This has been a wild week on the recruiting front, and the latest news to come down on Wednesday night involved our old friend Rick Pitino.
Pitino seemingly came out of nowhere to land a commitment from a 6-foot-9 Nebraskan named Akoy Agau, who is a native of Sudan. As a prospect, Agau is pretty much exactly what you would expect out of a kid from Sudan: he’s long, he’s athletic, he’s got terrific upside as a rebounder and a shotblocker, and he needs to develop the offensive side of his game, although he has proven to have a decent touch from the perimeter.
He’s got enough potential on the court that he is a consensus top 100 recruit and enough vowels in his name that, when combined with current Cardinal bigs Mangok Mathiang and Gorgui Dieng, announcers will have nightmares the night before they have to call a Louisville game.
As hard as this may be to believe, the impossibility of properly pronouncing the names of everyone on the Louisville roster is not the most interesting part of this commitment. You see, as of right now, Louisville has 15 player scheduled to receive a scholarship in 2013-2014. Two seniors are scheduled to graduate — Stephen Van Treese and Peyton Siva — and four players are currently committed to the school — prep point guard Terry Rozier, JuCo point guard Chris Jones, and big men Anton Gill and Agau.
That’s a problem, because college basketball teams are only allowed to have 13 players on scholarship.
This, quite frankly, is the definition of oversigning. And it’s not the first time that Pitino has done this. In 2010-2011 he asked Chris Smith, Kyle Kuric and Elisha Justice to give up their scholarships and become walk-ons to get to the necessary number of scholarship players. Since then, Pitino has “asked” a number of players — Jared Swopshire, Van Treese (he was eventually allowed to return when Raheem Buckles left), George Goode — to transfer to make room for better, healthier recruits.
Personally, I don’t have a huge issue with this. The players weren’t good enough, so they got cut. It sucks, but it happens.
But this is an enormous issue on the football side of things. So why isn’t there more outrage for basketball coaches like Pitino — or Tom Crean or Buzz Williams or any other coach who does something similar — who practice oversigning? John Infante took a look earlier this week in a terrific post. He offers up a number of explanations, but here are the two that I think are the most relevant:
So much more attention to roster management in basketball is paid to the roster management initiated by the players themselves. The high number of transfers helps mask issues with over-signing in two ways. First, it helps provide justification for oversigning in the first place. Coaches never know who will want to leave. Second, it clears up the scholarship crunch.
There are fewer horror stories. In basketball, the result of an over-signed basketball team typically ends with a basketball player transferring and moving on to continue his career at another Division I school. Football has all sorts of worse outcomes, including allegations of athletes being pressured into signing permanent medical non-counter scholarships, freshmen dropped from the team on the eve of fall camp, athletes transferring to junior college and needing to restart the recruiting process all over again, etc.
The bottom-line is this: there are a few programs who are developing a reputation for over-recruiting. If you don’t want to run the risk of getting “cut” or being forced to transfer, avoid those schools. Otherwise — i.e. if you decide that you just have to go to a school like Louisville — than you’ll have to deal with any negative outcome.
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.