Saturday, October 28, 2006

Searching for Damon Bailey

When Sport Illustrated presented a spread that highlighted the top senior high school basketball player in the country all the way down to the top sixth grader, the college basketball recruiting landscape was in the middle of yet another shift.
Alonzo Mourning was on that list. So was Kenny Anderson. He was smiling. He was so small. Then he married a girl from “The Real World.” I digress.
The sport has remained a cyclical business; always evolving, always surprising some people on the periphery. It has happened again.
Nine high school sophomores have given oral commitments to colleges, including Alex Oriakhi and Jamal Coombs of the Winchendon School in Massachusetts. They plan to attend UConn in three seasons. This isn’t the first time this has happened. But the trend has accelerated and the Huskies have adapted.
In Sunday’s Register, we’ll look at how UConn deals with some aspects of recruiting. There is a method, but not an exact science. The game has changed. So has recruiting.
A new cycle exists and the UConn staff understands that. That’s why most outsiders believe the Huskies have excelled on the national level.
There are highs and lows and both rescinded and received commitments. There are rules. There are APRs. There is the NBA. It’s a precarious and changing business. What happens this year may change next, and then the same the year after that.
It’s complex.
There will be a few more early commitments from sophomores this year. Nothing is in writing. They just gave a school their word. They have to wait until signing day, November 2008, to make it official.
The most-intriguing story happened years ago in a basketball-crazy state. Damon Bailey became Indiana’s all-time leading scorer and the state’s Mr. Basketball his senior year. He had a short CBA career and never really reached the expectation level that was placed on him. He was a third-team All-American his senior year. He had a good college career, but not an outstanding one. Players like Bailey are almost now obsolete.
But a town and a state and a program had such high hopes for Bailey, even when he was younger.
He gave Indiana and Bob Knight his word.
Bailey orally committed to the school as an eighth-grader.

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