CARTERSVILLE, Ga. – No class of 2019 basketball prospect improved his stock more during the first July evaluation period last week than Pendleton County star Dontaie Allen.
But if the college basketball commission has its way, more feel-good AAU stories like Allen’s, which culminated in a scholarship offer from Louisville on Sunday, might not happen in the future.
“It’s very, very important just to get him out there in front of people,” said John Adkins, Allen’s AAU coach with the M.A.T.T.S. Mustangs. “We’ve told people about him all year and he’s had some offers, but just to come out here and be able to show it, it’s big.”
The Mustangs are one of a number of AAU teams across the country that do not play on the major summer shoe circuits, making it more difficult for high-major coaches to see them play.
Despite leading the state in points last season, Allen entered July ranked as the No. 217 prospect in the 2019 class and No. 53 small forward in the 247Sports composite rankings, which average the ratings of the three major recruiting services.
While many of the top prospects in the country were playing at the Nike and Under Armour stops in Indianapolis suburbs in April, Allen and the Mustangs were playing just miles away at the lower-profile Terrific 24 event. His performance there was enough to spur a series of spring offers from Western Kentucky, Nevada, Dayton, Xavier, Purdue, West Virginia, Virginia Tech and Vanderbilt, but many Power 5 conference programs still looked on with caution.
That changed last week when the Mustangs were one of several unaffiliated teams participating by invitation at the Under Armour Challenge in Georgia.
Dozens of powerhouse head coaches, including Kentucky’s John Calipari and Louisville’s Chris Mack, watched as Allen led the tournament in scoring (26.4 points per game) while ranking fourth in assists per game (4.8) and rebounds per game (6.8).
Offers followed from Florida, Pittsburgh, Illinois, Oklahoma, Iowa State, Saint Louis, Auburn and Louisville. Kentucky is believed to be close to offering as well, with Allen saying coaches at UK want him on campus again after the July evaluation period.
“I think I showed them what I’m capable of,” Allen said. “It was against a lot better competition, so I really liked that about it. It elevated my game, I felt like.”
Would Allen’s stock have risen so dramatically if he had not been invited to the Under Armour event? Maybe eventually, but the exposure certainly helped and that exposure might be harder to come by for borderline high-major recruits in the future.
One of the commission’s recommendations was an overhaul of summer basketball recruiting, eliminating the July evaluation periods in favor of NCAA-run camps where coaches would submit a list of players invited to participate.
According to the proposal obtained by former ESPN college basketball reporter Jeff Goodman, the new July recruiting calendar would center around two regional camp sessions at four locations and one national camp for the top prospects in the country. Up to 1,200 rising seniors, 900 rising juniors and 300 rising sophomores would be invited, but college coaches have already started to cast doubt on the selection process.
Why would a coach at one of the mid-major programs that identified and offered Allen in April invite him to a higher-profile camp where more prestigious programs would see him?
“If I nominate a player I like for a camp, and he goes there and plays well, I won’t be able to get him anymore,” one unnamed mid-major coach told CBSSports’ Gary Parrish recently. “So I’m not going to nominate him. I’m going to s*** on him. So some kids who probably deserve the exposure won’t get it because coaches won’t nominate them, because coaches will be trying to keep them hidden from the high-majors. … It’s all so stupid.”
Allen’s Under Armour Challenge performance will likely prompt his recruiting rankings to soar in the coming weeks. He might finish in the top 50 in the class.
Maybe it’s hard to believe a prospect that talented would be left out of the proposed NCAA-run camps, but he was not the only Mustangs player to receive scholarship offers at the Under Armour Challenge. Madison Central forward Isaiah Cozart has picked up offers from UNC-Wilmington Bucknell, St. Bonaventure, UNC-Asheville, Kent State and Toledo since the event.
“Dontaie’s name was out there, but you think a lot of kids like Cozart, they may not get invited to those camps,” Adkins said. “It would be a shame. To me, I don’t know exactly what they’re going to do, but it’s going to be the same people invited, the same guys over and over and over again. A lot of kids are going to get left out.”
On the opposite end of the recruiting spectrum from Cozart and Allen sits guard RJ Hampton, a top-five recruit in the class of 2020 who plays on an Under Armour-sponsored team coached by his father.
Exposure will never be an issue for recruits like Hampton. But his father, Roderick Hampton, bemoaned the loss of the potential to coach his son for another summer if the NCAA sponsors its own July camps, which would be staffed by college and professional coaches and players.
“I wish they would come out and see this, when we interact with you guys, how much it’s family oriented,” Hampton said. “There’s no bad guys in this, but I haven’t seen anybody from the committee unless they’re doing it secret-squirrel style.”
“There’s going to be some kids who miss out. RJ wouldn’t be one of those kids, but I’ve got nine other kids that want scholarships, nine other kids that may not get invited to a regional camp or the top camp. That’s what it’s about.”
It’s easy to understand why the commission might think cutting the shoe companies out of July recruiting would solve at least some of the problems that sparked the FBI’s investigation into the sport.
It’s far less certain that the proposal would actually fix the issue, though. Stories like Allen’s might be the only thing eliminated with the change.