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:
The basketball scholarship market is defined as the sum total of all the buyers (college D1, D2, JUCO and NAIA coaches) and sellers (Basketball student-athletes seeking scholarships) in the United States and the rest of the world.
Massive NCAA rule changes and the coronavirus pandemic have severely impacted the basketball scholarship market.
#1. The NCAA has made the decision to approve an extra year of eligibility for all student-athletes. This is a ‘free year’ for college students at every level. This rule change results in a decrease the number of available scholarships. Even if the NCAA allows more than 13 D1 scholarships, there may not be an appetite to absorb the financial hit resulting from extra scholarships in many cash strapped athletic departments. For every senior that stays an additional year, that is one fewer scholarship that hits the market.
#2. NCAA is set to implement legislation that will grant first-time transfers Immediate Eligibility. Athletes can soon transfer schools and play immediately. … An athlete’s previous school would not have any ability to object to the transfer. This rule change will alter the behavior of the college coaches in the recruitment process. A 20 year old with 2 years of college experience and 3 seasons of NCAA eligibility is more desirable than the typical high school recruit. Many college programs are not actively recruiting high school players.
#3. Students who initially enroll full time during the 2021-22 academic year and intend to play NCAA Division I or II athletics will not be required to take a standardized test to meet NCAA initial-eligibility requirements. As a result, students that would have been ineligible because of low test scores are now eligible if the have at least a 2.3 gpa.
Considered individually, each of the rule changes put pressure on the basketball scholarship market. Emerging simultaneously, they have flooded the basketball scholarship market.
High School seniors are competing against the current crop of NCAA seniors, current NCAA players that could immediately play upon transferring and players that would not have met the minimum test score requirement.
This market is flooded…
On top of all that, college coaches have not been able to evaluate high school players live since March.
Good players, even really good players need to be connected to college coaches… Recent video performance in highly competitive settings is the very best a student-athlete could do right now…
Coaches are evaluating prospects via video…
Below is a brief clip with Aaron Lemon-Warren and Christian Tomasco highlights. There is also a link for the complete game against #6 St. Frances Academy (MD).
Lemon-Warren are Division 1 basketball prospects with solid academic profiles. America East, NEC, CAA, MAAC, MEAC, Patriot League and perhaps even A10 programs should evaluate these guys closely.
I wish things would return to normal. This is really my favorite time of year. If we had actually been able to “limit the cases to 15 and they soon reached zero” back in the Spring, I would be traveling up and down 95 visiting high school and college gyms.
I would be trying to get a feel for this years version of high school programs like DeMatha (MD), Woodrow Wilson (DC), Paul VI (VA), St. Frances (MD), Sanford (DE), Chester (PA), Trenton Catholic (NJ), Atlantic City (NJ) and Immaculate Conception (NJ). I would be visiting college programs like VCU, Georgetown, George Washington, Maryland, Howard, Morgan State, Delaware, Delaware State, Seton Hall, Penn State, Rutgers, Monmouth and Rider.
Who’s up next? Who’s gonna break out? Which programs are gonna win state championships? Which programs are gonna make the NCAA tournament?
Unfortunately, he lied… Coronavirus didn’t just miraculously disappear when summer rolled around. Moreover, he continues to BULL SHIT all of us…
“We are turning the corner…”
Get the fuck outta here!
The situation is worse than ever… Hospitals all across the nation are close to capacity and talking about rationing medical care.
So… No trips up and down 95… No sneak peeks at the top programs…
Times are hard for hoopheads.
Imagine my surprise when I heard there was a good game scheduled tonight. We all know the schools are NOT currently playing. We ALL know that the PIAA and the NJSIAA are trying to figure out a way forward.
So… this was NOT a HS basketball game…
But, somehow, someway… mystically, magically and fortuitously the players from two of the top high school programs just happened to meet up at 3640 G Street at 7:00 pm.
Who know how these things happen? Who gives a fuck?
For degenerate hoopheads like myself, the only thing that matters is there was actual competitive basketball to be witnessed.
No cheerleaders… No matching uniforms… No Public Address announcer…
Just 20 or so super-talented and highly motivated players, a couple of referees, a scorekeeper and someone at the door pointing a thermometer at every skull that entered the door.
Just so happened that this particular “club” matchup featured players from Archbishop Ryan playing against players from Camden High School.
On August 4, Black Cager released a “Way too soon Top 5 High School Programs” in the Greater Philadelphia Region. On that list, Camden was number 1 and Archbishop Ryan was number 5. That made this game a battle between 2 of the top contenders for mythical Black Cager Pound for Pound title.
This setting, while not ideal, certainly serves a purpose. Kids that have been effectively banned from getting together in their school gymnasiums are able to convene and actually play structured basketball. Prospects seeking to leverage their basketball abilities for access to higher education get to put a performance on film for college coaches that have been chained to their desks since March. The importance of the video cannot be overstated.
All indications are that Division 1 basketball coach will not be allowed to evaluate prospects in person until April 2021 at the earliest. That means that current HS kids will go a full year of playing without college coaches in the stands.
Good video right now could result in anywhere from $200,000 to $320,000 being made available to a family for educational related expenses.
This shit matters…
It should be noted that I am blessed and favored… I have tremendous relationships with many of the kids and parents navigating the recruitment process right now. Prior to this game, I called Ryan combo guard Jalen Snead ’22 and reminded him that he was going to be matched up against DJ Wagner, the Number 1 player in the Class of 2023. In a very direct and forceful manner, I let him know that I expect him to demonstrate that he is severely underrated by meeting that challenge.
I also called, Rodney Warren, the father of Aaron Lemon-Warren and let him know I would give him call after the game. He works out of town and could not be in attendance.
I speak with Taquan Woodley every day. We never really discuss his performance. Mostly because there’s really very little variation from game to game… Double-Double with about 4-6 blocks… Book it…
I come in the gym and I see, Bill and Beth Tomasco, parents of Ryan PF Christian Tomasco ‘21. Christian was one of the biggest free agent pick ups of the past off season. While he has a D1 offer and plenty of D1 interest, he wants to demonstrate that he ranks among the best players still on the board. After warmly greeting the Tomascos, I see Christian seated about four feet away from his folk…
“Muthafucka… This is what you wanted!”
I sit next to Christian and remind him that there will be video from this game. I also note that Woodley is, perhaps, the premier BIG still on the table in the class of ’21. A strong performance against Woodley would certainly help Tomasco increase his stature.
A few minutes later, the game gets underway…
As one would expect from a group of kids unable to access their gyms and practice on a consistent basis, the play is a little uneven and ragged at times. But the effort and talent are there for all to see.
Ryan jumps out to a double digit lead early. As usual, sharpshooter Luke Boyd is dialed in… Boyd would finish with a game high 19 points with 5 3-pointers and 3 rebounders. Ivy and Patriot League programs would be wise to reach out to Boyd. A few weeks ago he dropped 22 against Nationally Ranked St. Frances (MD). A pattern is emerging… Big shots from deep in big games…
Snead was relishing his opportunity to play against the best player in the Class of 2023 and one of the premier guards in the country regardless of class.
Last year… Snead was named 1st team All-Muthafucka by Black Cager Sports Media… The Baller TV viewers and those in attendance got to see for themselves how he earned that designation. Exceedingly quick, with long arms he is an excellent defender. He harassed Wagner from start to finish. He was able to consistently stay in front of him, he blocked his shot, he disrupted his dribble… Basically… Snead was a muthafucka defensively…
His stat line for the game was typical Snead… 4 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 1 block.
Of course, the uber-talented Wagner would have his moments on his way to solid 13 points, 2 steals and 1 assist. What remains the most impressive aspect of Wagner’s game is his mental toughness. Even when the shots are not falling, he continues to ferociously defend and make plays for his teammates. As a sophomore, Wagner is one of the most mature players I’ve seen in recent years.
Snead, in the opinion of this observer demonstrated clearly that he is a bona fide Division 1 prospect.
Tomasco did what he was supposed to do.
He ran the floor very well. He showed some range from the beyond the 3 point line. Against one the most formidable front courts in the nation, he finished with 15 points, 12 rebounds, 2 blocks and 2 assists.
Looking ahead and assuming there will be a high school basketball season, Tomasco adds a dimension to this Ryan club that makes them a real contender to return to the Catholic League Final Four for the 4th time in 6 years and maybe take the title back to the far Northeast this year.
Still working himself into form, Lemon-Warren was solid with 15 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists. He is just a complete basketball player. With practice and increased reps, he will be one of the contenders for Catholic League MVP.
As the game wore on, the difference was the relentless pressure on the boards applied by Taquan Woodley (14 points) and Jerome Brewer (17 points). After deploying a full court press to disrupt the early offensive flow of Ryan, Camden’s big duo dominated the boards in the second half.
Now a senior, Woodley has evolved from a high energy super athletic defensive force into a cerebral leader of this version of the Camden Panthers. He is playing the game at his own pace, making sure his teammates are in the correct positions on both ends of the floor, protecting the rim and scoring big buckets when needed.
Earlier today, Woodley formally decommitted from Penn State. Thus far, he has been contacted by La Salle, St. Joseph’s, Temple, St. John’s, Mississippi State, Seton Hall, Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia Tech, Auburn, SMU, VCU and Akron.
He is clearly the “bad bitch” at the bar… Right now, everyone wants to buy him a drink and take him home.
But the best part of my day came when I got home. Earlier, I had gave my friend Gerald Holmes a heads up… Holmes is the highly successful Had Coach of the Division 2 Bloomfield College basketball program in New Jersey. Told him he could catch this game on Baller TV. Always working, Holmes watched intently.
Then at exactly 8:24 pm… A potential 6 figure conversation began…
A great game… indeed!
Thank you Difference Makers, The Miller Report and FiDonce Basketball Player Development…