Recruiting stays unpredictable in uncertain times

The Triangle’s college basketball coaches are trying to adapt to the ever-changing situation — just like always

After flip-flopping on his decision, Columbia's Patrick Tape, right, chose to transfer to Duke for his final year of eligibility. (Jessica Hill / AP Photo)

With no end in sight to the growing coronavirus crisis, the NCAA has extended the recruiting dead period it imposed after announcing the cancellation of all spring sports and championships last month.

College coaches are now prohibited from having any in-person contact with recruits or their parents until at least the end of May.

But that doesn’t mean recruiting has come to a halt in the era of social distancing.

It’s still going on thanks to technology such as FaceTime and Zoom. And judging from the events of the past week, it has become even more strange and unpredictable than usual.

During that time, we’ve seen a basketball graduate transfer from an Ivy League school commit to Duke, decommit, then change his mind and re-up with the Blue Devils; a four-star recruit being pursued by numerous Power 5 schools choose to play for Elon instead; and the top-rated prospect in NC State’s star-studded recruiting class decided to enter the NBA Draft before ever playing a game with the Wolfpack.

And, oh yes, North Carolina coach Roy Williams is growing a beard.

Strange happenings, indeed.

“These are scary times — needless to say, the most unusual times ever,” Williams, from the North Carolina mountains where he’s been spending time with his wife Wanda, said in a video conference with local reporters Tuesday.

“What I’m hoping for is to get to the July period so you can see people in person, but I don’t have any idea if that’s going to come. If it doesn’t, that means it’s not the safest thing.  You’ve just got to put up with it.

“The guys on my staff are good with social media. I’m sure they’re doing some things. Since I don’t get there, I don’t have any idea what they’re doing. But I’m very confident they’re doing some great things.”

At least things have been quiet for Williams and the Tar Heels. That hasn’t been the case with two of his neighboring rivals.

At Duke, Mike Krzyzewski has been dealing with an ever-changing tale of the Tapé when it comes to his roster situation.

That’s Tapé, as in 6-foot-10 graduate student Patrick Tapé, who played his first three college seasons at Columbia, averaging 11.3 points and 5.9 rebounds per game in 2019-20.

Tapé originally committed to using his final season of eligibility with the Blue Devils back on March 23, only to change his mind by reopening his recruitment nine days later. The Charlotte native then reconsidered again, telling ESPN’s Jeff Borzello on Sunday that he thought he’d rushed into his decision and “realized (Duke) was the best fit.”

While Krzyzewski was getting the good news on his incoming recruit, NC State’s Kevin Keatts was getting a double dose of disappointment.

Within hours on Monday Keatts and the Wolfpack lost out on four-star wing JaDun Michael and learned that it could potentially lose its top-ranked signee when five-star forward Josh Hall announced plans to enter the NBA Draft process.

Michael had originally signed with Wichita State but was allowed out of his National Letter of Intent because of concerns over the coronavirus pandemic and a desire to attend a school closer to home. The Burlington native got as close to home as he possibly could by pledging to play for Elon.

Only a few hours later, Hall posted on his Twitter account that he’ll test the NBA Draft waters while retaining his college eligibility in case he chooses to remain with the Wolfpack.

If the five-star prospect does leave, it will mark the second time in as many years that State has lost its top recruit before he ever stepped on campus. A year ago at this time, point guard Jalen Lecque stayed in the draft and went unselected before ultimately signing a free agent deal with the Phoenix Suns.

It’s a situation that has only been complicated by communication challenges of current social distancing conditions.

But Keatts is doing his best to keep things in perspective.

“It’s something everyone in the country has to do,” the State coach said. “So I think we have to be creative. … I understand. I’m not complaining. We’re in a situation where we’re fighting a dangerous virus and right now, I’m telling the guys and even the guys I’m recruiting: ‘It’s not about us. It’s not about recruiting. It’s not about athletics. It’s about the safety of the country and the world.’ So everybody’s got to take a step back, put athletics in the back burner and try to get through this.”