Less than a week in, a major NCAA rule change already appears to be a big hit with college basketball coaches.
Starting last Friday, Division I coaches are now allowed to make unlimited calls and send unlimited text messages with recruits who are finishing up their sophomore years of high school. Coaches are also allowed to reach out via private message on Facebook and Twitter.
The deregulation of sorts represents a sweeping change from past legislation. Those rules called for no text messages and one call per month from June 15 after a prospect’s sophomore year to July 31 after his junior year and two calls per week starting Aug. 1 after the junior season.
Missouri coach Frank Haith said the rule change allows both parties to get to know each other better.
“It’s been great in terms of developing those relationships and getting to know one another,” Haith said. “As coaches, it’s about building those relationships as you’re recruiting because you want the right fit.
“I think it’s a positive. I’m one that’s been very much for it.”
Haith’s sentiment was echoed by several coaches Monday on a SEC men’s basketball coaches’ teleconference. That includes South Carolina’s Frank Martin, who called it a “home run of a rule.”
“It’s good, something we’ve taken advantage of,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “It’s made life a little easier on coaches, as we’re not as concerned about when we can call, who we can call, do we log the call. It’s given us freedom and a lot more access to kids.”
The rule, however, is not without slight drawbacks.
“The only negative now that it’s unlimited is when you’re not texting a kid, as a coach, you always feel like somebody else is,” Auburn coach Tony Barbee said. “You feel like you’ve got to be doing it every second of the day.”
Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said it’s up to coaches at each program to decide how far they want to push it when reaching out to recruits.
“Kids are smart enough now that they’ll text if they want,” Anderson said. “They’ll be the deciding factor of whether they want to hear from a coach or not. You can overdo it.”
But in the high-stakes game of college basketball, where recruiting is the lifeblood of every program, there’s still no doubt several coaches see the rule change as a valuable opportunity to not only gather more information about kids, but out-recruit their competition as well.
“There’s no such thing as overdoing it,” Haith said, when asked if coaches need to be wary of contacting kids too much. “Recruiting is something we need to do everyday. That’s part of having a successful program, and we will continue to do it that way.”Oriakhi a welcome sight
The offseason addition of UConn transfer Alex Oriakhi figures to give Missouri a low-post presence this season that Haith apparently isn’t taking for granted, especially after the Tigers essentially played a seven-man rotation last season.
“That was kind of like a Christmas gift you weren’t expecting to get,” Haith said of Oriakhi’s decision to spend his senior year at Missouri. “His experience of being the starting center on a championship team, I think, brings (a lot) to the table. We’re very fortunate to have him.”
Oriakhi, who will eligible immediately, posted his best season in 2010-11, when he started for UConn’s national championship team and averaged 9.6 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game. Those numbers dipped last season, when he saw his playing time decrease with the arrival of five-star freshman center Andre Drummond and averaged 6.7 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game.
• Haith also reiterated his excitement about this year’s team, citing increased depth and versatility in the frontcourt, thanks to the addition of Oriakhi, junior college forward Tony Criswell and freshmen forwards Ryan Rosburg and Stefan Jankovic.
“We have some versatility, and we didn’t have the opportunity to do that last season,” Haith said. “We were who we were and that was it.”
Haith said 6-foot-6 junior guard Earnest Ross, a transfer from Auburn who is eligible this fall after sitting out a year, also has a chance to earn some minutes at the No. 4 position, which would give Missouri a look similar to the one it had last season when shooting guard Kim English essentially played power forward despite being roughly the same height as Ross.
• When asked to name the toughest thing about adjusting to the SEC, Haith cited increased travel times.
“In general, we’ve got a little bit longer distance to go to get to where we’re playing,” Haith said. “We had five bus trips last year, and obviously we wont have any this year.”