NCAA regional camp in Houston: The good, bad and ugly
HOUSTON — The inaugural NCAA regional camp hit Houston this week, with three others taking place in Phoenix, Storrs, Conn., and Champaign, Ill. Erasing the final travel weekend of the year for the newly implemented camps was an enlightening experience for everyone in attendance. Analyst Corey Evans reviews what he liked – and what he didn't like – about the camp.
2021 Rankings: Rivals150
I didn't like: The lack of talent
Ugh. It wasn’t good, and I was told that Houston was the best of the four sites. Just two members of the 2020 Rivals150 were in attendance: Keon Ambrose-Hylton and Ty Berry. I love what each is about and their upside, but they stuck out like sore thumbs. If this was a Nike EYBL or Under Armour event that each respectively competed on this summer, their talent level would have been more like the norm. Figuring out a way to interest some of the better talent – and I don’t even mean the five-stars – to attend needs to be the primary focus next year.
I did like: How hard the kids played
Some were playing for college scholarships. For instance, Baylor Hebb balled out. He used the platform the way it was meant to be and has already saw a handful of offers thrown his way. Other players like Ambrose-Hylton, who just boosted his national standing, competed and played hard. I give it to them. The talent wasn’t great, but at least they laid it all on the line during a time that everyone – even the coaches and yes, the media, too – are exhausted from a long summer of ball.
I didn't like: How long the days were for the kids
It was practically 14-hour days for the prospects in attendance. The camp for the coaches and media didn’t begin until Tuesday afternoon, but by the time games began around 3 p.m., the prospects had already sat through double-digit hours of lectures and run through drills that had exhausted their mental state and physical capacity.
That was all before they were able to do what everyone really attended to see, which was see the prospects compete in 5-on-5 sessions. By Wednesday, participants were practically a shell of themselves, which resulted in a bad product of basketball by the time the camp wrapped up Thursday morning.
I did like: The organization, upon attending
Hats off to Tim Miles, the commissioner of Houston’s regional camp, who was hopping around from site to site like he had just ingested 10 bottles of Mountain Dew. He and his peers were not put into the best position to make this camp work, with cannons already ablaze because of the criticism geared toward it. Drills and games were nailed down to the minute, with everything beginning and ending on time. That was definitely welcomed with open arms by everyone on hand.
I didn't like: The educational aspect
Nearly half of the camp was geared toward educating parents and prospects about the harms of social media, agent involvement and enlightening everyone on the proper steps to take toward college. That is great and all, but this is an evaluation weekend. Save that for another time. College coaches only get a certain amount of time during the off-season to properly evaluate prospects.
July is practically useless now for programs outside of the four-day window that allows the shoe companies to host their own events. Sure, a few were able to use this week’s window to better their recruitment, but compared to past years that specific group was dwarfed immensely.
I did like: The intentions the NCAA had in mind
It might sound counterintuitive, but I appreciate the work that the NCAA invested in running such an event. Paying for every prospect and another member of their family to attend is definitely a positive step. There is a lot that must be worked on, but educating some of the future players in the game should only make recruiting easier to navigate in the coming years. Workshops like these that fall on listening ears should make the sport, as a whole, a better one.
I didn't like: The fate of these camps
They are not going anywhere. And for the powers that be that think not attending or not allowing others to attend is going to undercut future events like it from happening are definitely mistaken. The NCAA at one point last year nearly took away all of July from the shoe companies and travel event companies.
So, just because its inaugural year was not a striking success, do you think the NCAA is going to give its piece of the pie back to the people that the entire Rice Commission was created to disarm? Not going to happen. I just don’t see everyone that needs to come together in order for this camp, and really, this industry, to get better.
I did like: Some of the sleepers that I found
Baylor Hebb, for one, is a baller! I saw the mixtapes this spring and was impressed but questioned the level of competition that he was doing it against and how legitimate he was as a prospect. Well, he answered those questions. He has swagger, a bag of ball skills, and the chance to grow another inch or two, which is why Colorado, DePaul and Texas are just a handful of high-majors showing some love. Hebb wasn’t the only one who deserved notice. Matteus Case and Kordell Charles, two Canadian products, definitely boosted their stock in Texas, as did rising senior Gethro Muscadin.
I didn't like: The timing of the camp on the travel calendar
Right around now, coaches normally would be driving through the Las Vegas desert, trying to track down prospects. Sure, everyone was exhausted, but it is Vegas. It is what everyone has become excited about. Ending the summer on a high note. Production was not at its finest, but it was the final period in time that kids could play with their travel programs, coaches could have a little fun at night and unknown prospects could become nationally talked about names (I see you Dean Wade!).
Instead, while Houston was a great host, it was a letdown in the talent category, fatigue was a major factor due to the lack of bodies on each team and a single high-major prospect stood out like he was LeBron James. Vegas is no longer which, in the bigger picture of things, correlates with missed evaluations, inaccurate scholarship offers and the likelihood of a hiked-up transfer count that will be felt not this year but in the spring of 2021 and 2022.
I did like: How the NCAA is willing to make future camps better
From what I’ve been told, Tim Miles and the other three sites’ commissioners will be brought together for a roundtable and lay out their findings from this week’s events. Hopefully, their words don’t fall on deaf ears, and if the NCAA is willing to tinker with things – that is changing the window in time for when it is run, finding a way to attract better talent and communicating better with those likely to attend in advance – then maybe this type of camp can get better.
My own two cents: A board must be made that actually knows this industry. I wouldn’t be asked to be put on a panel for sending someone to the moon, so why are those that don’t have a grasp of the basketball world telling the sport how it should be run? We need a select committee plastered with college coaches from every level, travel and high school coaches, shoe company representatives and recruiting analysts like myself, to come together, develop the appropriate evaluation calendar with camps like this past week’s included within it for one primary to goal: to make this industry a better one for all of those involved.