Area players say they’re in limbo waiting for best offers

Anthony McComb of Trotwood-Madison against Oakwood in a Division II sectional tournament game. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED
Anthony McComb of Trotwood-Madison against Oakwood in a Division II sectional tournament game. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED

Anthony McComb had a great senior season for Trotwood-Madison and wants to play college basketball. In normal times, he would already know his destination.

But these are unusual times for college recruiters in all sports. For basketball, several factors – most related to COVID-19 – have conspired to keep players like McComb wondering when scholarship offers will come.

“Everyone says keep working hard and something will come,” McComb said. “It’s been hard, but I’m hoping for the best and just praying.”

McComb didn’t get the exposure that comes in normal times when last summer’s AAU circuit, including the high-level EYBL events in which he played, were often canceled. Plus, coaches couldn’t attend the ones that were played.

“That year before your senior year of AAU is the most crucial year,” said Wayne coach Nate Martindale, whose seniors Prophet Johnson and Malcolm Curry are having similar experiences to McComb. “They were able to do some events that were livestreamed for college coaches, but to be able to have coaches see them play in person would’ve made a huge difference.”

Then the NCAA granted an extra year of eligibility to all college athletes, putting coaches in limbo because they’ve waited to see what seniors are staying. For each on that chooses to play an extra year, that’s one less spot available for freshmen.

“You’re happy for the young men that have the opportunity to play another year of college basketball, but it creates a backlog for the high school kids,” said Springfield coach Shawn McCullough, whose star player Josh Tolliver is still waiting for an offer. “So I have mixed emotions.”

And players are transferring at a record rate, which means many coaches are trying to sort through possible transfers before focusing on high school players. As of Tuesday, there were 1,228 players in the Division I transfer portal and 601 in Division II, according to verbalcommits.com.

McComb, a guard, transferred to Trotwood this season and averaged 24 points a game, but recruiters didn’t see it. The NCAA extended the Division I dead period until May 31, meaning coaches can’t attend games or meet with players in person. McComb said interest from Division I schools has gone silent as a result.

“I’m comfortable we’re going to find something, but, man, it’s been tough going,” Trotwood coach Rocky Rockhold said. “The kid can play, and I do think these factors are limiting him right now.”

McComb has been talking to Division II Ashland, Tiffin, Lincoln Memorial (Tenn.) and NAIA Holy Cross in Indianapolis.

“This was my last year, and I was really hoping to get something out of it,” McComb said. “I think I had a good year, but it’s just the road I’m on right now. Everything doesn’t always work out how you want it to work out, so I’m trusting God and seeing where he takes me to.”

McComb and many other area players – mostly seniors and juniors – get another opportunity to showcase their talents Saturday at Bethel High School in the inaugural Miami Valley All-Conference Challenge.

“I haven’t played organized basketball in a while, so I think it’ll be fun and it’s a good opportunity for me,” said McComb, who will play with the Dayton City League team. “I’m thankful I was invited to play in it.”

The event is operated by Tony Peters and Seth Keim of Southwest Ohio Full-Court Press, a website that covers high school basketball.

“When we’ve seen these kids fighting for offers, it has put the urgency behind having it this year even with COVID,” Keim said.

The event begins at noon and the schedule and rosters are listed at SWOFCP.com. All tickets must be purchased through the website. Coaches from all three NCAA divisions and NAIA have committed to watch the livestream on TKDS Sports. This is a particularly special opportunity for players from small schools.

“We’re just hoping that this event allows these kids, that maybe wouldn’t have the opportunity to be seen by certain coaches, to be seen in one place,” Peters said.

The recruiting lull has also affected Division III. Emmanuel Christian’s Jason Channels is choosing between Heidelberg and Anderson, Ind.

“We’re just not getting the same amount of contact, and I don’t think it has anything to do with Jason,” ECA coach Dan Moore said. “I think it has everything to do with this feeling of limbo.”

Martindale said Curry’s best option might be a prep school post-grad team to develop more, to be seen and to get the kind of offers he wants.

Johnson has an offer from Division II Post University in Connecticut, but that’s it. Martindale said St. Bonaventure, Oral Roberts and Ball State in Division I have shown interest as has Division II Saginaw Valley State. Tolliver has interest from Division II and III, NAIA and junior college coaches but no offers.

Before coming to Springfield this year, McCullough coached Johnson and McComb at Thurgood Marshall as well as Chanze Amerson, who played this past year at Dunbar.

“All of these young men who haven’t been offered are starting to scratch their heads a bit now that the season’s over and nothing’s really coming in,” McCullough said. “It’s disheartening, it’s hurtful, it keeps me up at night, wondering what’s next for these young men.”

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