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.

Old Dominion lands former four-star center

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Elbert Robinson came out of high school in 2014 as a borderline top-50 recruit with offers from the likes of Florida, Kansas and Louisville before he ultimately chose to attend LSU.

The 7-foot-1 center, though, never even averaged 10 minutes a game in Baton Rouge and now will be finishing his career as a graduate transfer at Old Dominion, according to multiple reports.

“Old Dominion was perfect for him,” Lawrence Johns, Robinson’s grassroots coach, told the Virginian-Pilot. “I know for a fact that nobody in (Conference USA) is over 7 feet.

“I told him to go there and show people why he was the No. 1 center the year he came out.”

Robinson, who sat out last year for medical reasons, could step right into a major role with the Monarchs, who lost their starting frontcourt this offseason. He averaged 2.1 points and 1.4 rebounds in 6.4 minutes per game last year for the Tigers.

VIDEO: Mixtape for North Carolina-bound Nassir Little

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Nassir Little is one of the most improved players in the high school basketball ranks, going from being a guy that was a borderline five-star prospect to being a potential No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

At 6-foot-7 with a 7-foot-1 wingspan and athleticism to burn, he has all the makings of being one of the switchable wing defenders that are en vogue in the modern era of the NBA.

Former UNC star Phil Ford has surgery for prostate cancer

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina says former point guard Phil Ford has had surgery for prostate cancer.

Team spokesman Steve Kirschner said Wednesday that Ford underwent the procedure Tuesday after he was diagnosed during his annual physical. Dr. Eric Wallen, the UNC physician who is treating Ford, says the cancer was caught early because Ford “has been proactive regarding his health.”

Ford played for Dean Smith in the 1970s and scored 2,290 points, a mark that stood as the school record until Tyler Hansbrough broke it in 2008. Ford also spent 12 seasons as an assistant to Smith after a seven-year NBA career in which he was the rookie of the year in 1979.

Bruce Pearl: ‘Good chance’ Auburn returns four players testing the waters

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Bruce Pearl told reporters on Monday that there is a “good chance” that his Auburn program will return all four of the players that are currently testing the waters of the NBA draft.

“I think there’s a good chance they’re all going to consider coming back,” Pearl said. “There’s a chance they’re all going to come back, but that’s been the case since the beginning.”

“I just feel as we get closer to the deadline and they gather more and more information, I think that chance improves. It would not surprise me, still, to see a couple of them stay in.”

Those four players are Mustapha Heron, Austin Wiley, Bryce Brown and Jared Harper. Brown was the leading scorer for the Tigers last season, while Heron was arguably their best player and Harper a steady floor general that is the piece that holds everything together. Wiley did not play after he was ruled ineligible as a result of the FBI’s investigation into college basketball. If he returns he will be eligible to play the 2018-19 season.

Heron will be the most interesting decision of the four. A former McDonald’s All-American, when he declared for the draft last month, he announced that he intended to sign with an agent. But he has told reporters in the last week that he never actually signed and is still “50-50” on whether or not he will return. He was not invited to the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago last week. Wiley was, but he did not make enough of an impression to earn himself a first round guarantee. Brown and Harper are very unlikely to be drafted, but both juniors will get feedback from NBA teams on what they might need to do to play their way into the league.

Auburn is coming off of a year where they shared the SEC regular season title with Tennessee, but they struggled down the stretch of the season after Anfernee McLemore suffered a gruesome ankle injury. As it stands, under the assumption that Heron and Wiley are gone, we currently have the Tigers ranked as a top 15 team in the country in the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25.

With Heron and Wiley back, however, Auburn will have the pieces to make a case as one of college basketball’s five best teams next season.

Forward Lance Thomas transferring from Louisville

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With Anas Mahmoud out of eligibility and Ray Spalding having made the decision to enter the 2018 NBA Draft, new Louisville head coach Chris Mack had some holes to fill in the front court ahead of his first season at the helm. There’s now another departure to account for, as it was announced Tuesday afternoon that 6-foot-8 forward Lance Thomas has decided to transfer.

Thomas, who will have three seasons of eligibility remaining at his next school, appeared in 12 games for the Cardinals last season and averaged 2.2 points and 1.3 rebounds in 4.2 minutes per game.

Losing Thomas may not appear to be a big deal based upon his production as a freshman. But, given the combination of player departures and misses on the recruiting trail this spring it can also be argued that Louisville is not in a position where it can afford any more personnel losses.

Louisville is now down to four scholarship players in the front court, wings V.J. King and Jordan Nwora and forwards Malik Williams and Steven Enoch, with Enoch eligible after sitting out last season after transferring in from UConn.

Williams made 12 starts as a freshman, averaging 3.8 points and 2.4 rebounds in 10.6 minutes per game, with King averaging 8.6 points per game and Nwora 5.7 points per game. Enoch played in 29 games at UConn during the 2016-17 season, averaging 3.4 points and 2.3 rebounds in 12.1 minutes per appearance.