Big 12 Conference basketball coaches are giving two thumbs up to recent NCAA rule changes that will have a direct impact on the sport.
• As of Friday, college basketball coaches will be able to send unlimited text messages and make unlimited phone calls to recruits that have completed their sophomore year in high school.
• In April, coaches were allowed an evaluation period to check out high school recruits. That will allow coaches to better evaluate those high school players during the July evaluation period.
• Starting this summer, college basketball coaches are allowed to hold practices with their players two hours per week.
"It's not typical to get coaches to agree on something but I think we all think the rule changes are good," Baylor coach Scott Drew said during the Big 12's coaches summer teleconference.
For the past five years, the NCAA has tried to restrict access between coaches and high school players. The proliferation of cell phones and other personal communication devices has overwhelmed the need for limiting contact.
"Anytime you can put yourself in a situation where there's more communication with a recruit and with families, that's a positive," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "It will be more work for coaches."
And a huge reduction in record keeping. The need to log every phone call or text - and the potential for mistakes made in keeping track of those contacts - has been eliminated.
"There's been a lot of research and time put into it," West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. "If you can't keep track of it, you can't enforce it. It's kind of like what happened with Prohibition."
Texas coach Rick Barnes has long been an advocate of having coaches work with their players during the summer. UT football coach Mack Brown told reporters this week he's envious of basketball coaches now being able to do just that.
"Now we can not only work with them regarding basketball, we get the chance to get to know the new guys and work with everybody on academics," Barnes said.
"We're supposed to be responsible for our players for what they do 24 hours a day but we haven't been allowed to be involved with 'em," Huggins. "We've fought long and hard for access and I think this is a positive step."
To some coaches, the rule change allowing more contact is a positive but one that might not have much impact.
"With everyone having caller ID, if a recruit wants to talk to you, they will," Drew said. "If they don't, they don't."
Relaxing the text ban treaty will have little impact on Huggins. "I just learned to text last year," he said.
Around The Conference
Last year Iowa State utilized the multi-talented Royce White as the conduit for its offense. The Cyclones will change to a more traditional style with Michigan State transfer Korie Lucious running the team. "We'll be more traditional," coach Fred Hoiberg said. "Lucious is a true point guard. This year I think we'll play a little faster. Last year we played to our strengths and we played through Royce on the majority of our possessions."
Former Nebraska coach Doc Sadler has been hired as the director of basketball operations at Kansas. "To have this opportunity is unbelievable, kind of like a dream come true. I hope to not wake up," Sadler told the Lawrence Journal-World. "It seems like two or three times I've talked to coach Self about working for him, and it never seemed to work out. I appreciate the opportunity he's given me. He has such a great staff. Anything I can do to make those guys' jobs easier is what I want to do. I'll do whatever I can to help those guys out."
Kansas State coach Bruce Weber is in the final stages of living in a whirlwind for nearly three months. After being named the Wildcats' new coach, he's been busy making sure the roster stays intact, hiring a new staff, conducting a basketball camp in Manhattan and playing the father of the bride - one of his daughters recently was married. Thursday he was on the Big 12 coaches' summer teleconference for 10 minutes as the moving van was loading up at his former residence in Champaign.
Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford, 42, laughed and agreed that he's too young to be having hip replacement surgery. But last month, he finally succumbed to the pain in his left hip and took time off to get the problem fixed. "In December it started to affect my lifestyle," Ford said. "I couldn't sleep and I couldn't run. I finally made the time in May to have the surgery. I'm glad I did; I feel a lot better."
Texas coach Rick Barnes likes what he has seen so far from his players during the summer workouts. "We're excited about this group because we're excited about the edge they're bringing to the court," he said. "Our day-to-day intensity in practice will be better because we've got the bodies where we can compete every day. That's where accountability comes into play. I'm pleased with the way they've embraced what we've asked them to do."
In coach Bob Huggins' tenure at West Virginia, the Mountaineers have had depth problems in the backcourt, in particular at point guard. As the school transitions into the Big 12, Huggins is pleased that he's got more to work with at the guard spot. "We've never had more than one guy who could handle the ball," he said. "Last year we did, but they were all freshmen. I think we'll be able to play faster than we have in the past."
Texas Tech coach Billy Gillispie is counting on junior Jaye Crockett to be a key player for the Red Raiders this season. "He played very well in conference, he was more consistent performer," Gillispie said. "I expect him to have a great year. I've seen a totally different Jaye Crockett. He wants to be the guy, not one of the guys. He wants to win and he's stepped up to take a leadership role. I think he'll have a big year this year." Crockett, a 6-7 junior, averaged 8.8 points and 5.7 rebounds per game last season. He had surgery last Friday for a sports hernia and Gillispie said that was something that hindered Crockett's play last season.
Those who were able to watch Oklahoma practice last season were impressed with Amath M'Baye, a 6-9 post player who sat out last season after transferring. M'Baye is from Bordeaux, France and played two seasons at Wyoming. Coach Lon Kruger says that M'Baye took advantage of practices last season to work on his ball handling and outside shooting. "The main part of his game is in the post-up area but he can step out and shoot the ball," Kruger said. "I would expect him to be in the running to start." The Sooners replace all five starters from last season, so that means OU's depth and competition for playing time will be improved.
Last month it was announced that Baylor and Kentucky have agreed to play each other the next two seasons. The Bears will play in Lexington against the defending national champions this season. During the 2013-14 season, Kentucky will face Baylor at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas - site of the 2014 Final Four. That game will be a men's-women's double header between the two schools. "To get ready for the Big 12, you have to play the best teams," Baylor coach Scott Drew said. "When we play that game at Cowboys Stadium, we're hoping to have 80,000-plus fans and set an attendance record."
First-year coach Trent Johnson takes over a TCU program that faces daunting challenges as the school officially joins the Big 12 on July 1. Johnson previously has coached at LSU and Stanford and is aware of the task at hand but he believes the Horned Frogs can improve. "It's the first opportunity for kids in this area to play in a great league like the Big 12, get a quality education and be part of building a basketball tradition like what's been built in football, baseball and other sports," Johnson said. "We haven't done a good job of carrying our weight around here and it's time we step up to the plate and start doing it. When things get tough, we're going to stay the course."