NCAA Bans Middle School Contact

By Eric Prisbell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 16, 2009

In response to what is seen as a growing problem in men's college basketball, the NCAA Division I Legislative Council has passed emergency legislation aimed at prohibiting seventh- and eighth-grade boys' basketball players from being recruited before they enter high school.

Over the past few years, some college coaches have looked to gain recruiting advantages by working at basketball camps comprising elite seventh- and eighth-graders because there was no NCAA rule prohibiting it. But the NCAA will now designate boys' basketball players as "prospects" beginning in the seventh grade, which will prevent college coaches from working at such camps.

"It was a negative trend," said Steve Mallonee, the NCAA's managing director of academic and membership affairs. "Unfortunately, there was no rule in place, and that's where the landscape was. You got into this mentality where, 'If I can benefit from it, and if there is nothing to stop me, why shouldn't I?' "

In the current landscape, players often are nationally ranked beginning at 10 years old and attend an increasing number of basketball camps designed for elite middle school players. In recent years, teenagers have orally committed to play at some prominent colleges, including Kentucky and Southern California, before they finish the ninth grade.

"The fact that we have gotten to this point is really just a sign of the times," said Joe D'Antonio, chairman of the Legislative Council.

The legislation was supported by the National Association of Basketball Coaches, whose executive director, Jim Haney, wrote to the Legislative Council that the proposal offers a "viable alternative for the creation of a healthier environment for the recruitment of men's basketball prospects."

The NCAA established the start of seventh grade as the cutoff point because it did not want to prevent coaches from instructing children.

The NCAA also voted to prohibit coaches and individuals associated with high school boys' basketball prospects from being hired to speak at events associated with colleges.

The NCAA also examined the ACC's proposal to shorten from about two months to 10 days the window in which basketball players can submit their names for the NBA draft and withdraw. NCAA officials said they will consult with representatives from other conferences and will consider another version of the proposal in April.

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