ST. GEORGE — The past weekend marked the start of a new kind of summer recruiting structure for NCAA Division I men’s basketball with the first so-called June Live Period.
Instead of summer events dominated by sneaker and apparel company sponsored AAU tournaments, the change to the NCAA recruiting calendar left June for events ran by state high school athletic associations while July will remain a busy time on the AAU circuit.
It is all part of a wider plan by the NCAA to lessen the influence of shoe companies in the wake of a scandal that saw multiple assistant coaches and representatives of Nike and Adidas charged by the FBI for various offenses related to recruiting.
The changes didn’t come without some issues, but after experiencing the first of the live weekends for evaluating high school teams, the majority coaches on multiple levels agree the changes may be positive in the long run.
“I wasn’t sure what I’d think and I really didn’t want to judge until I’d experienced it,” one mid-major assistant said. “But I think it could wind up being good once the kinks are worked out. I like seeing kids in this kind of environment, You see them running, working within a system and having to answer to coaching, so it’s less about trying to put on a show in front of all of us.”
That was the sentiment echoed by multiple coaches, both high school and college, at the Virginia Live Period Shootout at Blue Ridge School, which ran from Friday to Sunday with 20 private school teams from North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and New York participating in front of dozens of college coaches ranging from Division III Bridgewater College’s Shawn Pastiglione to the most recent NCAA Division I champion, Virginia coach Tony Bennett.
There were some downsides to the new format. Most notably, short notice of the changes from the NCAA made it difficult for many state associations to organize anything for this summer.
That includes the Virginia High School League, which governs the commonwealth’s public school teams. VHSL member schools were cleared to participate in Washington events, but John Marshall High School in Richmond, coached by Ty White who also runs the expansive Team Loaded AAU program, was the only one to do so.
The Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association had to apply for special permission to host the event at Blue Ridge, but once approved, spots for the final two weekends of the month quickly filled up.
But while college coaches enjoyed the opportunity to see recruits playing with their high school teams, there are some logistical issues with dozen events happening simultaneously across the country.
In the traditional AAU scenarios, evaluation weekends typically include tournaments hosted by Nike, Adidas and Under Armour, allowing most programs to have at least one staff member at each location.
James Madison, for example, was stretched thin this weekend as it continued to look to fill its third assistant spot. JMU assistant Byron Taylor attended the Friday session at Blue Ridge School while coach Louis Rowe and assistant Rob Parker were at the two Washington-area tournaments.
Saturday morning, Taylor flew to Atlanta, where the Dukes extended offers to three underclassmen from Georgia, but not before offering Justin Taylor, a rising sophomore guard from St. Anne’s-Belfield in Charlottesville, who he had watched play twice the day before.
“That is a nice thing about the AAU setup,” another Division I assistant said. “Is that you get more teams in one place. But I think once they get all the states involved in this and maybe figure out how to spread the dates out, this will be an improvement.”
JMU Recruiting Updates
Not surprisingly, it turned out to be an eventful weekend for the Dukes on the recruiting trail as JMU continued to focus on underclassmen prospects. Byron Taylor sat courtside as St. Anne’s-Belfield took on a split squad from Blue Ridge School that featured Mike Gray, a 6-2 class of 2021 guard, and Maliq Brown, a 6-8 2022 forward, who both have offers from Madison.
It was following that game JMU offered STAB’s Justin Taylor, a 6-5 combo guard who is teammates with Brown and East Rockingham’s Tyler Nickel on the Team Loaded 15U AAU squad. Also playing for STAB was rising senior point guard Malachi Poindexter, who said he’s had conversations with the Dukes staff since his sophomore season, but hasn’t received an offer from JMU at this point.
Also at the Virginia Live Period Shootout, JMU offered Tymu Chenery, a 6-6 2020 swingman from Episcopal High School in Alexandria.
Down in Georgia, JMU offered 2021 teammates from Pebblebrook High School, Tyler Shirley and Jamal Clyce. The Dukes have now offered four rising juniors from Pebblebrook after previous offers to point guard Danny Stubbs and forward Blake Hadley.
JMU also offered 2021 guard Garrison Powell from Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School in Atlanta.