The recruitment of Jerome Brewer ’21 (Camden High) and Aaron Lemon-Warren ’21 (Archbishop Ryan) illustrates perfectly the changing dynamics of the college basketball recruiting market. Having closely observed the local market for the past quarter century, it can be reasonably asserted that both of these young men would have well over 10 low to mid-major D1 scholarship offers on the table by now in any of the previous seasons. But 2020-21 is different… Really different…
The value of high school prospects has been severely deflated by a unique confluence of factors. Indeed, many college coaches openly acknowledge they are not even evaluating high school players. Under pressure to win and win right away, coaches are seeking older, stronger, experienced recruits.
Given the choice between a 21 year old with 2 years of college experience and 3 years of eligibility remaining and a talented, but unproven, 18 year high school prospect… College coaches are taking the former… every time.
Thus, you see magnificent and highly productive high school players like Lemon-Warren and Brewer languishing on the market. They have D1 offers and interest, but not at the level one would ordinarily expect to see for players of their caliber.
Regarding high school kids, college coaches indicate they will take high school kids they are not supposed to get. For example, CAA, MAAC, Patriot League teams will take HS kids that would ordinarily have ended up in the A10, American or Big East. Many kids that would ordinarily end up in the CAA, MAAC, Patriot League have very few, if any D1 offers.
The market has shifted. It has shifted decidedly. Much to the detriment of kids in the classes of 2021 and 2022.
High school prospects, outside of the top 150-200, have significantly less leverage than ever before.
Players, parents and other stakeholders have recognized the shift. Elite local players and their families have determined they need to play on the highest stage. Chance Westry ’22, Jalen Duren ’22, Justice Williams ’22 and AJ Hoggard ’20 left region for National Basketball Academies.
These are all top 50-100 kids.
Some decided to stay in local and join programs with national aspirations Diggins ’21, Stinson ’21, Woodley ’21, Miller ’21, Wooga ’21 and Wagner ’23.
These are all top 100-200 kids.
The kids ranked just below these kids are the one’s most impacted by the shift. Blaise Vespe ’21, Christian Tomasco ’21, Chris Evans ’21, Robert Smith ’20, Champ ’20… It’s tricky for these guys…
Throw the coronavirus pandemic in the mix and these kids are navigating a terrain unlike anything we’ve ever seen. It’s rough out here…
But all is not loss… Players and parents in or about to enter the D1 scholarship market needs to understand the shifts that have taken place. Now is not the time to “big time” coaches. Talk to everyone, including D2 coached. Also, make sure the “character” references are in order. College coaches are quickly eliminating high school kids with questionable character references. Make sure the AAU and high school coaches will speak positively about the prospect as a citizen and teammate.
Get high quality video of competitive performances. This is the only option available players/parents trying to gain the attention of Division 1 coaches. Coaches cannot evaluate prospects in person until mid-April at the earliest. Coaches are watching high quality video and live-streams of competitive performances. Play in events that are livestreamed and/or recorded in Full HD.
Identify allies… Coaches in local grassroots programs, area high schools and independent scouts have extensive contacts and relationships with college coaches. Ask them to assist you in identifying potential scholarship opportunities.
It’s more challenging than ever, but I still remain convinced of a basic truth:
If you can play they will find you.