LAS VEGAS — Sin City had long been the epicenter of high-level amateur basketball. Hundreds of club teams descended upon the city every July, coaches from nearly every Division I program following to watch them.
Apparently, the sin surrounding the events in Las Vegas became too much. Spurred by a federal investigation into shady recruiting practices, the NCAA altered its recruiting calendar to just two live periods with club-level teams.
The changes hit the Las Vegas tournaments hard this summer.
Tournaments held in late July, once part of the live recruiting period, were played without college coaches in attendance. The one big Las Vegas tournament held during the live recruiting period in early July, the Las Vegas Classic, was lightly attended by college coaches because it was held at same time as the shoe company finals played on the other side of the country.
“Las Vegas was great because there were so many basketball people and players all over the city,” Arkansas coach Eric Musselman said. “I imagine some people aren’t happy about it.”
The NCAA altered its recruiting calendar in the wake of the federal investigation that revealed a pay-to-play scheme between shoe companies and top-tier recruits. According to the investigation, some of the backdoor dealings happened in Las Vegas. Thousands of players were spread across the city every July, making it all but impossible for the NCAA to keep track of shady dealings in hotels, gyms, wherever.
The new recruiting calendar, among numerous policy changes made by the NCAA, sought to give the organization more control over the recruiting process. It still included two live recruiting periods for club teams — in April and July — but added high school tournaments and NCAA-run camps at four sites across the country.
The new calendar left some Las Vegas tournaments out of the loop and forced the Las Vegas Classic to stream its games so coaches could watch remotely from the South, where the Nike-run Peach Jam, Under Armour Finals and Adidas Summer Championships were held.
The Las Vegas Classic still drew thousands of players, but many standouts — and the coaches recruiting them — were across the country at the shoe-sponsored events.
“I enjoyed playing in Las Vegas,” Kentucky commit Devin Askew said while playing for Mater Dei High School at a Phoenix tournament this summer. “But I guess it’s not going to be the same anymore.”