Hooker: Basketball recruiting gaining potholes

Dave Hooker

Derek Dooley should be jealous of Bruce Pearl.

The envy shouldn't be over the fact that Pearl makes more money or has a more successful program. It should be over recruiting.

See, Tennessee's basketball coach and his colleagues have a gentleman's agreement for committed players. (Stifle the snickers, please, and give me a moment.)

"In basketball, once a young man makes a commitment, we're supposed to be hands off," Pearl said during a Big Orange Caravan stop this week. "In football, that's not the case."

No kidding. A public announcement of a commitment in football is the equivalent of a flashing neon sign that reads, "I'm really good! Recruit me even harder!"

Football coaches love stealing commitments. Some even brag about such coups during recruiting celebrations.

(Sometimes the player that a coach brags about is charged with armed robbery. But I digress.)

Pearl calls it a matter of ethics. Excuse me; did someone just use the "e" word in recruiting?

"If somebody makes a commitment, you're done calling, you're done sending stuff," Pearl said. "You honor that commitment."

I don't cover basketball recruiting regularly, so all of this talk of ethical recruiting seems a bit foreign to me.

Recently, Pearl seems like he is wondering if things are changing.

Case in point, Terrence Jones, who de-committed from Washington and pledged to enroll at Kentucky this week.

Pearl didn't cite this flip -flop. I did.

"I prefer how we had it in basketball," Pearl said. "I don't understand how kids commit and make four visits (to other schools), but that's sort of the way it is."

Bad news for Pearl? It's getting worse. There are a growing number of de-commitments in basketball. Often, one wonders if tampering is afoot.

Pearl said that's not always the case, but added that he is no longer surprised, just disappointed with basketball's football-like trend.

There's probably no way to stop sliding down the slope. Every time a prospect de-commits and signs elsewhere, coaches will be more tempted to test committed prospects.

Pearl would just like to remind the prospects that a handshake is made by two.

"To me, it's consistent with contract law," Pearl said. "If a kid gives me a verbal commitment and, God forbid, he gets hurt and never plays a down or a minute, he's going to be on scholarship because that verbal contract is as good as signing a national letter of intent to me.

"I think that's how we should operate."

Something tells me that Dooley would endorse that notion.

Straight Talk: Dooley knows what you want to hear, but he's not going to say it just to make UT's fan base feel better.

With just one more week on the road for UT's assistants to recruit, he'd love to tell you the Vols have caught the pack in recruiting.

Nope.

"We're always going to be behind for a couple of years until you really get settled into your areas," said Dooley, whose Vols have two public commitments. "It just takes time."

This recruiting transition looks like it will be harder than the last. Remember, UT's last coaching staff consisted of recruiters who knew the Southeast, like Ed Orgeron, Frank Wilson and Eddie Gran.

Much of UT's current staff is still fumbling with their GPS. That makes linebackers coach Lance Thompson as valuable as anyone on UT's staff. He knows Alabama and Georgia well.

It also will put more pressure on Dooley. He'll need to lead the way in the Southeast, which he has recruited for years at LSU and Louisiana Tech.

It's Academic: One of UT's most important newcomers is one mini-term class away from enrolling at UT. Defensive tackle John Brown is toiling away at Northeast Mississippi Community College in order to pass his final junior college class and enroll at UT this summer.

Brown, who signed with UT in February, is the most likely 2010 signee to have an impact this fall given his ability and UT's lack of depth on the defensive line.

Dave Hooker covers football recruiting. He may be reached at hookerd@knoxnews.com.

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Comments » 19

AtLeastMyTeamHasPerfectSeasons writes:

in response to FARRAGUT0406:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

yeah, lol

AtLeastMyTeamHasPerfectSeasons writes:

I do like how Hooker mentions the last staff without actually typing the head coaches name. Thanks.

We have definately seen his name enough on here lately.

Handshakes don't mean much BP, like they used to.

kptvol14 writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEAR:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

yup, selby commited to kansas

txvolsfan writes:

in response to FARRAGUT0406:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

YAWN

civilianvol_formerly_marinevol writes:

in response to Agent_Orange:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

What does "gentleman's agreement" have to do with Calipari?

nicknack1 writes:

Kids nowadays don't care about going to school or playing and learning with other teammates. They want to play for the NBA. Do you really think John Wall and Demarcus Cousins wanted to play for Kentucky? No, they wanted to play for Calipari just so they can get those million dollar paychecks within 3 years. Too bad you can't trust anybody anymore.

cloudodust writes:

I call it the game within the game. There are college football fans here in Georgia that don't blink if one decommitts from the outside and comes to UGA but they get their panties in a wad if someone takes one of their committs. Until they ink the dotted line, it's on...All gentlemen's agreements pertaining to basketball got toasted with the arrival to the SEC of one Johnny Two Step Calipari. Hey CBP, tell Kentucky's recruits if that want to have a shot at probation, then sign with Kentucky...

nola_vol writes:

John Canzano is the top sports columnist for The (Portland) Oregonian. He was also named the No. 1 sports columnist in America by The Associated Press Sports Editors in 2009. As you would expect, he's been following the Terrence Jones/Calipari story pretty closely. Definitely worth reading is his May 20 column, which contains:

A familiar quote from the Oregon State coach ("he stops recruiting players the instant they commit elsewhere")...

A brutal rehash of Calipari's resume/rapsheet ("...you find academic fraud, including NCAA sanctions over a cooked-up entrance examination") which includes Marcus Camby at University of Massachusetts, the "other people" he hired to get Dajuan Wagner, Tyreke Evans, and Derek Rose to Memphis...

A lineup of Calipari's posse ("you'll find a pack of men with unknown motives hanging around. Agents, hangers-on, sycophants, and of course, the infamous and powerful talent broker -- William "Worldwide Wes" Wesley -- who steers players into Calipari's arms")...

But most revealing is his description of recruit Terrence Jones' original commitment press conference. Very interesting.

http://www.oregonlive.com/sports/oreg...

In a few years there's gonna be a civil war in Kentucky, between the "just win!" blue-heads and proud Kentucky fans who still have a moral compass. I'm sure a lot of us Big Orange football fans remember that queasy feeling of excitement mixed with trepidation...

Huttdawg100 writes:

in response to nicknack1:

Kids nowadays don't care about going to school or playing and learning with other teammates. They want to play for the NBA. Do you really think John Wall and Demarcus Cousins wanted to play for Kentucky? No, they wanted to play for Calipari just so they can get those million dollar paychecks within 3 years. Too bad you can't trust anybody anymore.

I agree. I would further argue that the kids are repeating the behaviors that they see in adults. Kiffin, Bobby Petrino, Calipari all have set the bar pretty high, and the kids are just trying to meet the standard. Now, everybody is talking about Lebron, D. Wade and Chris Bosh entering free agency. The time of players sticking with the team that drafted them has long gone.

I don't think it's time to panic about football recruiting. Wilcox isn't well known in the Southeast, so the defensive recruits want to see how he'll use his athletes. Chaney hasn't called plays in years; offensive recruits want to see his offensive live. But with all the recruits jumping from Georgia to North Carolina to Bama to Florida, I just want to see the end product. And let's hope they land in Knoxville.

TommyJack writes:

in response to Pablopeepants:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Naw, he just doesn't get any attention at home.

gborasnic writes:

in response to bricker865:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

i agree this dude is a true joke... i think i speak for everyone when i say this- GET A JOB OR GO TO BAMA!!!!!!!!

Huttdawg100 writes:

in response to nola_vol:

John Canzano is the top sports columnist for The (Portland) Oregonian. He was also named the No. 1 sports columnist in America by The Associated Press Sports Editors in 2009. As you would expect, he's been following the Terrence Jones/Calipari story pretty closely. Definitely worth reading is his May 20 column, which contains:

A familiar quote from the Oregon State coach ("he stops recruiting players the instant they commit elsewhere")...

A brutal rehash of Calipari's resume/rapsheet ("...you find academic fraud, including NCAA sanctions over a cooked-up entrance examination") which includes Marcus Camby at University of Massachusetts, the "other people" he hired to get Dajuan Wagner, Tyreke Evans, and Derek Rose to Memphis...

A lineup of Calipari's posse ("you'll find a pack of men with unknown motives hanging around. Agents, hangers-on, sycophants, and of course, the infamous and powerful talent broker -- William "Worldwide Wes" Wesley -- who steers players into Calipari's arms")...

But most revealing is his description of recruit Terrence Jones' original commitment press conference. Very interesting.

http://www.oregonlive.com/sports/oreg...

In a few years there's gonna be a civil war in Kentucky, between the "just win!" blue-heads and proud Kentucky fans who still have a moral compass. I'm sure a lot of us Big Orange football fans remember that queasy feeling of excitement mixed with trepidation...

Thanks for the article.... Very interesting read. If you're gonna take a "win at all costs" approach, you'd better be prepared to deal with the end result. Kentucky fans saw how we got burned by Kiffin. I just hope they don't jump off of a cliff.

jzt writes:

in response to Agent_Orange:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Crapalari and the word gentlemen can not be used in the same sentance.

nola_vol writes:

in response to Agent_Orange:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

The article linked below does a good job of explaining "why." It was written May 5, so it makes no reference to--or defense of--Calipirahna's subsequent actions.

Canzano offers good insight into the cotton candy firmness of Jones' original commitment (which Calipari chose to exploit--or interpreted to be more of a "time-out" than a true decision), and leaves implied the reason why principled coaches continue to honor the commitment of teenagers making their first big decision in life.

The older we get, the more we forget how clueless 98% of us were at that age, and that most of our peers who did stand out were only better actors. It's not much different for these kids, despite all the sports-specific preparation they've received.

~not that I want anyone to believe I spend all my time before & after church reading The Oregonian, but... http://www.oregonlive.com/sports/oreg...

AtLeastMyTeamHasPerfectSeasons writes:

in response to bricker865:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Yes and because I talk trash about UA on here he has singled me out and his every-waking hour obsession.

I mention 'the Crapstone' or getting free textbooks and stuf and the guy gets mad for an hour.

Yes, it is pitiful.

jclowers writes:

I don't like all the de-commitments, but in the end everyone is better off in worrying about the players that a team has rather than the ones they do not. Tennessee next year in BB does not need to worry about Selby. Instead be excited about the potential of Harris, Golden, McRae and the rest of our team. Go Vols!

PoochPuntOn3rdDown writes:

in response to TommyJack:

Naw, he just doesn't get any attention at home.

An Alabama fan that lives on a site called GoVolsXtra and has "Farragut" in his screen name in capital letters is just begging for someone to pay him attention, be it good or bad attention. Pretty lame if you ask me...

Calipari will keep bringing in top recruits and ignoring any "agreements" that have been in place because he has to in order to keep his job. I don't fault him for that. I do believe he'll have to do something more with all that talent than he did last year to stay in Lexington's good graces. His team was the youngest and tallest in the NCAA last year. This year's team promises to be as young but not as talented. It will be interesting to see if Jones is as big a difference maker as Cousins.

DarthWilson writes:

in response to FARRAGUT0406:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

At first you made me angry. Then you became a joke. Now it is just sad. This will be the last time I reply to one of your lame posts. Please go to a bammer sight and try to get a life. So sad.

Recruiting will only get worse and more of these switches (washington to UK) will be seen. It has become a game of "what can you do for me?" and "whose shoes do you wear?". Depressing.

Colliervol writes:

Ha Ha. You used "basketball" and "ethical recruiting" in the same sentence. And I have to get on Bruce a little here as well. Does anybody really think that there was ever a "gentlemen's agreement" not to recruit players after they've committed? Please. Don't make me bring up Willie Kemp. I think BP may have made a call or two to him after he committed to Memphis. Can't have it both ways fellas.

As noted before, men's college basketball recruiting makes football look like kindergarden and that's saying something. And until the NCAA fixes the problem of the street agents and AAU coaches, it ain't changing.

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