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Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Recruit ditches verbal, chooses Notre Dame

By Eamonn Brennan

For a long time, college basketball recruiting had an unwritten rule: When a player made a verbal commitment to a school, everyone stopped recruiting him. It was hardly mandated by the NCAA. Instead, it sprung from a sense of decorum, but also from a mutually beneficial détente: I won't recruit your verbal commitments if you don't recruit mine. One less headache for each of us. Deal?

Deal. At least, that's how things used to be. We seem to be entering a transitional phase in college hoops recruiting, one that much more closely resembles the state of play on the football side -- where commitments aren't commitments until they're signed.

The latest and perhaps most surprising recent example comes by way of Central Michigan and Notre Dame. From CBS's Jeff Borzello:
Last Sunday, Austin Torres committed to Central Michigan. Four days later, Notre Dame coach Mike Brey walked into Torres' house and offered him a scholarship.

Torres was still committed to Central Michigan during Brey's in-home visit and still was committed when he told Brey he wanted to go to Notre Dame.

"I told coach Brey on Thursday that this was a dream and something I wanted to pursue," Torres told CBSSports.com. "I was sure I wanted this to happen. And then I decommitted on Friday."

[...] Lately, people have talked about basketball becoming more like football in the sense that committed players aren't officially off the board until they sign. That Brey -- one of the more well-regarded coaches in the game -- moved in on a player who verbally committed to Central Michigan could be a signal that verbal commitments are not considered as strong as they used to be.

Again, this isn't against an NCAA rules. Legally speaking, a verbal commitment changes nothing about a player's recruitment process, and never has. When players de-commit in football, it is typically greeted with a shrug. But practically speaking, verbal commitments have always been held in high standing in college basketball. When Eric Gordon decommitted from Illinois and chose to go to Indiana after the hiring of Kelvin Sampson, it sparked an Illini hate-fest the likes of which was previously reserved for Bruce Pearl.

Indiana fans are currently none too pleased with the decommitment of top 2013 player Trey Lyles, who re-opened his recruitment this summer; IU seems convinced Lyles was being recruited heavily despite his early verbal commitment to the Hoosiers. (After Lyles announced his decision, Indiana coach Tom Crean tweeted: "I told my staff today that my football coaching friends think fb recruiting is like mbb recruiting because you have to deal with so many people that get involved. We think that more and more people never stop recruiting other school's pledges. We are both right. Way of life.")

There are other examples, though in college hoops they are typically still few and far between. But all it takes is a few coaches -- including perfectly well-respected ones like Brey, who don't have a reputation of pushing the recruiting envelope -- to change everyone's attitudes about the practice. Pure, unbridled anarchy is sure to follow.