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Spring Forward Time For Juniors

It's the end of the season and it's time for the State of the Union address. Of course the union I'm talking about is the one between junior prospects and the schools involved in their recruitment. A large number of the top class of 2010 prospects already have offers and quite a few have responded with commitments. In reality though, the large majority of this class have not yet made up their mind and many have yet to get any definite offers.

Now is the time to be proactive about your recruitment. Now is the time to make those unofficial visits. Now is the time to narrow your lists. Now is the time to find out who's offering and who's not and to find out who's serious about your future. Now is the time I need stop trying to sound like one of President Obama's speeches.

First things first, let's visit some recruiting calendar realities. Division I coaches have three days to evaluate off campus in April (17-19) and 20 days in July (6-15 and 22-31). That's it until next fall, so a lot of thought has to go into who you play with and what events they will attend during those time frames.

Another recruiting calendar time line to take note of is all of the specific parameters surrounding phone calls. This year coaches can begin calling you the 9th of April and are allowed only a single call between then and the end of the month. They can then make another individual call anytime in the month of May.

Pay attention to who makes those calls to you in April and May in particular. If you're high on the priority list, it will be the head coach. With only one call permissible in each of those two months, it's hard to imagine any program's top prospects won't get a call from the big cheese once they're allowed to do the dialing.

Between June 1 and 20 they get another call and from the 21st to the 30th one more. Still with me? Then, in the entire month of July they can call you a total of three times, but no more than one time per week.

And just to stir things up a bit more, they cannot call you at any point during those 20 permitted July evaluation days. To simplify July, they have four time slots to get three calls in. The 1st through 4th, on the 5th only, the 17th or 18th and the 19th through 21st with no more than one call in any three of those periods.

Following July it gets simple, one call per week the rest of the way. Once you sign a national letter of intent with a school they then have unlimited phone calls.

The simplest and most important thing with phone calls is you taking the time to call coaches yourself. Hopefully, this is something you've already been doing throughout the year. There are no limits on calls from you or time frames other than absolutely no calls during the two recruiting periods in July. These calls are critical in getting to know coaches and their staffs and just as important in getting a feel for where you stand in their recruiting picture. Additionally, as I've written several times before, you want to make sure that a large number of your calls are to and with the head coach. I'm not minimizing assistants, I was one for 23 years, but the boss is the one you would be playing for.

If you're not clear on your status with a program, this is the time of year to find out where they see you in their plans. If someone has been recruiting you throughout your junior year and there's been no mention of an offer, now's the time to ask. You need to know and it's a simple yes or no answer. Just because it's no at the moment doesn't mean it won't happen, but it would be safe to assume they like someone else better. You don't want to be wasting too much of your time and effort on a school that may well not be an option for you when the time comes.

If someone is offering, be sure you know the timeline and specifics. Ask if the offer is good till you make up your mind or find out if it's only good until a specific date. You need to know if it's been offered to someone else as well and the first person to say yes gets it. Know how long the offer is good for and what strings are attached. It could impact your own timeline for visits and ultimately when you make your decision. Schools have to protect their interests as well and you don't want to miss out on the right program just because you waited to visit or someone else made up their mind before you.

It's also the time of year to get busy with those unofficial visits if you haven't done so already. It might cost you a few dollars but consider it a recruiting stimulus plan. Getting on campus and meeting the coaches and players face to face is essential in getting to know a program and it also provides you a great feel for where you are in the scheme of their plans for the 2010 class. They'll take the time to make your visit worthwhile if you're important enough to them.

The phone is nice, regular mail and e mail serve a purpose, but nothing tops seeing things first hand. Get out and see the schools that you didn't visit last fall or the new ones that have come into the picture over the season. Be careful not to eliminate or give minimal consideration to someone who hasn't been there all year. How long someone recruits you means nothing when you're looking for that right fit for your academic and athletic goals. Even the ones you've already seen, if they're high on your list, take a second look. Call it a recruiting reality show and see who gets the highest ratings.

One very important aspect of being on campus is the opportunity to play with the team. This is something that you may even want to schedule your visit around, especially if there isn't an offer on the table yet. The coaches won't be able to watch, but believe me; they'll be talking with their team and getting feedback. That feedback isn't just on how you play either. They want to know how you got along with everyone, how you handled yourself and more so, how you might fit in.

A quick piece of advice on playing; play your game. Don't try too hard or try to be something you're not, just do what you do and do it the way you've always done it. At the same time, don't take a backseat to the college players, step up and show them what you've got.

If the recruiting attention you've been getting is not what you want it to be or hasn't been there at all, it's crunch time for you. It's not the time to sit back and hope. You (not your folks or coaches) need to make some calls to schools you've had contact with to find out if those programs are still looking or have they received the commitments that they were after. What your parents and coaches can do is touch base with schools that you haven't heard from or that you might have interest in to find out where they stand or what they might be looking for. Just be realistic, it's not the time to be calling Pat and Geno.

Be sure the schools you're interested in or the ones who have shown even just a little interest know your spring and summer plans. Update them on what your junior season was like and let them know game video is available if they would like to view it. Don't badmouth your coaches or offer excuses for why your season was this or wasn't that. Stay positive, coaches don't want to hear those kinds of things and really don't care. They just want to know if you can play and where they might see you in action.

The season may have ended but it's a busy time in and out of the gym. The workouts you're doing now will determine the success of next season. At the same time, the homework you do on your recruiting may well determine the success of your decision and whether that choice ends up being the one that allows you to make the most of your college career.

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Mark Lewis is a columnist and national evaluator for ESPN HoopGurlz. Twice ranked as one of the top 25 assistant coaches in the game by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association, he has more than 20 years of college coaching experience at Memphis State, Cincinnati, Arizona State, Western Kentucky and, most recently, Washington State. He can be reached at mark@hoopgurlz.com.