Nike)
- Julius Randle, 6-9, PF, Texas Titans (Nike)
- Aaron Gordon, 6-7, PF, Oakland Soldiers (Nike)
- Andrew Harrison, 6-5, PG, Houston Defenders (Under Armour)
- Aaron Harrison, 6-5, SG, Houston Defenders (Under Armour)
- Troy Williams, 6-6, SF, Boo Williams – Virginia (Nike)
- Chris Walker, 6-9, PF, Florida Rams (adidas)
- Jabari Bird, 6-6, SG, Oakland Soldiers (Nike)
- Nick King, 6-7, SF, Bluff City Legends – Tennessee (Nike)
- James Young, 6-6, SG, The Family – Michigan (Nike)