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Saturday, October 14, 2006

Verbals... not worth the paper...

Another day, another example of shady dealings by NCAA hoops coaches. This time it's Indiana's new head man, Kelvin Sampson, who managed to recruit Eric Gordon for the Hoosiers even though:

  • Gordon had already verbally committed to Illinois
  • Sampson is under recruiting restrictions dating back to some shenanigans when he was the head man at Oklahoma
This is a serious gray area for NCAA hoops programs. Generally, there's a working "gentleman's agreement" not to work players that have verbally committed -- but there's no hard and fast rule against it.

Now to be fair, Gordon is a tailor-made Hoosier out of North Central High School in Indianapolis. When he gave Bruce Weber his verbal last season, the coaching situation at Indiana was highly unsettled, and a blue-chipper like Gordon would have been nuts to commit. That said, Gordon (and Sampson) could have eliminated the appearance of any skullduggery by simply coming out and de-committing over the summer. That would have given Weber a chance to fill his scholarship -- now, it's a little late in the game to attract a player of Gordon's caliber.

This is the second time in recent memory that a big major conference recruit has switched teams at the last minute. Doug Wiggins, a mid-level recruit from Hartford, Connecticut gave an early verbal to Norm Roberts at St. John's. Wiggins then spent the summer shooting up the recruiting rankings with a series of stellar performances at camps and AAU events. The the Marcus Williams/AJ Price laptop scandal made the point guard situation at Connecticut a lot less solid, and suddenly, Wiggins signed with the Huskies. Roberts, like Weber, was hung out to dry after a coach in his own conference recruited a player who'd given a verbal.

This issue should become a big topic of conversation in the offseason. Other big-name coaches like Michigan State's Tom Izzo and Michigan's Tommy Amaker have spoken out on the subject, and the ethics committee of the National Association of Basketball Coaches is expected to weigh in, ESPN's Andy Katz blogs (ESPN Insider subscription required).


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