Less than two weeks after the college basketball coaches association formally asked its members not to offer scholarships to prospects who haven't completed the 10th grade, Florida accepted a commitment from a player who completed the ninth grade this spring.
Austin Rivers, the son of Boston Celtics Coach Glenn ”Doc“ Rivers, committed to Florida on Wednesday night.
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The commitment defies the National Association of Basketball Coaches, which ”strongly“ opposed such commitments in a June 19 news release. The NABC asked its coaches to refrain from offering scholarships or encouraging commitments from players who are 10th-graders or younger.
The NABC recommendation came as a trend toward such commitments grew. For instance, Kentucky received commitments from an eighth-grader (Michael Avery) and a ninth-grader (Vinny Zollo) earlier this year.
Florida Coach Billy Donovan could not be reached for comment. In an interview with The Gainesville Sun last year, he said he saw no problem with such commitments.
”I believe that a decision to commit should be a family decision,“ Donovan told the Gainesville newspaper. ”It should be up to the family and the player to decide when they are comfortable to commit to a school.“
Rivers, a 6-foot-3 guard from the Orlando area, has an older sister, Callie, who plays volleyball for Florida. In Donovan's 12 seasons as coach, Rivers is the fourth player to commit to Florida before completing his sophomore year.
The other three all enjoyed successful college careers: Teddy Dupay, Mike Miller and Nick Calathes.
The NABC has no power of enforcement. It merely expresses its desires for how coaches should act. Executive Director Jim Haney suggested that Rivers' commitment to Florida made the NABC leaders realize that NCAA legislation might be required to stop the trend of recruiting younger and younger prospects.
”We're in the process of working that out now with the NCAA,“ Haney said. He said he expected schools to vote on implementing rules against such commitments no sooner than the NCAA convention of 2010.
NABC associate director Reggie Minton, who heads the organization's ethics committee, noted that the June 19 statement opposing scholarship offers to younger prospects was ”based on what they feel is best for the game.“
But Minton was philosophical about Florida showing its apparent disagreement by accepting Rivers' commitment.
”One thing I've learned all along in college basketball is one size doesn't fit all ...“ Minton said. ”There are going to be guys who say, "Hey, I'm in favor of a free market. If there's a guy out there and I can get him to commit, I should be able to get him to commit.' “
The NABC opposes laissez faire as an approach to recruiting.
”Are we going to say everybody is going to be concerned with their own self-interest?“ Minton said. ”It makes for an environment we don't think is as healthy as it should be.“