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More might mean less for hoops recruits

01/21/2013, 8:07pm PST
By Craig Malveaux

Rule allows unlimited calls and texts, but one local prospect says colleges showing restraint


College basketball recruiters are allowed unlimited calls and texts to high school juniors, but Francis Parker's Evan Fitzner says the new setup has allowed him to set the rules.

After his sophomore season, Evan Fitzner wasn’t sure what to expect.

Regarded as the 13th-best power forward in California, Francis Parker’s 6-foot-9 three-star prospect was treasured by more than a half-dozen universities. As a junior this year, Fitzner was expecting anywhere from six to 10 phone calls per month from college recruiters.

Or so he thought.

In June, the NCAA Division I Board of Directors significantly changed the contact rule by permitting colleges unlimited calls and unlimited text messages to recruits who have finished their sophomore year of high school. No longer would recruiters be restricted to one call per month.

Yet what first was perceived as a possible free-for-all has become an orderly process — at least in Fitzner’s case.

“I wasn’t too worried about the rule change or what would follow because of the conversations we had,” Fitzner said of his contact with recruiters. “They told me to openly communicate with them and let them know if they’re bugging me too much and they’ll stop.”

Seven months since the new rule was passed Fitzner said it hasn’t been an issue.

Under the former NCAA model, communication was drastically limited. During a 13-month span — from June 15 after the prospect’s sophomore year to July 31 after their junior year — coaches were restricted to one call per month. Text messages were prohibited.

In addition to communicating via wireless devices, a ban on private messaging through social media networks such as Twitter and Facebook has been lifted. Public messages, however, remain prohibited due to a rule preventing institutions from publicizing their recruitment efforts.

“The Leadership Council recognized the evolving nature of communication with students as well as the importance of building solid relationships with prospective student-athletes,” Leadership Council Chair Mike Alden said in a statement released to

NCAA.org.

“It appeared that we had previously regulated ourselves away from that relationship building with these young people, unintentionally allowing third parties greater access than our coaches.”

Third parties — particularly AAU and/or club basketball coaches — attempting to influence a prospect’s collegiate choice for personal gain or special interest concerned the Leadership Council, according to

NCAA.org.

The belief is that aggressive communication between the schools and recruits will diminish the influence of third parties while providing recruits with increased control over their basketball futures. The same rule governs high school seniors.

“Going forward, we felt it important to be proactive establishing a model that allows our coaches greater opportunities to establish solid relationships earlier and more often,” Alden said.

Initially, loosening the reins on college scouts concerned Mark Fitzner, Evan’s father who played college basketball at Stanford. Regulation promised communication in moderation. And with the level of interest his son was generating, one call per month from as many as 10 recruiters was plenty enough already.

“I have had conversations with Evan about that before, about the number of recruiters who want him,” Mark said.

“I told him that if it ever gets out of hand, if he feels like he can’t manage it because the amount of communication becomes too much, let me know.”

That conversation has yet to happen. Evan said recruiters have not abused the new rule. The schools understand and respect his academic and athletic commitments to Francis Parker and often arrange phone calls according to his schedule.

Too much communication speaks volumes. So does too little communication. Recruiters walk a tightrope, but establishing an open relationship alleviates that.

“At first, they would call me a lot to get to know me, then send text messages to me here and there,” Evan said. “It makes it more so that the recruit can set the rules, decide when we want them to call us.”

Evan’s father said he no longer worries, trusting that Evan can manage the recruiting process.

“It gives the players more control over the relationship, I think,” Mark said. “If Evan tells them don’t call me more than a certain amount of times per week, they will likely follow or risk making him unhappy.”

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