Distance, Attention and the de-commitment
In the last week, two ESPNU 60 juniors decommitted. In looking back at the commitments of guards Jaren Sina (Lake Hopatcong, N.J./Gill St. Bernard’s), then to Alabama and Kendrick Nunn (Chicago, Ill./Simeon) to Texas A&M, two similarities stick out.
First, at the time of the commitments both generated the same response: odd. Geography aside, Sina, a Jersey kid, popped for an SEC team in January of his sophomore season. Alabama had spotted him six months prior and worked him hard for the pledge; the Crimson Tide deserve credit for jumping on his bandwagon. I’m all for guys working hard and getting good players, that’s the way it should be. That doesn’t change the perception that occurs when Alabama marches into a Big East territory of strength and nabs a kid. Behind the scenes, I’m sure the Tide knew it had a fight on its hands to walk this commitment to signing day. Like Sina, the timing of Nunn’s commitment caught observers by surprise. His commitment came with almost no advance warning.
To me, you can’t avoid the pink elephant in the room: distance. There’s a significant difference in accepting and early commitment from an in-state or regional player than taking one from out of your natural recruiting region. Both Sina and Nunn were out of region, high-profile recruits.
In both these cases, the status of the players involved was on the upswing. There are inherent pressures working against the schools owning the commitment of a player far from campus. Whether it’s a kid in homeroom or an adult at the mall asking the player about his commitment, forces out of the school’s control would seem plausible when it comes to planting seeds of doubt. When you’re far from the player’s circle of influence and you don’t have advocates surrounding the player, the chances of keeping the commitment naturally decrease. You can bet Sina heard, “How come you aren’t going to a Big East school?” more than once.
Colin Cowherd likes to use a simple rule: say it out loud, does it make sense. “Sophomore from New Jersey commits to Alabama.” Hmm. That was going to be a toughie to keep enlisted for the Tide. “Junior from Chicago commits to Texas A&M.” Nunn’s commitment is more believable, but still a little off.
My take is geography was Alabama’s undoing with Sina while attention crushed A&M’s chances. On Sept. 13, Mike Krzyzewski, Bill Self, Bruce Weber, Thad Matta, Roy Williams, Tom Izzo and Oliver Purnell all gathered for a workout at Simeon. They were there to see the nation’s No. 1 junior Jabari Parker. Texas A&M’s Billy Kennedy was there too; Parker’s dad played for Texas A&M.
Let’s be honest, these are kids growing up with Twitter, Facebook and iPhones. This is an attention hungry generation. It’s human nature for Nunn to desire attention. Comments following the decommitment essentially confirm as much.
There’s a lesson to be learned here. For administrators, we need to offer letters of intent to non-seniors. If they’re sure, they can sign. At the very least, it might be worthwhile to explore the notion of providing juniors with letters of intent.
Coaches, it’s time to pay attention to the trends. These commitments from freshmen and sophomores are improbable to make it all the way to the alter. The divorce rate for commitments is climbing. “We’ve got to get him early or we won’t have a shot” is code for: we’re not going to get him anyway. Remember this the next time those words come out of your mouth.
Players, you guys share some of the blame too. Stop collecting offers and slow this process down. “I made my decision too early and didn’t have a chance to look at my options” is a played out reason for decommitting. You’ve been warned, you don’t have to do this. If they want you as a sophomore, they’ll really want you as a junior. If you haven’t committed as a junior, they’re really, really going to want you as a senior.
These decommitments can be avoided.