It’s not that Harry Giles III was being disingenuous or misleading, and, no, he wasn’t giving false hope to the more than 40 college coaches who were salivating at the thought of landing him. It’s just that when you’re the No. 1 high school basketball player in the country things can get, well, overwhelming.
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“I definitely feel blessed to be in a position to choose whatever school I want to go to,” said Giles, a senior forward at Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.). “But recruiting can be a lot to deal with. I mean how are you gonna get to really know all those different staffs?”
Top recruits have always had lists of favorites, but social media has turned the reveal of the list into its own event complete with media attention and 140-character responses that range from joy from fans of the colleges on the list to disappointment — and sometimes anger — from fans of the schools left out.
This just in college coaches, if your school has managed to show up on the big reveal of an elite recruit’s top 20 schools list don’t rest on your laurels.
“We’re not really looking at all of those schools,” Giles said. “You can’t. The more coaches that are on your list the more phone calls you’ll get from the different coaches on the staff and the more questions you get about each school. It’s too much when the list is that long.”
It’s a sentiment shared by most elite recruits who contend that they initially keep their lists longer due to everything from family pressure to fair shakes.
Chaminade College Prep (St. Louis) senior forward Jayson Tatum initially cut his list to 10 then dropped it to four before eventually picking Duke in July.
When asked if he was ever seriously considering 10 schools, Tatum, who is ranked No. 2 overall in the ESPN 100, laughed and said, “Nah.”
“When you start out you feel like you’ve gotta hear everyone out that’s offered you a scholarship,” Tatum said. “Then you get more serious and you try come up with the right number to focus on. I was strong on six then there were four I felt like I wanted to visit to see if I liked. It’s hard when you’re in our position.”
It’s equally as difficult, and downright annoying at times, for the college coaches recruiting them.
Duke associate head men’s’ basketball coach Jeff Capel said seeing a recruit “cut his list” to 10 or more schools is a telltale sign that “he is either not very serious about his recruitment at that particular time, or he is just ‘playing recruiting.’”
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“What I mean about ‘playing recruiting’ is he likes the idea of the recruiting process, he likes the idea of being recruited, he wants to see how many offers he can get or he loves the attention,” Capel said. “How I approach it depends on the kid and the relationship I develop with him. Sometimes they will say, ‘Coach you are at the top of the list or my favorite school,’ so you have to go through the process of that. But it is very annoying.”
It’s no more pleasing on the gridiron.
Back in August, Plano East (Plano, Texas) junior linebacker Anthony Hines III, a four-star recruit, announced via video that he’d cut his list to, count ‘em, 20 schools.
Just like it happens at a college announcement, Plano East coach Joey McCullough opened the video with an intro. After that, Hines acknowledged that it was still “very early” and that “a lot can change” in his recruitment then thanked all of the, nearly, 75 schools who’d offered him and reeled off his long list.
“I’ve seen top 30 lists being released before by some of younger guys and, sometimes, it’s like, ‘Come on!’” ESPN college football recruiting analyst Tom VanHaaren said. “On the football side, kids are getting offered younger and younger now, even in the eighth grade. It’s not unusual for a sophomore to have more than 40 offers. When I see those big lists I think that’s the kid’s way of saying he wants to show off what he’s got and he wants to be a part of the process, but it doesn’t mean much. For football, I feel like the top 10 is the cutoff to where I pay attention. If a coach sees that top 20 list and he’s not on it, 100 percent guarantee it’s not gonna stop him from continuing to recruit the kid.”
Germantown (Madison, Miss.) senior cornerback Nigel Knott, a four-star recruit, said often times emotions play a big part in list lengths.
“Sometimes you’re just really close with a school and the staff and you just don’t want to cut them off like that,” Knott said. “It’s a stressful process because you have a lot of coaches you have to keep in touch with. It takes up a lot of time.”
Santa Margarita Catholic (Santa Margarita, Calif.) senior wide receiver Dylan Crawford, a four-star recruit, cut his list to 10 schools and said he’ll probably drop to half that before deciding.
“I cut it down to the 10 schools that I feel definitely had me interested and I wanted to consider more,” Crawford said. “It’s a chance to let the others that are recruiting you know where you are and thank them for the opportunity and you are telling them you don’t want to go to school there. But part of putting out the list is to deal with the media and the questions. For me, I’m not a big vocal guy. I just want to go out there and get my work done.”
For that reason, Flower Mound (Texas) senior forward Lauren Cox, the No. 1 overall player in the ESPN HoopGurlz 100 who recently committed to Baylor, said it’s imperative to get your list of schools down to a workable number.
“That’s when you get to ask the real questions that matter,” Cox said. “Starting out, I had 27 schools and I wanted to give everyone a fair chance. I didn’t want to cut someone that could’ve potentially been a good fit for me, but as you go through the process you figure out that it’s impossible to build deep bonds with everyone.”
Before picking the Bears, Cox had a final list of five. Giles, who cut his list to Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Wake Forest and Kentucky in July, agreed that five, “at the most,” is the cutoff for hoops, but added that, sometimes, smaller lists can present an even greater challenge.
“That’s when it gets real,” Giles said. “It’s hard when all you have are options that you really can’t go wrong with, but when you have 10 and 20 schools on your list you don’t know enough about every school to know if that’s the case.”
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY