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Basketball’s hidden recruiting season kicks off

Matt Doherty

SMU’s head coach Matt Doherty yells during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against UTEP on Saturday, March 3, 2012, in Dallas. SMU won 57-48. (AP Photo/Mike Fuentes)


In college basketball there’s a fall signing period and a spring signing period. The majority of the action comes in the fall, and then there’s a race toward filling holes in the spring.

But then there’s another period which largely goes untalked about, and that period hits full swing in the opening week of the NCAA Tourney.

Already South Carolina, Illinois, Rhode Island, Nebraska and SMU have fired their coaches. Which means that the recruits who have already signed with those programs are now high priorities for programs with a need to fill and a scholarship to fill it with.

These recruits who have already signed a National Letter of Intent (NLI) to attend one of those Universities will have to appeal, but there’s no shortage of examples of players being let out of their NLI after a head coach was fired. The paperwork of the NLI is very clear that the commitment is to the school and not the coach, but the reality isn’t so simple. Once a signed player sits down and talks with the Athletic Director and the new Head Coach, their release is just a formality.

So far only a few coaches have been let go. But their replacements will likely come from the existing ranks of head coaches, which will create further vacancies. Lost in all of this is that a replacement coach’s first responsibility is often to re-recruit a recruit and convince them to stick with their NLI.

Post players are typically the most desired commodity late in the recruiting game. Nebraska has a big JUCO power forward (Keith Coleman) who still has three years of eligibility, and he’s certain to garner plenty of attention. SMU’s centerpiece was 7' center Blaise Mbargorba, ranked as the 20th best center in the nation by ESPN. South Carolina had 6'9 center Tyrone Haughton out of Miami, FL. In the coming days and weeks a lot of new players will be coming available, and the NLI shuffle will be in full swing.