The April live evaluation period is in the books as college basketball coaches spent the past two weekends traveling all over the country while evaluating the top high school basketball prospects.
Spending time in Dallas and Indianapolis at the Nike EYBL and Under Armour Association, I came away with three big-picture takeaways from the April period.
1. Things remain the same on the grassroots circuit
For all the talk of the FBI investigation and everything that’s gone down in the world of college basketball recruiting and “AAU” over the last eight months, things remained pretty much the same on the grassroots circuit the past two weekends.
Things didn’t feel any different at all with regard to event management, structure or where coaches were placed. The normal NCAA enforcement people you see out at events were there and hanging around the gym. Games felt the same and the players didn’t seem to feel any distractions about what is going on during postgame interviews.
While a lot of outsiders bemoan the existence of grassroots basketball, and shoe-company leagues, they continue to serve a very important purpose during live evaluation periods. That showed this weekend by everything remaining, essentially, the same during the first live period since these FBI investigations rocked college basketball.
If things were going so poorly, then everything would change and we wouldn’t see college coaches and players so thoroughly involved in attending and participating in these events. But a few bad situations and a few bad people doesn’t change the fact that a lot good happens because of grassroots basketball. This is a major time when high school players earn life-changing scholarship offers and opportunities to play at the next level.
It’s going to be tough for the NCAA to make sweeping changes to grassroots basketball when so many people are currently invested in how the current scene stays going.
2. Reclassifying is a major topic of discussion
Reclassifying has always been around in college basketball. It just seems lately it’s become a key trend for many of the top players in high school basketball. Whether it’s going up a class, or down a class, reclassifying was a huge talking point with many recruits during the April live evaluation period.
Some previous top players like Marvin Bagley made the jump early as they played in grassroots events during spring and summer before enrolling and immediately playing college basketball during the fall. That could very well happen with some of the Class of 2019 prospects currently on the grassroots circuit as they look to enroll early as freshmen for next season.
Five-star Class of 2019 guard Tyrese Maxey has openly discussed the possibility of playing in college next season, with many considering Kentucky to be the favorite. Five-star guard and Kentucky commit Ashton Hagans is also playing on the circuit in the Class of 2019. Hagans is also potentially making the leap to play for John Calipari next season.
It’s happening in other classes as well. Class of 2020 five-star guards R.J. Hampton and Nico Mannion are two of a number of prospects potentially jumping into the Class of 2019 as they start to really see the college interest coming on strong.
The reclassification rumors are so rampant throughout high school basketball right now that many players got asked about it while getting puzzled responses. There are still plenty of players not looking to make any moves between classes. But it’s reached the point where college basketball teams are constantly searching for new ways to bring in talent. That means an accelerated high school career for some of the top players who are ready to make the leap. Expect the talk of reclassification to remain constant in basketball recruiting over the next several years.
3. The Class of 2019 is lacking star power
In recent weeks, some negative reviews of the Class of 2018 have come to light after the group finished up poorly during the spring all-star game circuit. One report by Ben Roberts of the Lexington Herald-Leader even had plenty of on-the-record quotes about the Class of 2018 lacking effort and being underwhelming as a whole.
Some of those same sentiments currently apply to the Class of 2019.
This group is also lacking some star power while some of the top players don’t seem content on competing some of the time. While big crowds emerged in Dallas and Indianapolis last spring for players like Zion Williamson, Bol Bol and Shareef O’Neal, no one player seemed to emerge as a must-see player this spring. There were still great crowds at both stops. But there wasn’t any one particular player that consistently drew overflow crowds that camped early just to see one player.
That’s not to knock any of the top players who have played well so far. Five-star point guard Cole Anthony has looked dominant at times in the EYBL while big men like Vernon Carey and James Wiseman also had flashes of greatness the past two weekends. Other five-star players have looked inconsistent and haven’t stepped up to make a big difference yet.
There’s still plenty of time to correct things while finding late-blooming prospects. The Class of 2019 just doesn’t seem to have a lot of major difference makers right now.