INDIANAPOLIS – Normally on a Saturday like this in late April, Louisville’s basketball coaches would be spotting up on the sidelines at events like the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League AAU session here in the outskirts of Indiana’s capital, wearing their red, black and white polo shirts and taking notes on the next wave of high school prospects.
It’s a show of a coaching staff’s interest in a recruit, and the evaluation period this time of year is a meaningful part of the recruiting process.
This, however, is no normal time for Louisville hoops. The school self-imposed several recruiting sanctions on the program, hoping to lessen the blow of potential punishments by the NCAA after the organization’s enforcement staff completes its investigation.
One of those self-imposed sanctions is a limit on the coaching staff’s travel this month. Louisville’s coaches are noticeably absent on the sidelines at these AAU events, but multiple recruits on Saturday said the staff has found other ways to keep up their communication and monitor players without being present.
Quade Green, one of the top point guards in the 2017 class, said he talks to Louisville head coach Rick Pitino “all day – on the phone, FaceTime, everything,” and he keeps in regular touch with his primary U of L recruiter, Kenny Johnson.
Matt Coleman, another top point guard, said the coaches told him they were watching his games on Nike’s online live-stream. They send him tips and critiques of his play, too.
“They still say, ‘Matt, we’re there in spirit,'” Coleman said. “I understand the thing they went through and that they can’t come out, but when I get there it’ll be a clean slate.”
Some prospects said they simply didn’t care if the coaches recruiting them were there or not. Ikechukwu Obiagu, a top-10 prospect in the 2017 class, said he doesn’t pay attention to the sidelines during his AAU games, saying he’d rather just have fun and focus on the games he’s playing.
It also helps U of L that its coaches have already seen their 2017 recruiting targets in person at other times, and they’ll get the chance to watch them again in July, when recruiting picks up again.
Green said Louisville’s coaches “know what I can do already.” Same with combo guard Zack Dawson, who took an official visit to U of L in March and had Pitino evaluate him during the high school season.
Markell Johnson, a 2017 guard who is still considering reclassifying into the 2016 class, said Louisville’s coaches keep in touch with his school coach and watched him in the fall.
DJ Harvey, a former AAU teammate of Louisville signee VJ King, has played multiple games in front of U of L’s coaches over the past few years.
Several Louisville targets interviewed at Nike’s AAU event on Saturday also said they were confident the worst of U of L’s investigation-related problems were behind them.
The school self-imposed a postseason ban for the 2015-16 season and announced in April that it would cut one scholarship in the 2017 class and another one in the 2018 class, in addition to the recruiting travel ban and a reduction in the number of official visits they can host.
“I did research and everything with my dad, and I know it won’t affect me,” Dawson said, “so they’re still the top choice.”