College athletics are in a state of flux. Programs are coming out of pandemic restrictions. First-time transfers don’t have to sit out a year. Players are beginning to generate revenue from their name, image and likeness.
East Carolina basketball coach Joe Dooley has been figuring out how to navigate the non-traditional currents as summer school draws to a close Aug. 6 and classes begin for the fall semester on Aug. 23. The 2021-22 season will start Nov. 9.
Recruiting is less restricted after being conducted on a virtual basis during efforts to control COVID. There are numerous opportunities to see and evaluate prospects.
“We’ve been gone the last two weekends and we go again this weekend,” Dooley said. “There’s something in (Las) Vegas. There’s something in Indianapolis. Nike has their event in Augusta, South Carolina, so they’re all over,”
Closer to home, players in Greenville are working to improve.
“We still get the four hours (per week) on the court,” Dooley said. “We’ve been working our guys out on the court doing skills and some team stuff.
“Coach (Jason) Martinez (strength and conditioning coach) gets the opportunity to work with these guys in the weight room for four hours (per week). … They play pick-up and do some extra shooting on their own.”
The Pirates announced a 9-man recruiting class last week that included three transfers.
“I think we added some maturity,” Dooley said. “We also added some youth. We’ve got three transfers that I think played at a high level. They have some maturity and stability. We’ve signed some young guys that I think will develop. I think several of them will contribute right away. I’m sort of excited about them.”
The Pirates were often short-handed during a fragmented 8-11 season in 2020-21. ECU went 2-10 in the American Athletic Conference but may look different in terms of style for the approaching campaign.
“I think we’ll be able to play a little bit differently,” Dooley said. “I’d like to play a little bit faster because I think we’re a lot more athletic. I think with Vance (Jackson) and some of the guys we’ve signed at the four spot, we’ll be able to do some different things because of their shooting range.
“Jayden (Gardner) was obviously a great scorer but I think Vance is a guy who’s a career 35.1 percent 3-point shooter. You could put him in some different actions and stretch the floor. I think we’ll be a much better shooting team.
“Obviously, (Wynston) Tabbs is a career 40 percent 3-point shooter. He’s put up some numbers. That being said, I do think we’ll still be able to throw the ball in some to (Alanzo) Frink and some of these other guys. depending upon matchups.”
Newcomers will outnumber returners and there will likely be some adjusted roles for those who have been in the program.
“Tristan (Newton) hopefully will stay healthy and returns the way he played a little bit,” Dooley said. “He had a weird year. He was banged up a little bit and, obviously, had to sit for a little bit. I do think Brandon Suggs has had a good summer so far. I think he’s improved. Tremont (Robinson-White) and those guys — I think the good thing is they’re all going to have to battle for playing time. Practices make your team better and when you have better depth, you have better teams.”
Camps have returned this summer.
“We’ve got a general youth camp next week,” Dooley said. “We’ll probably try to do another elite camp, an individual-camp type deal, a one-day deal, probably some time in late August. We’ll get a date for that. We’ll try to have some prospects and get some skill work in, a simulated college practice like we’ve done before.
“All these guys can’t do team camp right now. They’re all out with their AAU teams.”
Former ECU assistant Steve Roccaforte left for a position at Texas A&M after the 2020-21 season and the Pirates have been looking for a replacement.
“We haven’t hired anybody,” Dooley said. “I’ve interviewed a few people. We didn’t feel like it was a big rush. We don’t have a big number of guys to recruit this year. We want to make sure it’s a good fit. … A few things popped up that kind of delayed the process. That’s nobody’s fault — just with timing. We liked some of the people we’ve talked with and we’ll sort it out.”
The transfer portal has become a big factor in recruiting. Some programs have shifted their focus away from high school prospects and are gearing efforts toward proven college performers.
“Everybody forgets you have to maintain some visits,” Dooley said. “We’re only allowed a certain number of visits during a given 2-year period. Do you want to roll the dice and bring some guys in early? Then maybe try to sign a high school player you feel like you’re stealing? If you don’t get him, you sort of wasted a visit. Do you go to the portal and try to replace? Or do you wait?
“Some people are talking about if they lose somebody to the portal, go to the portal and get a replacement. I think there’s a lot of different ways. I know some coaches said they’re not going to recruit anybody but from the portal. They’re not even going to recruit high school kids. Most staffs in our league, I don’t think they went out much because I think they’re just going to wait for the portal.
“There’s all different ways to look at it. I do think retaining guys is going to be hard no matter what happens. I mean I think that’s going to be a hard thing. If you take somebody from the portal, you sort of have them.”
The new regulations do not allow a second-time transfer to play immediately.
“It’s crazy,” Dooley said. “Players from schools are recruiting other players. If I went to high school with you, I might give you a call and say, ‘Hey, why don’t you come play with us? We’ve got a spot for you. You’d be a great fit with us.’ That’s happening or the coaches have inferred, getting in touch with the high school coach, which you’re not supposed to do and say, ‘Hey, I heard so and so wasn’t happy,’ or ‘Why wouldn’t you come play in this league? You can really excel. You’ll get more exposure or more cost of attendance or more name, image and likeness. You can get more of that stuff here than you can get there.’
“It’s happening everywhere. … Parents have gotten pretty good at reaching out to schools. I saw one college coach said a lot of these players know where they’re going before they put their name in the portal. If you’re smart, if you’re an elite player you don’t have to worry about it, you’re going to pick where you want to go, but if you’re some of these other guys you better make sure the place you’re going is better than the place you left. That doesn’t make much sense if you don’t do that”
Reward for loyalty
Dooley said that players who have stayed in one program have a better chance of being drafted by the NBA.
“If you go to one college, you have a 2.7 percent chance of being drafted,” said the ECU coach. “If you transfer, it goes to 0.9. There’s been one graduate transfer drafted in the first round in NBA history, Cam Johnson from the Phoenix Suns. … There’s only 450 of those jobs in the NBA and 128 of them are international players. The problem is we talk about the portal and we talk about name, image and likeness, no one is talking about education. Some of these kids are transferring and all of their credits don’t transfer.”