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Andy Katz | Correspondent | July 23, 2019

NCAA College Basketball Academies bring change to summer recruiting

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It was clear that summer recruiting was going to change once the Commission on College Basketball issued its report in 2018.

The first major change took place last month, when coaches for the first time were allowed to see high school teams at approved events in June.

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Now comes the new NCAA-sponsored, organized and funded College Basketball Academy, which will be hosted this week at four university campuses: UConn, Illinois, Houston and Grand Canyon.

These camps feel like a throwback, bringing a mixture of the iconic Five-Star Basketball Camp from the 1980s and the old ABCD and Nike camps from the late ’90s and early 2000s. These camps are about more than playing games. 

Each day will include basketball skills development in the morning, life skills sessions in the afternoon and then games.

There is a focus on skills on the court and also in life. Educational sessions will be held by both the NCAA and NBA to help attendees and their parents or guardians understand what might be ahead in their lives.

Leading the camp sites are a host of coaches who have experienced plenty of success in their careers: Al Skinner, Boston College, Rhode Island and Kennesaw State; Gary Waters, Cleveland State, Rutgers and Kent State; Steve Lavin, UCLA and St. John’s (New York); Tim Miles, Nebraska, Colorado State and North Dakota State; Pete Gillen, Virginia, Providence and Xavier; Ernie Kent, Oregon, Saint Mary’s (California) and Washington State; and more.

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A number of coaches have said they are looking forward to seeing players in drills, as well as observing how the athletes handle new situations and teammates with whom they aren’t familiar.

“We want to get players to play together and share the ball,’’ said Gillen, who will be working at UConn as an instructor. “This will benefit all players who are learning fundamentals and the mental part of the game. Overall, we’re trying to work on the whole recruiting process.’’

Former Fairfield and Princeton coach Sydney Johnson, who will be the assistant commissioner at the UConn site, was also eager to see a focus on the fundamentals at the camp.

“I would love if the kids walk away from this week feeling like they got better, learned more about the game and competed in a positive setting,’’ he said. “I spent 12 years trying to go head-to-head with rival schools but found guys who were better than the initial evaluation. The academies may have kids who fit the entire spectrum. It’s terrific to see kids in a variety of settings. The return of recruiting high schoolers in the summer was a home run, and grassroots basketball is absolutely essential for both the student-athlete and college coaches. I believe the academy camps can add a Five-Star element that will serve as a recruiting vehicle but also be rooted in player development for the kids who are able to attend.’’

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