The changing landscape of roster building

MtnWasp

Jolly Good Fellow
Messages
484
I thought I would share some general observations about the changes in college ball and see if it will generate some discussion.

Like many GT MBB fans, I was imprinted on the exciting rise under Cremins 1982-1990. In my mind, this is how basketball, especially GT basketball, is "supposed" to work. But getting old permits one to perceive gradual and not so gradual change all around us.

Pastner has been making a big point to emphasize the competitive advantage of mature players (21+) over immature ones (18). This is born out with his "get old, stay old" mantra as well who he plays on the court and how he recruits.

The transfer portal has created a tectonic shift in how rosters are managed. Two years into the rule change, nearly 40% of Div. 1 scholarship basketball players have hit the portal in each year. Equally as staggering is the fact that about half that go into the portal don't find another scholarship elsewhere. So, as much as the portal is about players being free to find a more suitable situation for themselves it is also that the rule has resulted in the system purging itself of 20% or its scholarship players per year over two years. What does this mean?

Has this kind of upheaval always lurked under the surface of the system, or does the new transfers rule represent a pressure release valve to compensate for recent changes in the system? I think the latter is more likely to be the case.

One thing that I have noticed is that our coach doesn't enthusiastically promote his freshmen recruits and usually speaks of their promise and contributions in terms of "down the road." In step with this is the fact that we haven't seen much in the way of impact Freshmen. Those of us imprinted from the Cremins years are not used to this. We are used to one or so Freshmen coming in and impacting the team. With Cremins, he tended to bring in a player or so rated in the Top 15, but there was Harpring too.

I came to wonder whether Pastner was just not fond of Freshmen. Cremins let 'em play. Maybe Pastner just didn't have the patience for that. He played the highly rated Devoe, but he didn't average double digit scoring despite lots of minutes. Devoe had the reputation of being an elite shooter, but he slumped badly from three in his Freshman year (as did all of our guards that season). Devoe was kinda passive in my eyes.

Then came the next 4* guy, Deebo Coleman. Same sorta results. Lots of minutes, not al lot of production and a kinda passive approach to the game.

Okay, so maybe it ain't the coach?

Then there is the way we approach the early signing period. Traditionally, this is where a coach acquires the talent. Late period and transfers are usually just a fall-back for early signing period failures. At first, our lack of making a splash in the Fall was because of rebuild struggles. Then it looked like he just wasn't targeting many players early. There didn't seem to be much in the way of Plan B or Plan C contingency recruits.

But the change here became concrete when the portal opened. Last year we targeted very few players in the fall (Sensabuahg, Aberdeen, etc) We missed on them and there were no fall back players. This year, when we missed on Nwoko, we did not move in on Jaiden Hastings and Dylan James. So, the lack of priority in making Early Period signings is obvious.

All lines of evidence suggest this is an intentional strategy. See if we can get some interest from the few difference-makers out there. If not, wait for the portakl and later period slip-through-the-cracks types.

So, now I am thinking that the recruiting landscape has changed, that the players coming out of high school are simply and by-and-large, not as ready to contribute to winning in the ACC. Where it used to be the case that a Top 100 had a very good chance to come in and start and help a team win, now only a Top 25 recruit is likely to do that.

Judging by how we recruit, a Top 50 high school player is the best. A player in the 50-150 range is probably equivalent to a transfer with 3 years of eligibility remaining. And a player ranked above 150 will be a two year project and equivalent to a transfer with only one or two years remaining.

So, what I am now thinking is that high school players are not as ready to help teams wins as they used to be back in the day. Why not? I have a hypothesis.

What has changed is that open and intense competition has fallen out of favor at the school boy levels. In high school, the intensely competitive coach is being replaced with the "We're all wonderful and everyone is a winner" attitude that better reflects the philosophy of public education. And the AAU is all about skills development and showcasing and we have known that winning and defense is not what that scene is about. Indeed, the videos of those events have a "scrimmagy" feel to them.

So while the players have even better skills and even stronger physiques, they are not being prepared for the intensity of open competition that they will see in college. That is why even our highly rated recruits look so passive in the face of the speed but mostly the intensity and physicality of the college game.

That means that the transition from high school to college is more severe. That means many more players melt under the intensity (thus the portal numbers and high numbers of drop-outs). It also means that they represent a greater risk of being non-contributing for their coach. There is a high risk of failure, non-return on investment.

So, when coach Pastner is talking about the difference between upper and lower classmen in terms of competitive advantage, and when we seem to see only a modest emphasis on early period signees, I think this is what we are seeing.

This represents a huge change from what we saw during the Cremins years. It is difficult for us to let go of that paradigm that was so fun to experience. All those ACC Freshman of the year awards! But things are simply not the same anymore. Things have really changed.

I do think this sheds a new insight into the success of a player like Jose Alvarado. He did not meet the talent profile of a top 100 recruit. But he was ready for the competitive nature of the higher levels. This is what set him apart and enabled him to become a decorated ACC player and now with an NBA career.

This is also how Mike Krzyzewski built the Duke program. He favored the hyper-competitive players like Hurley, Leattner and all the other A-holes that are too numerous to list. Eventually, he coud just take the Top 10 players and ride their one-on-one domination, but that is not how it started for them.
 

lv20gt

Helluva Engineer
Messages
5,144
Interesting topic. One quick observation. Mike shot 39% from the three as a freshman, 44% in conference. That isn't slumping badly. He was lacking a bit of aggression and would add basically an attempt per game every year he played and raised his overall FGA by 4 between his freshman and sophomore year and then again by about 2 last year. He didn't average double digits but he averaged 9.7 on a team with a soph PG and no other good wing threats to draw attention. Also, usually the freshmen with the true stand out success as freshmen are those who can create their own shot and usually do more off the dribble. Which makes sense because off ball movement and chemistry with the team is less developed early usually. Even so, if you compare freshman production that year I'd bet Devoe's compares favorably when set next to his ranking, although it's just a guess.

IMO I think last year's recruiting was a bit weird. Last year's team we had Coleman, Kelly, Moore, Smith, Maxwell, Meka, and Gigiberia who were freshmen by eligibility. I think that contributed a lot to the lack of urgency in landing players in the class. Taking Franklin and Terry gives us players more likely to contribute right away and also helps balance the classes.

Also, while Bobby often played freshmen a lot, his best teams usually also featured 3 or 4 upperclassmen that were part of the core. However, at that time you could rely on even the best players staying 3 or 4 years so you could transition your young star freshmen into that role of the upperclassmen core. Now it isn't as easy. If you have a freshmen you really think can give you 15+ a night year 1, you probably can't rely on them to be there in years 3 and 4. Hell, we saw that with Okogie and he wasn't even on anyone's early departure radar prior to his freshman year. I think Pastner would certainly take an instant impact player in the right circumstance, but I think it would be as a final piece of a puzzle rather than the cornerstone of the team type of thing.
 

gt24

Jolly Good Fellow
Messages
352
I thought I would share some general observations about the changes in college ball and see if it will generate some discussion.

Like many GT MBB fans, I was imprinted on the exciting rise under Cremins 1982-1990. In my mind, this is how basketball, especially GT basketball, is "supposed" to work. But getting old permits one to perceive gradual and not so gradual change all around us.

Pastner has been making a big point to emphasize the competitive advantage of mature players (21+) over immature ones (18). This is born out with his "get old, stay old" mantra as well who he plays on the court and how he recruits.

The transfer portal has created a tectonic shift in how rosters are managed. Two years into the rule change, nearly 40% of Div. 1 scholarship basketball players have hit the portal in each year. Equally as staggering is the fact that about half that go into the portal don't find another scholarship elsewhere. So, as much as the portal is about players being free to find a more suitable situation for themselves it is also that the rule has resulted in the system purging itself of 20% or its scholarship players per year over two years. What does this mean?

Has this kind of upheaval always lurked under the surface of the system, or does the new transfers rule represent a pressure release valve to compensate for recent changes in the system? I think the latter is more likely to be the case.

One thing that I have noticed is that our coach doesn't enthusiastically promote his freshmen recruits and usually speaks of their promise and contributions in terms of "down the road." In step with this is the fact that we haven't seen much in the way of impact Freshmen. Those of us imprinted from the Cremins years are not used to this. We are used to one or so Freshmen coming in and impacting the team. With Cremins, he tended to bring in a player or so rated in the Top 15, but there was Harpring too.

I came to wonder whether Pastner was just not fond of Freshmen. Cremins let 'em play. Maybe Pastner just didn't have the patience for that. He played the highly rated Devoe, but he didn't average double digit scoring despite lots of minutes. Devoe had the reputation of being an elite shooter, but he slumped badly from three in his Freshman year (as did all of our guards that season). Devoe was kinda passive in my eyes.

Then came the next 4* guy, Deebo Coleman. Same sorta results. Lots of minutes, not al lot of production and a kinda passive approach to the game.

Okay, so maybe it ain't the coach?

Then there is the way we approach the early signing period. Traditionally, this is where a coach acquires the talent. Late period and transfers are usually just a fall-back for early signing period failures. At first, our lack of making a splash in the Fall was because of rebuild struggles. Then it looked like he just wasn't targeting many players early. There didn't seem to be much in the way of Plan B or Plan C contingency recruits.

But the change here became concrete when the portal opened. Last year we targeted very few players in the fall (Sensabuahg, Aberdeen, etc) We missed on them and there were no fall back players. This year, when we missed on Nwoko, we did not move in on Jaiden Hastings and Dylan James. So, the lack of priority in making Early Period signings is obvious.

All lines of evidence suggest this is an intentional strategy. See if we can get some interest from the few difference-makers out there. If not, wait for the portakl and later period slip-through-the-cracks types.

So, now I am thinking that the recruiting landscape has changed, that the players coming out of high school are simply and by-and-large, not as ready to contribute to winning in the ACC. Where it used to be the case that a Top 100 had a very good chance to come in and start and help a team win, now only a Top 25 recruit is likely to do that.

Judging by how we recruit, a Top 50 high school player is the best. A player in the 50-150 range is probably equivalent to a transfer with 3 years of eligibility remaining. And a player ranked above 150 will be a two year project and equivalent to a transfer with only one or two years remaining.

So, what I am now thinking is that high school players are not as ready to help teams wins as they used to be back in the day. Why not? I have a hypothesis.

What has changed is that open and intense competition has fallen out of favor at the school boy levels. In high school, the intensely competitive coach is being replaced with the "We're all wonderful and everyone is a winner" attitude that better reflects the philosophy of public education. And the AAU is all about skills development and showcasing and we have known that winning and defense is not what that scene is about. Indeed, the videos of those events have a "scrimmagy" feel to them.

So while the players have even better skills and even stronger physiques, they are not being prepared for the intensity of open competition that they will see in college. That is why even our highly rated recruits look so passive in the face of the speed but mostly the intensity and physicality of the college game.

That means that the transition from high school to college is more severe. That means many more players melt under the intensity (thus the portal numbers and high numbers of drop-outs). It also means that they represent a greater risk of being non-contributing for their coach. There is a high risk of failure, non-return on investment.

So, when coach Pastner is talking about the difference between upper and lower classmen in terms of competitive advantage, and when we seem to see only a modest emphasis on early period signees, I think this is what we are seeing.

This represents a huge change from what we saw during the Cremins years. It is difficult for us to let go of that paradigm that was so fun to experience. All those ACC Freshman of the year awards! But things are simply not the same anymore. Things have really changed.

I do think this sheds a new insight into the success of a player like Jose Alvarado. He did not meet the talent profile of a top 100 recruit. But he was ready for the competitive nature of the higher levels. This is what set him apart and enabled him to become a decorated ACC player and now with an NBA career.

This is also how Mike Krzyzewski built the Duke program. He favored the hyper-competitive players like Hurley, Leattner and all the other A-holes that are too numerous to list. Eventually, he coud just take the Top 10 players and ride their one-on-one domination, but that is not how it started for them.
An ambitious post at anytime during the offseason, for sure -- and I applaud it! ~62% of the reason I come to this site is to read @MtnWasp hoops posts, and this did not disappoint. Not sure I agree with all of it, but no arguing that it is thought-provoking. To post it on opening night/day of the hoops season after 7 months of non-hoops action, that takes some serious cajones. Well done, sir!
 
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