- Joel Francisco
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In recent years, basketball prospects have opted to get the recruiting process out of the way early in their careers. For instance, Class of 2010 SF Dwayne Polee (Los Angeles/Westchester) accepted a scholarship to USC prior to his high school debut.
Currently athletes are being identified at an early stage due to a variety of media outlets. As a result, colleges are handing out scholarships to prospects who project to be playing at the Division I level earlier than ever.
There are quite a few benefits for players who get the recruiting process out of the way early. By committing early, a prospect can play during his senior season without the added pressure of playing for a scholarship. In addition, a player can enjoy his final year in high school without the constant hounding phone calls from media pundits and persistent coaches.
There are, however, a handful of drawbacks to declaring your intentions for a college early on in the recruiting process -- and vice versa for coaches who try to get players to commit early.
With the November signing period set to begin Wednesday, there still are 19 highly touted prospects in the ESPNU 100 who have yet to declare their college intentions. How many of those players plan on waiting until the spring is yet to be determined, but there are a few reasons to extend the process.
First and foremost is the coaching carousal that is inevitable after every season and in some cases -- Lute Olson immediately comes to mind -- before the season. Although many prospects hold the tradition of the program in high esteem, the decision to attend a university usually depends on their respective relationship with the coaching staff. Nothing supports that notion more than the three Arizona commitments (Abdul Gaddy, Mike Moser and Solomon Hill) who are rethinking their decision to attend school in Tucson after Olson's resignation.
If Olson had decided to resign after the season, Gaddy, Moser and Hill would have had to go through the school (its newly hired coaching staff) and NCAA to void their letters of intent and reopen their recruitment. Consequently, as a result of Olson's departure, Gaddy has now decided to continue his career in Seattle and hone his skills under the tutelage of Lorenzo Romar at Washington.
In addition to the possibility of a coach getting fired or resigning to take on another job, another reason a prospect should wait is the possibility of his stock rising during the regular season. There have been numerous examples through the years of a player who has elevated his play during his senior year and as a result expanded his college options.
A prime example of this occurred a few years ago with Russell Westbrook, the No. 4 pick in this year's NBA draft. He was a willowy 2-guard prospect out of Leuzinger High School (Lawndale, Calif.) and prior to the November signing period, he was mulling over offers from San Diego, Kent State and Creighton. The scouting pundits had Westbrook pegged as a late developer with an enormous upside, and after a scintillating senior season, UCLA came knocking at his door and the rest is history.
By being patient and waiting for the spring signing period, a prospect can put his list of schools under the microscope to analyze how he fits into the system as well as see where he may project himself on next season's depth chart. Especially at the high-major level at which the top NBA prospects are leaving school early.
Sometimes, draft defections can create unexpected voids at schools. The most recent example of this is late Arizona signee Kyle Fogg.
In the spring, Arizona was salivating over the possibility of playing alongside an electrifying backcourt of Jarryd Bayless and schoolboy prodigy Brandon Jennings. However, after Bayless was convinced he would be a lottery pick and Jennings bolted to Europe after failing to meet the academic requirements to attend Arizona, the Wildcats were left with a not-so-intimidating backcourt of Nic Wise and Zane Johnson.
Meanwhile, the 6-foot-3 Fogg was blowing up on the West Coast, after originally being evaluated as an intriguing mid-major prospect. Prior to his senior campaign, Fogg was a relative unknown on the national scene with only a couple of schools out of the Big West and WCC monitoring his progress, both in and out of the classroom. However, as the situation began to unravel in Tucson, the Wildcats decided to jump into the Fogg sweepstakes and snag this underrated prospect.
The November signing period is on the horizon, and most of the high-major prospects will end their recruitment. However, there will be a fair amount of mid-major prospects who are not completely satisfied with their choices and will be looking to improve their value in the eyes of college coaches. While there are substantial arguments for both sides in regard to committing early or waiting until the spring, it really comes down to the player, and whether he feels at ease with his decision.