Which NCAA recruiting, agent changes matter most for Ohio State basketball?

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The NCAA on Wednesday announced changes to the college basketball recruiting calendar and revamped the way prospective professional players can interact with agents while still maintaining eligibility.

The way it all unfolded was a bit clunky, with the NCAA apparently getting ahead of USA Basketball, the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association in announcing plans that involve coordination from all four entities.

Whether or not the changes will actually help the Commission on College Basketball perform their charge of cleaning up the game amid an FBI probe into recruiting corruption and improper benefits in the sport remains to be seen. Though it does seem measures were taken to make players more informed about decisions to turn pro.

Here are the announced changes and how they apply to Ohio State:

Recruiting calendar changes

Buckeyes coach Chris Holtmann mostly refrained from giving hard opinions on potential recruiting changes last week when asked before the team left for its trip to Spain. He did mention having some conversation with athletic director Gene Smith regarding the recruiting calendar.

Hopefully Holtmann was looking for more official visits, because that’s what he and every other college basketball coach is getting. Among the changes announced on Wednesday was increasing the number of official visits (campus visits paid for by the university) a player can take from five to 15 over a multi-year period.

Now players can take:

* Five official visits between August 1 before their junior year of high school and the end of their junior year.

* Five official visits between the end of junior year and Oct. 15 after high school graduation.

* Five official visits between Oct. 15 after high school graduation and the remainder of their college eligibility. This last change can help transfers wanting to take official visits while looking for a new program, and Holtmann has said he expects to be active in the graduate transfer market most years.

A student-athlete can visit a school only once per year. This change takes effect on August 15.

Holtmann and his staff have already proven to be creative in scheduling official visits, bringing five-star point guard DJ Carton on campus last month during the live evaluation period. Something Holtmann said he and other coaches he talked to weren’t sure they could do until someone in OSU compliance figured out a way to make it work. Carton committed a few days after his visit.

For a staff that’s shown an ability to close well on official visits, more opportunity to do so could be a welcome change. 

Starting on April 1, 2019, the recruiting calendar will change to add four-day recruiting periods (Monday through Thursday) in April. College coaches will now be able to attend the NBPA Top 100 camp in June. Coaches can attend events during the last two weekends of June that are approved by the National Federation of State High School Associations. They can attend one weekend youth basketball event in early July (which means coaches can still attend Nike’s Peach Jam).

Coaches will also be able to attend NCAA youth development camps in late July, which will choose players through a collaborative effort between the NCAA, USA Basketball, the NBA and the NBPA.

That amounts to more time recruiting in April, less time recruiting in the summer, a major new evaluation time at the Top 100 camp and these new development camps in July — a move recommended by the Commission on College Basketball to remove the big shoe companies that run national AAU events from some part of the evaluation process amid the FBI probe.

“There’s been a lot of people who have complained about what July in the recruiting period is gonna look like next year,” Holtmann said. “I think it’s probably too early to tell what all it’s gonna look like and the impact it’s gonna have. I think that committee was given the charge to clean up the game, and this is one aspect where they felt like they needed to. Whether or not they’re gonna look at this and say there’s a better way we can do things, or maybe it’s not as bad as we think … One thing is, the (events) we just came off of in July, there’s a lot of really good people involved in that. There’s great opportunity for young men, and I don’t think the committee is trying to take away those opportunities.”

Those are the changes that at the moment seem like they’ll matter most to Ohio State. The other rules regarding agents, one of which won’t matter until high school players are allowed to enter the NBA Draft, will apply to the Buckeyes on a case by case basis.

Agent changes

* If/when high school players can again enter the NBA Draft, they’ll be permitted to hire an agent beginning July 1 before their senior year, as long as they’ve been identified as “elite” prospects by USA Basketball. There’s just a bit of a problem with that plan.

In short, according to a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, that’s a duty USA Basketball never agreed too, and one it claims it doesn’t have the resources for.

Matt Norlander of CBS Sports quoted Dan Gavitt, the NCAA’s vice president of men’s basketball, as saying: “We could’ve done a little better job of communicating today’s news with (USA Basketball). I’ll just leave it at that.”

So how this rule will play out is a little unclear. Though multiple NBA reporters have said they don’t expect the draft to open back up to high school players until 2021 or 2022. So there’s time to figure this one out.

* The more applicable change regarding agents as far as Ohio State is concerned is players now being allowed to hire an agent after any college season if they request an evaluation from NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee. Those agents can pay for expenses related to agent selection and meetings with pro teams. Agreements with agents must be terminated when the player enrolls in or returns to college.

In the past few years we’ve seen Ohio State players like Kam Williams and Trevor Thompson take advantage of a new rule in 2016 that allowed players to enter the draft and be eligible to return provided they did not hire an agent and returned to college within a certain time period relative to the NBA Combine. Now any player, including freshmen, can hire an agent to help through the process and still return to school. That, in theory, should allow players to make more informed decisions.

* Additional draft flexibility would allow players who go to the combine, but don’t get drafted, to return to school as long as they notify their athletic director of their intent by 5 p.m. on the Monday after the draft. This will take affect after an expected rule change that would make undrafted players who return to college ineligible for the NBA until after the next college basketball season. 

That also seems like a potential recruiting hurdle for college teams uncertain of a player’s return, and how they handle that available scholarship spot. For instance, if this rule were applicable this year, Keita Bates-Diop could have come back for another season if the second-round pick ended up going undrafted. But OSU would have had to hold off on the pursuit of graduate transfers or late high school additions until late June when they figured out whether he would be coming back. Seems potentially tricky.

* While these new draft and agent rules don’t seem to create drastic changes to the way Ohio State recruits (until high school players are permitted back in the draft), it does create new challenges in roster management and opens the door for multiple Buckeyes each year to hire agents and test the NBA Draft waters.