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Signing Day: It's like Christmas for recruiting sites

NEED TO KNOW
  • National Signing Day signals the culmination of years of work for those in the biz
  • Websites, social media fuel explosion in sports recruiting interest
  • 8th-grader made headlines for which high school he'd attend
  • YouTube and sites for athletes have transformed recruiting
Signing Day: It's like Christmas for recruiting sites

Editor's note: Today is National Signing Day for college football, a perfect time to revisit our look at the big business of recruiting your kids.

A reporter who had carefully observed a talented young basketball player named David Kachelries writes that "he is an excellent ball handler, always finds his open teammates, and gets anywhere on the court that he wishes."

A YouTube video of Kachelries provides amplification for this scouting report, broadcasting the prospect's skills to anyone around the world who wants to see what the buzz is all about. He does indeed get "anywhere on the court that he wishes," flashing a variety of nifty moves and confidently slashing his way to the hoop before icing off his drive with a lay-up.

The person who uploaded the clip was so impressed he wrote in the video's description that Kachelries "reminds me of [two-time NBA MVP] Steve Nash." The superlatives continue in the comments below.

"This kid is good," writes one user. "Watch him dribble it is hard to tell if he is left handed or right."

Another adds, "this kid is great!!!!" -- all exclamation points included.

It's not too hard to find more information online about the point guard prospect. On the website Future150, his game is placed under a microscope, with Kachelries' dribbling and passing graded as “excellent” and his shooting as “good." Overall, he scores a 75 on the site's 100-point assessment scale.

However, an article on the site tells us the knock on Kachelries is that "he is small in stature." Well, yeah, of course he is.

David Kachelries is 13 years old.

And yet, even at that young age, he is hardly alone in having his athletic talents dissected online by adults and splashed across the Internet.

A basketball player named Thomas Allen, we're informed, "can go on some serious scoring runs. He scorches the net with his jump shot. Passing is a strong point of his game."

Jordan Simmons' skills are evaluated like this: "He takes it hard to basket finishing with either hand, even through contact. Simmons is also able to pull up for a mid-range jumper or a three pointer, drilling the shot."

Neither of these players -- evaluated above as if they were preparing for the NBA draft -- is even in high school yet.

Best 7th-grade point guard? Top prep linebackers? A website for everyone

The grown man analyzing the 12-year-old Simmons' game for Future150.com reports, "This kid has already been proclaimed the best point guard in the class of 2018, by many different scouting services."

And if the part about the "Class of 2018" didn't get you, perhaps the mention of the "many scouting services" did. After all, how many websites and scouts could be out there dissecting the basketball talents of a boy whose voice has not yet cracked and can only go see "The Amazing Spider-Man" if he's accompanied by an adult?

Well, how much time do you have?

From major recruiting sites like the Yahoo-owned Rivals.com and Fox Sports' Scout.com to smaller sites with passionate fan bases like The Recruit Scoop and something actually called Middle School Hoops, the Internet has become the single-largest contributing factor to the explosion in national interest in the ability, talent and future of young athletes.

It seems like every high school athlete with an outside shot at a college scholarship has a highlight reel up on YouTube. Websites churn out Top 100 lists, ranking elite recruits based on their school year, projecting as far out as the nation's best seventh-graders.

Andrew Bone is a writer who has accumulated more than 10,000 followers on Twitter posting solely about potential University of Alabama football recruits.

The one kid every coach wants to know

Alex Kline can do him 13,000 better: The college basketball recruiting insider and creator of the previously referenced Recruit Scoop has 23,000 followers. The more important number to know about Kline?

Fourteen.

That's how old he was when he launched his website and began showing up at basketball games and camps for top high school basketball players, evaluating their skills and introducing himself.

Perhaps because he was the one guy in the building roughly the same age as them, recruits started opening up to Kline about their plans. He's since earned the trust of both players and coaches and is now among the first to be told when a player has scheduled a recruiting visit or signed with a school.

And that's when the Syracuse University freshman logs in to Twitter.

In the cloak and dagger world of college recruiting, where smokescreens and whispers are more common than jump shots, real-time, publicly available access to this kind of information was once unimaginable. Now, the hopes of casual fans, fortunes of successful coaches, and futures of millionaires-in-waiting can swing based on what a college freshman -- scarcely older than the teens he covers -- types into his phone.

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"Alabama will have 2013 Oak Hill (VA) SF Troy Williams, along with 2015 Rockwall (TX) duo Elijah Thomas & Austin Grandstaff on campus," Kline tweeted August 16. This counts as breaking news in the online world of college recruiting.

The following day brings news of a player transferring; not colleges -- high schools: "2015 Montverde (FL) SG Jamar Ergas has transferred to Riverside Christian (NC) for his sophomore season."

And if you find yourself thinking, "Who cares which high school some kid is attending?" -- the answer is, college coaches. Lots of them. "[Kline] has access to information that we’re looking for," Rider University coach Tommy Dempsey told The New York Times. "I’d be shocked if most coaches are not following him on Twitter. And if they’re not, they should be." Many of them are: A check of Kline's followers on Twitter turns up dozens -- if not hundreds -- of high school, AAU and college coaches.

"Along with Chris McCullough & Reggie Cameron, Seton Hall hosted 2016 SG Tyus Battle of Gill St. Bernard's (NJ) for a visit yesterday," Kline recently tweeted. Big news for Seton Hall fans and perhaps surprising news for Battle’s fans.

A high school freshman, already a star

Battle is an athletic, 6'4" shooting guard and the nation's top-ranked recruit in the Class of 2016 (a phrase which might sound ridiculous to the uninitiated, but such rankings and speculation are the lingua franca in RecruitVille). The update was surprising, though, because all previous divining and tea-reading surrounding the 14-year-old didn't involve which university he'd attend, but instead which high school.

Yes, the frothing over Battle's skills and future is so intense that he made headlines on recruiting sites across the country when he announced where he would go for high school. News of Battle's decision even made it into the Newark Star-Ledger.

Now that he knows he'll be attending New Jersey prep powerhouse Gill St. Bernard's, Battle -- as Kline informed us -- is focusing on where he'll play college ball, before ever playing a game for the varsity. Proving that analysts and scouts aren't the only ones using social media to track a prospect's college visits, Battle is one of the many Millennial prospects who is actively sharing details of his recruitment online. Check out this photo of a hand-written letter he received from the head coach at Rutgers.

And the aforementioned Seton Hall update provided by Kline? We know it's accurate because Battle himself tweeted this picture  of the school's basketball court one day earlier.

A home for 40,000 cheerleaders

Of course, not every high school hopeful is Tyus Battle. Not even close. Most are swinging bats or clearing hurdles in total obscurity, far from the curious eye of scouts and coaches, hoping that maybe -- if everything goes perfectly -- they might be able to land a Division II softball scholarship or a free ride to run track at the local commuter school.

But one thing these athletes do have in common with Battle is the ability to use their digital tool set to attract interest in their talents. At the opposite end of the runaway online culture gushing that a 12-year-old basketball player resembles a recent NBA first-round draft pick, are the thousands of teens grabbing some control of the recruiting process by posting their stats and highlights on YouTube or places like BeRecruited.com.

Athletes in every sport for which NCAA or NAIA scholarships are offered are able to create detailed profiles on these sites that are visited by college coaches, engaging in some digital recruiting. At Be Recruited, there's a special registration process for coaches to confirm their credentials and allow them to contact athletes.

There are more than 10,000 profiles for men's lacrosse recruits alone at Takkle.com, where the site reports that 6,448 snowboarders, 25,487 wrestlers and, yes, more than 40,000 cheerleaders have created profiles for themselves.

On YouTube and other video sharing sites, the process is much less formal -- one can just upload and save. However, YouTube's reach, popularity and ease of sharing have made it a go-to destination for high schoolers trying to elevate their visibility. The online highlight reel has become such a key component of the recruiting process there are companies offering professional video production, and Rivals.com provides a list of dos and don'ts for creating the ideal video.

"Do: Pick only your best plays," the guide advises. "Coaches may only watch 4-5, so make sure they are seeing your best. You don't need to build up to anything or put them in chronological order."

It's in this way the Internet's role in college recruiting becomes less perverse, more positive: Making possible the opportunities that students otherwise may not have; a chance to play college sports -- sure -- but for some, it can be their only chance to attend college at all.

Follow Jonathan on Twitter @JonFromHLN

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