Tennessee men's basketball coach Bruce Pearl tries not to ignore the brand of shoes potential recruits are wearing.
But Pearl, who has flown from one of the biggest recruiting events of the season in Las Vegas to another in Orlando, admits the shoes a high-profile prospect wears could be foretelling.
"When we look at that, unfortunately, it has become a part of the equation, no question,'' Pearl said. "adidas, Nike and Reebok, those three shoe companies dominate the basketball shoe industry and invest in AAU basketball.''
Those shoe companies also sponsor collegiate teams. And while it's not a lock that a high schooler playing for a Nike AAU-sponsored team will choose a Nike school, the influence shoe companies play in recruiting has been called into question more than once.
Most recently, top-10 recruiting prospect Josh Selby, who made a verbal commitment to attend UT in September, de-committed after attending LeBron James Nike camp.
The Vols are sponsored by adidas. Coincidence?
Pearl obviously can not talk about the specifics of any recruit, but he shared his philosophy on what's happening abroad in college basketball.
"The higher the profile of the student-athlete, the greater the attention they are going to be receiving at all levels,'' Pearl said. "It's like an investment (for the shoe companies). They want to make an investment and a year later, get rich.
"What happens is they see the potential for a one-and-done; a young man in college for one year, he's gonna be a millionaire in a very short period of time.''
College football players, facing a three-years rule, don't face that same issue.
"Less risk,'' Pearl said referring to high-profile college basketball prospects, "and great reward.''
The one-and-done phenomenon has enough pitfalls that Pearl said he'd prefer players spend a minimum of two years in college before being eligible for the NBA draft.
"I think two years would be a good compromise,'' Pearl said, adding that he believes the NBA Players Association is responsible for the current eligibility legislation.
Pearl was in the Milk House at Disney's Wide World of Sports for the Orlando tournament, hoping to get some leads for a UT recruiting class of 2010 that could swell to five.
UT has one commitment, shooting guard Jordan McRae out of Liberty County, Ga.
Aaron Craft, like Selby a point guard, de-committed from UT in early May.
Craft, however, said he de-committed to stay closer to home. Sure enough, Ohio State came calling and Craft is on his way to signing with the Buckeyes.
"This is going to be a big class for us, because we're going to graduate one of the best classes in UT basketball history,'' Pearl said. "Tyler Smith, Josh Tabb, Bobby Maze, Wayne Chism and J.P. Prince are the meat and potatoes of our program.
"Basketball had been a different animal than football, in terms of recruiting,'' Pearl said. "Basketball guys had committed and basically maintained their commitments. But that trend is changing.''
Must be the shoes.