Livestream Events Paying Off Big for Basketball Prospects
During the summer of his meteoric rise from strong prospect to downright rock star, Zion Williamson pinned the tweet “I'm going to shock the world #Believeit” to his Twitter handle.
This time last year, Mitchell County (Camilla, Ga.) guard Derrick Harris Jr. pinned the same tweet to his handle, and after a dominant high school season (23 points per game) yielded just one offer from Albany State, he had all the motivation in the world to see that tweet through to fruition.
“Then we couldn’t play because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Harris said. “I just kept working though. I wanted to stay ready in case I got a chance.”
Harris’ time came two weeks back at the OnTheRadarHoops event in Atlanta; there he averaged 18 points over two games running with AC Georgia and picked up offers from Stetson, Winthrop, UMKC, Northeastern and Charleston Southern, all of which watched Harris on the event’s livestream.
“Just like that,” Harris said. “It’s exciting, I mean I wasn’t worried about producing because I’ve been doing this. It’s cool to see the hard work paying off. It was a little weird to play with no coaches in there physically watching but still get the offers.”
Events like the OnTheRadarHoops’ have been a saving grace for prospects as well as college coaches looking to build out their roster with talented players they would normally have seen on the recruiting trail. Last month the NCAA announced that the recruiting dead period was extended through August 31, restricting all travel and in-person contact and evaluation with recruits.
“For me, it’s about helping these kids get looks,” said OnTheRadarHoops founder Shun Williams. “It’s not about a money grab or anything like that, I made the stream free. Look, there are talented kids who can change their lives by earning a college scholarship; all they need it a platform, and that’s what I’m giving them.”
More than 150 coaches, including the vast majority of the Power 5 programs, whipped out their laptops to watch the 24 teams duke-it-out at Point University.
Players and coaches signed waivers and underwent strict health protocols which included temperature checks, sanitizing practices and vacating the gym after every game to minimize potential risks.
“Every game had a new set of players, fans and coaches,” Williams said. “We had police politely clear the gym so it was really safe. It’s definitely a different setting, but this is where we’re all at right now.”
Team Curry (N.C.) forward Ian Schieffelin said the fluid nature of the COVID-19 pandemic creates more pressure to produce at livestream events.
“You just don’t know if this is the only event you’ll be able to play in all summer,” Schieffelin said. “This one might be open then there might be a shutdown. I was thinking, ‘This may be it.’ That’s not something you have to worry about in a normal year, so it’s a mental adjustment.”
Schieffelin, a rising senior, seized the moment at the OnTheRadarHoops event, averaging 13 points and 10 rebounds over two games and picking up offers from Clemson, Charlotte and College of Charleston as a result.
“This is it for me,” Schieffelin said. “I don’t have another summer to get looks so I feel like I have do what I can do. We’re playing in another event this weekend, so I think I’ll be less nervous about the setup without anyone in there.”
Last month in Florida, more than 15 players who participated in the Virtual Player Evaluation Series hosted by Team Parsons picked up offers from multiple colleges. Each prospect paid $100 to attend and more than 95 college coaches logged on to scout the talent.
More than 30 offers were extended as a result of one day of play at the OnTheRadarHoops event.
Florida State assistant coach Steve Smith has logged in to “a couple” livestream events and have found them to be more beneficial to keep tabs on players he's already expressed interest in, "not so much to find new prospects."
"It's a good tool to see how the guys we were already on are developing and how their body types look like and see how they've been working," Smith said. "We lean more on event operators that we trust to tell us about the new guys. It's hard to watch virtually and see everything we'd look for in person like how the kid reacts when he gets taken out, how he is with his coach, body language and things like that. But the streams certainly serve a purpose for us."
Harris, a rising senior, said he’d rather the coaches be parked courtside “like usual,” but admitted there’s a certain level of excitement that comes after the weekend waiting on word of new offers.
“It’s just different because if the coaches are there you can see them watching you or see them react if you do something good,” Harris said. “But the only thing that matters to me and most players I know is the offers, so I’m thankful that we’re getting chances to be seen.”