Why I Don’t Care about Recruiting Projections: Two Points

I take this moment to pat myself on the back for being right in a continued (if unheard) protest for years.  I regularly ridicule Jeff (to his face, so I’m less of a jerk in doing so) for reading Peegs.  Firstly, because it’s largely a message board.  And, if you want to find the lowest common denominator of a free society, go to the intertubes and start reading message boards.  It’ll take you about two minutes if you’re reading slowly.  It’s why we don’t have a message board.  If you are reading this in the archives and there’s a message board on this site, please know that I enjoyed my life and only wished it were longer.  But, that’s not the primary reason for my not reading sites such as Peegs, ESPN’s Insider recruiting product (whatever it’s called; this is an opinion column.  I don’t have to do research.), and other such sites (hereafter referred to as the Recruiting Rags).  My lack of reading these Recruiting Rags involves a bigger contention than put forth thus far.

Don’t mistake me for a second.  I care that IU gets good recruits.  I was thrilled when we picked up Cody Zeller, both because I thought he’d be the huge addition that he is and because he is also a Washington, IN native as myself, but mostly for the first reason.  Further, it’s fine and dandy to have a good understanding of the quality high schools players out there available for the taking.  But, from there, the Recruiting Rags fall off quickly.  And here is their downfall: Their obsession with bullshit rankings.

In making the following citation, I assure you I do my best to try and NEVER resemble the IU crowd (you know who they are, those only distinguishable from UK fans by the logo and colors they wear [some of them probably even refer to every other player on the team as “Ol’ Boy1“])  who are obsessed with “Damon” and “Bobby” and “supper”.  But, on this point, I am in 100% agreement with Bob Knight, who decreed that it was impossible to know how good or what ranking any recruit was before he played a single game of college basketball.

You can watch a HS game on ESPN (as ridiculous as that statement is in and of itself) and their announcers will claim without blinking an eye that Norville “Shaggy” Rogers from Danny Kaye Memorial HS (mascot: Ghostface Killahs) in Brownsville, Brooklyn, NY is the #1 HS PG in the nation.  How do they know?  They’ve got their ranking.  So, there.  My only problem with that is they don’t know jack.  And do you know why they don’t know jack?!  Because, no one knows.  And even if I’m wrong about that previous sentence, they certainly don’t.  For every LeBron James, there’s a Kwame Brown.  For every Kobe Bryant, there’s a Greg Oden.  For every Cody Zeller, there is a white kid who was a bust, though a specific example escapes now.  Examples abound of me being right on this matter.  Further, the people who know best aren’t writing for the Rags.  They’re coaching.  And the people next best are other coaches, and so on, and so on. They are the talent evaluators. This is not a dig on writers and it is.  See, there’s no fault in not knowing, so long as you just cover the sport and don’t act like you know.  Are these Ragmakers generally wrong on who is good and who is not?  Most definitely not.  But, when they get into their rankings and the “#1 recruiting class” nonsense, I call shenanigans.

In a Packer-esque survey involving my life around IU basketball fans, I’d say that my knowledge of the game beats 92% of them.  I can intelligibly describe playing the high-low, triangle help, the open post, flex, dribble drive, yo-yo, and indoor plumbing. And, with that, I have no qualifications to evaluate recruits against each other in quantitative fashion, and neither do these Ragsters.  Why do I lack these skills, along with them? Because I haven’t devoted a life and a career in developing the expertise to do so, and neither have they.  Now, if Tom Crean and Jim Boeheim want to take me in a VB.net Application Development Challenge, I’m already shouting “Scoreboard, bitches!”.  I’m THAT confident.  But, a HS Talent Evaluation Competition? I’m informing you now that I’d look worse in that contest than Purdue vs. Eastern Michigan this Saturday previous.  And before you go there and claim that the Raggers get input from coaches to help devise such rankings, any methodology involving feedback-gathering from said coaches would be a scattershot effort at best, with each coach evaluating on different skills, and not every coach will see even a fraction of every player, so the whole methodology gets shot to hell due to an incredibly high margin of error, statistically speaking.

And with these, the 8202 words I’ve written thus far, I confess to have wasted your time, because all I needed to do was give you three names: Victor Oladipo, Jordan Hulls, and Will Sheehey3.  You want to trade any 2/3 guard then ranked above Victor in HS?  You want to swap out Jordan for another SG?  You have a better 6-Man in mind in the country than Sheehey? Call (800) 262-2463 and leave your number. (Actually, don’t call that number.  It’s a drug hotline.  I wouldn’t want to interfere with someone really needing help for the sake of a joke.  Unless you have a drug problem.  Then, please call them.)

And that’s why recruiting rankings are bullshit.

1Or, Panface.
2WordPress FTW, once again.
3A couple of weeks ago, JMV did an informal Twitter poll on Will Sheehey as a PLAYER, and roughly 50% of respondents said they wished he did not play for the Hoosiers, or something resembling that sentiment, to which I reply, “[50% of Hoosier Fans] are out of your mind[s]…Thanks for the phone call.”

Adam Bowling