UW Health Sports Medicine 

Lucas at Large: Ryan and staff embrace rules changes

MBB_120623_Ryan_Bo.jpegCollege basketball coaches have gotten their wish for more communication and contact with players during the summer. Ru ready 4 this? That includes unlimited texting and calls to recruits.

"I absolutely love it,'' said UW associate head coach Greg Gard. "It allows you to speak directly to the parents or the kids and you don't have to worry about anybody relaying a message.''

"It will help coaches get to know players better, and vice versa, they get to know you better. As long as everybody abides by the parameters, it will be good for college basketball and help the process.''

That would be the recruiting process. In the past, the NCAA limited calls between coaches and recruits to one or two a week. But it was very difficult to monitor and enforce.

"What we've found since the rules went into effect (June 15),'' said Gard, the UW's lead recruiter, "is that it's helpful to have multiple times during the day or the week to access prospects.

"You can have a short conversation and call them back later in the day, or tomorrow, or next week; however you want to do it. Now a dialogue can take place with the kids and parents.''

Besides unlimited texts and calls to prospects who have finished their sophomore year of high school, the NCAA is allowing coaches to send private messages through Facebook and Twitter.

UW head coach Bo Ryan is pragmatic about the changes.

"If a kid doesn't want to take your call, he doesn't take your call,'' Ryan said. "If a kid doesn't want to read your text messages, he doesn't read your text messages.''

Thx but no thx.

"I really would find it hard to coach someone for four years that constantly needed to be texted or tweeted or whatever,'' Ryan opined.

"In recruiting, I'm not looking for people who are so needy that they have to have someone talking to them -- or doing some form of communication -- 25 times a day.

"Be a teenager -- be a teenager.''

Ryan's plea is for kids to be kids.

"It isn't about the next step yet,'' he went on, "but when you're interested in a school, or a school is interested in you, then there are ways to communicate without being obsessive.''

Ryan is more excited about the NCAA allowing "court time'' in the summer. That amounts to two hours a week during the eight-week summer school session. Players must be enrolled to practice.

The Badgers held their first two-hour workout last Tuesday. Some coaches have elected to split up the time and hold two one-hour practices or three 40-minute practices per week.

Because of class schedules, Ryan said the two-hour window worked the best.

"We did a lot of competitive drills,'' Ryan said of the first workout. "I've already started to break that one down and some things we want to emphasize in the next one.

"We used it (the first practice) to get a little better idea of where the guys are -- those filling positions where you have guys graduating -- and who's stepping up in different areas competitively.

"You see, this is all we ever wanted as coaches, to have some kind of contact and be around our kids in the summer while they were playing; even if it was just to watch pick-up games.

"The fact that we can be on the court with them (two hours a week) is even better because now we can help them through some different situations.''

The old rules frustrated coaches who were left in the dark; out of the loop, if you will. "Unless our guys were working our summer camp, we didn't have any direct contact,'' Gard said.

There are just so many benefits to the NCAA relaxing those standards, he added, not the least of which is helping build more lasting relationships between the athletes and the coaches.

"It's not only good from the instruction and teaching standpoint on the court,'' Gard said, "but it also gives you more contact; such as helping the younger guys (freshmen)  in their transition to college.''

That would be to the benefit of UW freshmen Zak Showalter and Sam Dekker, who was a member of the USA under-18 national team that won the gold medal at the FIBA Americas Championship in Brazil.

"We're talking about two very talented and extremely competitive players who grew up being huge Badger fans and have worked extremely hard to put themselves in this position,'' Gard said.

"Anything they've gotten so far as high school players -- or will get down the road as college players -- will be because of their work ethic and the fact that they've both earned it.''

That would be the operative word in Ryan's vocabulary -- earn.

"There's never an excuse for not getting better (over the summer) whether we're teaching them on the court or not,'' Ryan said of a player's implied commitment to out-of-season development.

"We give them things -- the breakdown drills -- which they can work on.

"But this gives coaches a better understanding of the competitive level of the incoming guys and if there's been improvement since April with the returning guys; strength-wise and everything else.

"Still, they're going to have to do a lot if it on their own because two hours is nothing. Good players spent a heckuva a lot more time than two hours a week working on their game in the summer.''

Yet, he fully endorses the NCAA changes; the additional contact which adds up to eight hours a week (two on the court and six for weight-lifting and conditioning) while attending summer school.

"It's an historical period,'' Ryan said, "because basketball coaches have been fighting for this for a long time. (UW men's hockey coach) Mike Eaves asked me how we went about it.

"I just said, 'You have to keep knocking on the door,' because I can see other sports wanting to do this also. It just so happens in our sport we've been clamoring for it a longer period of time.

"If we have more contact with our players, it means that they're not running around with some of these third parties and runners and other people telling them things they don't need to be hearing.''