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.

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

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INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

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ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

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LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

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The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.

UConn’s Tyrese Martin granted waiver to play this season

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STORRS, Conn. — UConn swingman Tyrese Martin, who transferred from Rhode Island in April, has been granted a waiver that will allow him to play for the Huskies this season.

The 6-foot-6 junior averaged 12.8 points and 7.1 rebounds and started every game last season for URI, where he was recruited by current UConn coach Dan Hurley.

NCAA rules require undergraduate transfers to sit out a season, but the organization has been more lenient in granting waivers during the pandemic.

Martin, 21, is expected to compete for playing time at UConn on the wing as both a guard and small forward.