It's OK to change your mind
When we reported that No. 27 Branndais Agee of Detroit, Mich., re-opened her recruitment just two days after No. 30 Brittney Sykes of Newark, N.J., announced she had done the same, curiosity and a kind of panic coursed through our sport.
"What in the world is happening at Penn State?" was the oft-repeated query.
Well, nothing really, except a little bad timing and luck. It was mere coincidence that the two elite prospects who had originally pledged to the Nittany Lions appeared to simultaneously recant those commitments. The two don't know each other well enough to have collaborated and, truth is, Agee made her decision a couple weeks earlier.
Last week simply should be remembered as a week when two highly visible women's basketball prospects made the very public, and thus very courageous, decision to come to their senses.
They came to their senses because both had committed during their first official visit. As Agee later admitted, "I got caught up in the moment." Neither suddenly decided they no longer liked Penn State; they realized that they'd assembled no context for what amounts to the most important decision of their lives to this point.
This is tantamount to being wowed on a first date and, before the goodbyes, agreeing to marry.
Getting "caught up in the moment" is a common phenomenon in recruiting, particularly during the official-visit season. Official visits are elaborately orchestrated shows with everything and everyone shiny and welcoming, and it's no wonder a recruit falls in love with whichever school she's touring. How many times have we read a committing prospect say, "it was a feeling," that they "belonged." Odds are, if she went on all five visits and fell in love five times, though it would seem difficult, hers would be a decision from a position of strength, a no-lose proposition.
No. 25 Xylina McDaniel of Blythewood, S.C., said after making all of her visits that, "I couldn't make a wrong choice."
Selecting a college is a student-athlete's most important decision because it sets the stage for so many other major life developments -- her profession, where she'll live, who her friends will be, and, yes, maybe even who she'll marry.
With so much at stake, everyone involved needs to recognize that most decisions along the recruiting trail can be undone. An example of a rare decision that cannot be: That pass she decided to throw, from the wrong angle, to the teammate with the overplaying defender. When the ball left her hand, there was no going back. She can get a mulligan for most anything else. Shoot, although she'd already scheduled her five official visits, No. 96 Kuaneshia Baker of Gretna, La., indicated last week through her brother, Reshad, that she has added a sixth team, Auburn, to her list. She just has to figure out how to make an unpaid trip.
Changing course in one's recruitment loses no bearing at ESPN HoopGurlz, where we always advocate making the most informed decision possible. If a prospect is good enough to be offered a scholarship, she's good enough to be offered another -- even by the same school. Furthermore, the only ones who would begrudge a decision to commit more time to one's recruitment are haters and fans of the school from which she de-committed -- and she can't control the perceptions of either.
There is, in other words, no tarnished reputation to be suffered by a prospect who is re-opening her recruitment.
Unfortunately, too many college recruiters are accessories in the proliferation of the myth that recanting recruits suffer loss of stature. And too many coaches prey on the insecurities of teenage girls by pressuring them for premature commitments.
You'd think more college coaches would strenuously promote completely informed choices by recruits. The scourge of women's college basketball is not, after all, the ACL injury, as some believe; it's the plague of transfers, which disrupts lives and as well as the flow of any program they touch.
If more stakeholders were invested in the production of informed recruiting choices, last week would not have been spent asking, "What's wrong?" They'd realize nothing, nothing at all. Just a couple of kids hitting the "pause" button of life.
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Glenn Nelson is a senior writer at ESPN.com and the founder of HoopGurlz.com. A graduate of Seattle University and Columbia University, he formerly coached girls' club basketball, was a co-founder and editor-in-chief of an online sports network, authored a basketball book for kids, has had his photography displayed at the Smithsonian Institute, and was a longtime, national-award-winning newspaper columnist and writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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