In a normal year, college basketball coaches would be preparing for a critical April evaluation period right about now.
Instead, with recruiting shut down for the foreseeable future and the cancellation of the April 17 and 24 live evaluation periods, the sport is preparing for an impact that could last far beyond merely a couple of weeks or even just next season. The ramifications of what the sport is enduring with in-person recruiting impossible means the process of properly identifying recruits will be flawed to a significant degree.
So if you think the current transfer rate is already obscenely high in college basketball, brace yourself for what the coming years could look like.
"There’s going to be so many missed evaluations," Corey Evans, national basketball analyst for Rivals.com, told The Dispatch. "Relationships will be built via FaceTime or Skype or over the phone as well as just watching film. That only does so much. Maybe there are some character flaws in a prospect, so from a coaching perspective maybe they can hide that via FaceTime but when you’re on campus for 24 hours, it’s a little more difficult.
"There’s going to be a lot more mistakes."
The shutdown will affect classes and recruits in different ways. In most cases, college coaches would currently be heavily focusing on current juniors who comprise the class of 2021 and could officially sign with a school in November. The April evaluation period, plus June summer camps and then the July live evaluation period with NCAA camps and AAU basketball would allow coaches to solidify their top targets and recruit accordingly.
It’s unknown if any of those events will take place this year. The April period is canceled, the Big Ten has canceled all organized team activities at least through May 4 and in-person recruiting for the "foreseeable future" and Ohio State has announced that its summer classes will all be held online.
Buckeyes assistant coach Terry Johnson said the staff has had to adjust its approach, sending recruits videos of locker room walk-throughs in place of visits as one example.
"I tell them, I’m showing you all this and all this is great," he said. "But there’s no way I can change the fact that if you were here, you’re just going to feel it. When you’re here, it’s going to be in your gut."
Kendall Brown, a five-star prospect in the 2021 class, was able to take official visits to Ohio State and Marquette during his junior season with plans on taking more visits during the fall after presumably landing more offers with a strong summer performance. Now, he told The Dispatch recently that he might be forced to ultimately pick a school from the current list of teams he’s been able to visit and get to know already. Malaki Branham, the top native Ohioan in the class, told The Dispatch that he feels it won’t impact him because the schools already recruiting him are proving they have the most interest.
DJ Moore, an unranked guard in the 2022 class from Worthington Christian, has been receiving recruiting interest from mid-major schools plus Ohio State and Dayton. This spring and summer would be big opportunities for him to play his way onto the national radar and solidify himself as a potential national recruit.
"It might’ve been toward June and July when these college programs have a good sense for the senior class (of 2021) and they eventually start to invest more in the rising junior class (of 2022)," Evans said. "If there is no summer (evaluation period) this year, we turn around and next year’s seniors, who knows who’s good outside of the top 10 players in America? There’s really no foundation built if there’s no summer ahead for those juniors."
Evans said one potential outcome could be more regionalized recruiting and commitments, with kids opting to stay closer to home either out of fear or an inability to travel and visit schools. That could put more onus on Ohio State keeping top kids from leaving the state in the coming years. Budget cuts, too, could impact the ability for schools to travel for recruiting.
It could also mean that schools who have already aggressively been recruiting out a couple of years could find themselves in decent shape. Ohio State has had its 2020 class signed and complete for months and has been active in recruiting future classes. The Buckeyes have commitments from a pair of Ohioans in 2021 in Convoy Crestview’s Kalen Etzler and Willoughby Andrews Osborne Academy Meechie Johnson Jr. and have hosted multiple 2022 recruits on unofficial visits.
The early legwork could prove crucial as the coronavirus pandemic stretches on.
"A lot of schools, a lot of mistakes are probably going to be made because you’re not going to get that 48 hours of visiting on an official visit," Johnson said. "You’re going to be going with your gut (as a recruit) on who’s showing you the most information, who’s presenting their university to them the best."