What We Learned: NCAA's Early Signing Period

What We Learned: NCAA's Early Signing Period

News

What We Learned: NCAA's Early Signing Period

By

Antonio Blakeney is one of the most wanted recruits still on the board. / Kelly Kline/Under Armour

Antonio Blakeney is one of the most wanted recruits still on the board. / Kelly Kline/Under Armour

Over the last week, from Nov. 12-19, during the NCAA’s Early Signing Period, hordes of elite high school basketball players ended the dating phase of their recruitment’s and tied the knot, signing their National Letter of Intent.

From players getting back to normalcy to switching schools at the last minute we learned a lot during the early period.

Here are a few key highlights.

THEY JUST DON’T KNOW

Conspiracy theorists won’t believe this, but the truth is that elite players don’t wait until the spring to sign just to be the last guy. They don’t do it for the heightened media attention and, no, they’re not trying to add more social media followers in the process; the truth is a lot simpler: They just don’t know yet.

We polled some of the top players from around the country who had yet to commit this fall and they all laughed at the notion that they were holding out on purpose.

“I definitely didn’t want to have to wait,” said Wheeler (Marietta, Ga.) wing Jaylen Brown, the No. 2 overall player in the ESPN 100. “I’m just not ready to pick a school yet.”

KENTUCKY IS STILL WINNING.

Kentucky Wildcats on top; go figure that one.

Big Blue Nation haters may not want to read on because Kentucky is the big winner from the Early Signing Period.

Why?

After a roughly eight-month commitment drought, the Cats landed two ESPN 100 five-star players – Roselle Catholic (Roselle, N.J.) Isaiah Briscoe and Lausanne Collegiate (Memphis, Tenn.) Skal Labissiere – on the second day of the signing period. Briscoe was planning to make it official in the spring, but he signed his letter the next day.

Briscoe has 2016 NBA Draft lottery buzz and wins at everything; Nike Peach Jam title, New Jersey state title and even NBA 2K (No, really.). Labissiere’s peers voted him Best Face-Up Player in this year’s USA TODAY HSS Player’s Choice awards and the Wildcats’ third commitment from the class, Saint Rita (Chicago) shooting guard Charles Matthews, is a four-star recruit who can fill it up from all over the court.

Arizona was a close second during the early period with Findlay Prep’s (Henderson, Nev.) five-star scoring machine Allonzo Trier in the bag for 2015.

IT AIN’T OVER ‘TIL THEY INK

Roughly a week before the early period kicked off, Cape Henry (Virginia Beach, Va.) wing Chris Clarke pulled the old “switch-er-oo” on Tennessee and opted for Virginia Tech just a week after announcing that he’d play for the Vols next season.

Don’t worry, Clarke, , a four-star recruit who is ranked No. 12 among wings in the ESPN 100, signed during the early period.

Virginia Tech has to be happy about that.

BLAKENEY JUST GOT EVEN MORE ATTRACTIVE

As if he needed any more attention from college coaches as a five-star recruit, Oak Ridge (Orlando, Fla.) shooting guard Antonio Blakeney dropped, count ‘em, 63 points in a season-opening win over Liberty Christian Prep (Tavares, Fla.) two days in to the early period.

Blakeney decommitted from Louisville in mid-September and now has everyone from Missouri to Kentucky to North Carolina State, among many others, in intense pursuit.

Blakeney and Briscoe are best friends, according to Briscoe; that can’t hurt the Cats’ chances come spring.

RECRUITS WILL GET THEIR LIVES BACK

Now that they’ve signed with their respective schools, elite recruits won’t have to worry about the constant calls and texts from dozens of college coaches and countless bloggers and reporters asking the same questions about their recruitment. That’s perfectly fine with the players.

“It definitely feels good just to go back to being normal again,” said Lancaster (Lancaster, Texas) forward Elijah Thomas, who signed with Texas A&M. “You miss the relationships with the coaches, but the media stuff was kinda crazy.”

Lausanne Collegiate (Memphis, Tenn.) center Skal Labissiere said the media aspect was his least favorite part of the recruitment process.

“It’s just a lot of the same questions,” said Labissiere, who signed with Kentucky. “I’m glad that’s over.”

Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY

Latest

More USA TODAY High School Sports