Like his buddy, Billy Gillispie, Kansas University coach Bill Self would accept an oral commitment from an eighth-grade basketball player.
"I would take Lew Alcindor. I'd take Wilt, Danny and Lew," Self said of former UCLA phenom Alcindor (later Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) as well as KU greats Danny Manning and Wilt Chamberlain, whose exploits as players were well-known early in their stages of development.
Eighth-grade recruiting is in the news following last week's declaration that 15-year-old Lake Sherwood, Calif., guard Michael Avery had committed to Gillispie's University of Kentucky program. A few days later, UK received a commitment from ninth-grade forward Vinny Zollo, 15, of Ohio.
"I think it's too young," Self said, speaking specifically about landing commitments from players who have not yet graduated grade school. "In a perfect world (schools would not land players that young)," Self added.
Jim Haney, executive director of the National Assn. of Basketball Coaches, told USA Today he's concerned about schools recruiting 14- and 15-year-olds. He said the issue would be brought up before the NABC Ethics Committee. Self is a member of the NABC Board of Directors.
"It greatly concerns me. To me, it sends the wrong message. : I don't think it completely aligns with the perception that college athletics reflect in a time of increased academic standards," Haney told the paper. "Maybe it's something we, as an association, need to take up and say something like, 'Our association has agreed we're not going to accept (commitments) prior to the summer between a player's sophomore and junior year.'''
Self recently landed the earliest commitment in school history from 6-foot-2 Phoenix Sunnyslope High sophomore Royce Woolridge.
"I don't think we should necessarily have a knee-jerk rule because USC and Kentucky have gotten a couple," Self said. "College coaches are not asking all eighth graders to commit. What are we going to do? Make it (new rule) the first day of their ninth-grade year?"
Haney told USA Today that recruiting eighth-graders sends the wrong message to the general public.
"It just gives fuel to that whole perception that coaches are out of control : that coaches are trying to sign kids when they're born or all they can think about is recruiting," he said.
¢ CBE update: The College Basketball Experience tournament has a new format for the 2008-09 season.
The CBE will consist of 12 teams, down from 16 a year ago.
Host schools KU, Syracuse, Washington and Florida will each play two home games (likely Nov. 16 and 18), then advance to Kansas City on Nov. 24-25 regardless of how they fare in the opening games.
KU senior associate athletic director Larry Keating believes University of Missouri-Kansas City will be one of KU's tourney foes in Lawrence. The other opponent has not been revealed.
It's also believed KU will play Washington on Nov. 24 at Sprint Center, then meet either Florida or Syracuse in the finals or consolation finals.
The eight schools in the CBE that aren't host schools will not travel to Sprint Center. These low to mid-major squads will play two four-team events at sites to be determined. All 12 teams are guaranteed four games.
"The way it was last year, they'd send three teams to our place and we'd have a doubleheader each day (with one survivor advancing to Kansas City)," Keating said. "Now we get two games at our place and two in Kansas City. Each one of the (mid-major) schools will play one game at one of the host schools. Then they break up in two groups of four and play three round-robin games."
KU will travel to Arizona and Michigan State and meet Tennessee and Temple in Allen Fieldhouse next season in the Jayhawks' marquee nonconference games. KU will also meet UMass in Sprint Center.