The Nebraska Schools Activities Association is now in the summer basketball business, something it never had any intention of doing.
And so far, it is not enjoying it — and neither are high school coaches. But not because they don't want to spend time with their players in the summer, but because new rules created by the NCAA have thrown a wrench into the only time that they can spend with their high school teams.
Here is the situation, and for those who don't follow summer basketball, I will try to take it slow: There are now two new NCAA evaluation periods, which are times the NCAA allows Division I college basketball coaches to evaluate high school players.
In theory, the new periods are supposed to shift recruiting emphasis away from the AAU circuit and back to the high school scene during the month of June, when players are not traveling with their summer teams. But, because all players are not Division I prospects, a whole new "recruiting event" has been set up that, in effect, takes top prospects away from their high school teams — during time traditionally used for team building — and makes them travel to a recruiting event in their region where Division I coaches can watch them. It is, basically, a big AAU regional basketball showcase that only benefits the very top players.
The new system actually shortens the time high school coaches can spend with their full teams in the summer. In some ways, it's the reverse of what was intended.
And high school coaches are crying foul.
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"It is such a joke," one local coach told me. "What rational people that know anything about this would limit the opportunities for kids? The whole intent was to put more involvement back in the scholastic setting. So this region sets up an event that totally divorces itself from the scholastic setting. It's going to be overkill. No coaches and no summer guys have had any input on any of this."
So, come June 21-23, the top 25 Nebraska boys and 28 Nebraska girls — selected by a committee of Nebraska high school basketball coaches and athletic administrators — will leave during time typically allowed to play with their high school teams in summer leagues or team camps. They will head to Kansas City to play in the "Midwest Regional June Recruiting Event" with players from Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. Sounds like an AAU tournament to me, right?
While the NSAA is drawing heat, a case can be made that it is just trying to make the best of the NCAA's mandate.
"We are not in the summer basketball business, but the new rules force us to be," said Jon Dolliver, NSAA assistant director responsible for boys and girls basketball. "We are in business of creating opportunities for athletes from Nebraska and that is why we came up with what we came up with."
Another local coach found some middle ground: "It's not the NSAA's fault. I wish they would've approached some of us. I don't think they knew what they were getting into. I'd rather see the NSAA put some emphasis on a 180 rule for transfers or implementing a shot clock or one association for high school basketball coaches versus worrying about finding something in June."
So, what started out as the NCAA trying to put a Band-Aid on a broken summer basketball recruiting system has resulted in confusion and hard feelings. It's one big communication breakdown, and the NSAA, to its chagrin, is right in the middle of it.
Here are some of the ramifications:
» How do all of these prospects get to Kansas City? For some, it's not a problem, but for others, well, trust me. It's not easy.
» Since word of the recruiting event came down late from the NSAA, coaches are forced to redo their summer schedules on the fly. "For us, we already had our calendar set and now all of the sudden here is the NSAA sending out an email that a potential player could attend a camp," said yet another local coach. "Now it leaves some teams scrambling and having to change their schedule."
» Even colleges are upset, because they typically operate team camps for high schools during June. "We have had a good team camp and been able to get a lot of players on our campus to show what we offer," UNO coach Derrin Hansen said. "Now that a live period is in June it is going to affect the amount of students and prospective students we can get on our campus."
» Initially the NSAA was only going to allow their member school players to attend the Midwest Regional June Recruiting Event. That decision was met with staunch resistance by high school coaches particularly in the Metro area. A second evaluation period, the second weekend in June, is now open to any NSAA member school that wants to participate, but it's a team camp in Chicago.
So, it comes as no surprise to me, as someone who is around the summer basketball world, that hard feelings have surfaced concerning summer basketball. The irony is that something well-intentioned has turned into a mess. The fact that it has sucked the NSAA and high school coaches into the vortex only adds to the intrigue.
It's probably too late to straighten out this year, but my bet is that a lot more thought will go into it before next summer rolls around.