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June 19, 2008

College coaches oppose 8th grade recruiting

INDIANAPOLIS If college basketball coaches have their way, Michael Avery would be the last eighth grader making a college commitment.

The National Association of Basketball Coaches said Thursday it strongly opposes accepting commitments from students who have not yet completed their sophomore season in high school. The decision comes a little more than a month after the 15-year-old Avery said he would Kentucky, and cites NCAA rules that prohibit coaches from contacting athletes before mid-June following their sophomore season.

"If the current rules state coaches cannot offer scholarships or accept commitments from students earlier than June 15 following the conclusion of the sophomore year, it certainly makes sense that this should apply to anyone in lower grades," said NABC president Tubby Smith in a written statement released by the association.

The board of directors said the decision was made, in part, because younger athletes had not yet demonstrated either "sufficient academic credentials" to be admitted to school. The board also acknowledged it was too difficult to project how refined their basketball skills would be by graduation.

College basketball has recently seen an increase in the number of young players making early commitments.

Last year, then-eighth grader Ryan Boatright accepted Tim Floyd's offer to play for USC. In 2006, Floyd also offered a scholarship to eighth grader Dwayne Polee Jr. Both were 14 when the offers were made, and Boatright committed to USC before deciding where he would attend high school.

Avery's decision last month reignited the national debate about how young is too young for coaches to be recruiting players.

It's not a new phenomenon. Indianapolis native Cordell Passley committed to Tennessee, where his older brother played, during his sophomore season. Eventually, he withdrew the commitment and wound up playing at Vincennes University, a junior college in southeastern Indiana.

And the high-profile early recruitment of former Indiana Mr. Basketball and Hoosiers star Damon Bailey was detailed in a book during the 1980s.

In addition, players such as Derrick Caracter and O.J. Mayo, were invited to national all-star camps as eighth graders. That gave them a chance to play in front of dozens of college coaches making the recruiting rounds.

Mayo, who spent one season playing for Floyd at Southern Cal, is expected to be one of the top picks in this year's NBA draft. Caracter, however, has been declared academically ineligible at Louisville and has been advised by coach Rick Pitino that he should transfer.

Smith, the coach at Minnesota and Billy Gillespie's predecessor at Kentucky, believes the unknowns of how well a player will develop in the classroom and on the court are the biggest reason coaches should wait to make offers.

"The academic and athletic profiles of these younger students are still very much works in progress," Smith said. "Coaches and athletes need to respect the process and allow development to occur in both areas prior to making commitments."



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