Scarcity, Scholarship Offers and Freshman Playing Time: It’s Rough Out Here!

Older players are definitely in style right now… So much so, that high school prospects with legitimate D1 offers should seriously consider taking them before older college or JUCO transfers snatch ’em up… Freshmen currently on college rosters need to work hard in practice, lift weights, study diligently and wait for some of the older players to graduate and move on.

Scarcity is impacting college athletics in a big way. It has affected how college coaches allocate precious scholarship resources, recruit prospects and determine playing time. There are only 13 scholarships per team. There are only 40 minutes in each game, with five positions there are a total of 200 minutes available per game. These basic resource limits have not changed. What has changed is the make-up of the pool of qualified persons seeking those scholarships and minutes or playing time. Rule changes and special pandemic-related circumstances that would have been unfathomable just 3 or 4 years ago have fundamentally altered the college basketball landscape. The concept of scarcity is very useful as one attempts to understand how these changes have impacted college basketball recruitment.

Jeremiah Bembry (Florida State commit) and Kobe Magee (Drexel commit)

Generally speaking, scarcity refers to the limited availability of resources that are typically available for use. The specific resources I am currently focused on are Division 1 men’s basketball scholarships and minutes of playing time for college freshmen. Due to NCAA rule changes and the COVID-19 pandemic, there currently exists a paucity of these resources available to 18-19 year old prospects. This paucity stands in stark relief to the theoretically infinite demand for these resources among parents and high school basketball players.

Everybody wants a D1 scholarship and all kids want to play in college games.

The conditions of scarcity have significantly intensified over the past 12-18 months. The decision by the NCAA to allow what is tantamount to pure “free agency” in college basketball with immediate eligibility has resulted in a tremendous uptick in the number of players in the transfer portal. There were over 1,500 players in the college basketball transfer portal last year, more than twice the number of players the previous season.

Let’s think this through…

The total number of scholarships has not changed. Division 1 Basketball teams can only give 13 full-ride scholarships. In total, there are 5,522 men’s basketball athletes in the division, but only 4,589 have full scholarships. Thirty-three percent of the scholarship basketball players were in the portal last year. These players are experienced at the college level. On average, they are more mature and physically stronger than HS players. Keep in mind, the NCAA has made transfers immediately available. Plainly stated, they are more desirable than high school prospects for many college coaches.

Ty Bevins, ’24 Gwynn Park HS (Georgetown and George Mason offers)

Several coaches have openly stated, “I’m not recruiting high school kids… I strictly looking for transfers.”

Then there is the FREE year the NCAA awarded to participating student-athletes last year. Remember, last year doesn’t count against eligibility.

As a result, Eric Dixon, who took a redshirt as a true freshman and played last year, is at 20 years of age the starting center for Villanova with 4 years of eligibility left. Seth Lundy (Penn State), Donta Scott (Maryland) and Isaiah Wong (Miami) each have 3 years of eligibility left.

If you were a college coach would you prefer to allocate a scholarship to those 20 year olds with 3 or 4 years of eligibility or an untested HS prospect?

Scarcity is also impacting freshman playing time. A few local freshman appear to have broken through and established themselves as rotation players. Of course, Jalen Duren (Montverde) is off to a magnificent beginning as a starting forward for Penny Hardaway’s Memphis program. Taquan Woodley (Camden) is the first big off the bench for Frank Martin and the South Carolina Gamecocks. Stevie Mitchell (Wilson) is a key component in Shaka Smart’s first lineup. Zach Hicks (Camden Catholic) has emerged as a dependable sniper for Aaron Mckie and the Temple Owls. Julian Reese (St. Frances) backs up the PF and C positions for Mark Turgeon and Maryland. Finally, Rahdir Hicks (Malvern Prep) appears to have solidified the backup PG spot at Towson.

Bernie Blunt, Quinnipiac Freshman PG (c), Bernard Blunt (l) and Sam Rines (r)

Far more rookies are struggling to find their way onto the court. Justice Williams (Montverde/LSU), Hysier Miller (Neumann-Goretti/Temple), Marcus Randolph (Wood/Richmond), Daeshon Shepherd (Wood/La Salle) and Christian Tomasco (Ryan/Hofstra) have not played in a game. Rahsool Diggins (Wood/UConn), Wooga Poplar (MCS/Miami), Jordan Longino (Germantown Academy/Villanova), Lynn Greer (IMG/Dayton), Bernie Blunt (Rocktop/Quinnipiac) and Jaylen Stinson (Wood/JMU) have played sparse and relatively meaningless minutes.

The current freshmen have run into a logjam while attempting get playing time.

There are a bunch of older, stronger, experienced and more mature players holding these youngins at bay. The abundance of transfers and 5th/6th year players on college rosters has resulted in a gap between available minutes of playing time and the theoretical needs freshman have for these resources.

Hakim Hart, Maryland Junior Guard

What should the freshman do? Should they fight or flee? Of course each case is unique, but it will be very interesting to watch how this plays out.

Will we witness more fight responses? When they fight, players commit to improving their skills and conditioning to compete for increased playing time. Players choosing to fight work on weaknesses and deficiencies while building upon strengths. Basically, they dedicate themselves to forcing the coach to play them. Eric Dixon (Villanova), Hakim Hart (Maryland) and AJ Hoggard (Michigan State) are outstanding examples of fighters. Each is now a crucial part of the team after struggling early on.
The fight-flight response is a natural reaction to perceived threats or danger. After years of performing at a very high level in grassroots and scholastic basketball, college freshmen are often faced with their first real challenge within a team. No longer the “man” on a grassroots or scholastic squad, a freshman is likely to be the 8th, 9th or 10th man on a college team or worse.

Statistics tell us that approximately one-third will flee. It’s an understandable reaction. Due to the recent rule changes, the flight response can be enacted quickly. All it takes is a text or call to the head coach or athletic director. Some area kids have transferred after just one semester. It seems that some act quickly in an attempt to protect their reputation and ranking. Flight, under such circumstances, is a survival tactic.

Hopefully, most of the young men will choose to put their flag in the ground and rumble for playing time. Every day these freshman have an opportunity challenge the upperclassmen in practice. Make them work… This will help their team get better in the short run and it will help them be prepared when their opportunity inevitably comes around.

Rumble young man rumble…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: