Saturday, August 6 2022

With players now able to capitalize on their name, image and likeness (NIL) and transfer them without having to take a year off, it’s a whole new day for college basketball.

With the sea of ​​changes in college play comes a new regime to head the IU basketball program, and it’s easy to see how this new staff should be able to seize the opportunities in the sport.

The main question hanging over new head coach Mike Woodson after spending 40 years in the NBA made sense. Can he recruit? Woodson’s response the first time he was asked the question publicly seemed like a twist during his introductory press conference in late March.

“It wouldn’t be my first time recruiting, my first recruiting at college,” Woodson said. “We recruit all the time in the NBA. The year I coached the Atlanta Hawks when I was given this job, I had the youngest team in the history of the game and they were all college football rookies where you had to go out and play. background checks, medical checks, all kinds of things in terms of bringing in a player that you think can help build your program.

Even within six months, this response takes on a whole new meaning. Off the field, the college game is more like the NBA than ever, and it’s a world where Woodson is well positioned to thrive.

When Woodson said those words, we had just seen the start of the NCAA’s elimination of the season-long transfer requirement. The result has been over 1,700 transfer portal players and dozens of transfers in the Big Ten, including IU which will feature four new players who have adapted to other college programs.

“I think Coach Woodson fell into college basketball at the right time,” assistant coach Kenya Hunter told AJ Guyton on the House of Hoosier podcast this week. “It’s like the NBA, you just pick guys from different teams that you really like.”

Something else that has an NBA feel is the concept of players making money. Adopting the NIL rules over the summer doesn’t mean college players now earn a paycheck, but it does introduce an entirely new element to the sport. The Indiana and Woodson program both seem to be in a good position for success in this brave new world of the NIL.

Despite a recent lack of success on the court, the IU basketball program has one of the most iconic brands in the game, and it has consistently been listed by Forbes as one of the most valuable programs in terms of revenue. and profits. Now, this intangible brand asset is accessible to players to generate income, and it can be used by coaches as a recruiting tool.

“The NIL will definitely help,” Hunter told Guyton. “I think Indiana does a great job of being at the forefront of anything we can do to help our student athletes, and in doing so, it puts us in a position to recruit coaches to bring in the best players. that match our system. “

Bringing money-making players into the university locker room will not be without complications. For example, there will be a big difference in what each player does. It’s another aspect of the game that’s in Woodson’s wheelhouse of his NBA experience. Overall, significant NIL transactions will be merit-based, influenced by both on-court performance and off-court marketing.

While you’ve probably seen UI players make t-shirts or make one-off appearances before, bigger deals do happen. Most notably, forward Trayce Jackson-Davis signed an agreement to become a brand ambassador for Merchants Bank. The companies are very good at selling themselves and know the value of the IU basketball brand. Now these two variables are connected in a way that should be quite powerful for the program.

While Indiana staff can’t help negotiate NIL deals for players, they can talk to rookies about how their players are benefiting. Already, these conversations are well underway.

“Obviously with the NIL that influences the guys (rookies) in terms of some of the things that we’re able to present to them from previous guys who’ve done things,” Hunter said. “Basically that’s all we can say with the NIL, what’s happening to our players right now. There’s no promise of anything, but that’s what’s happening with our guys right now.

While a lot has changed with the college game over the past year, one thing remains the same – you need to build a cohesive team, not just a bunch of individuals. Without success on the ground, NIL opportunities will diminish and programs will become less attractive to potential transfers.

Now it will be more important than ever to decipher why a player is transferred, why they care about your schedule and how they will be influenced by outside pressures.

“It’s not just about collecting talent,” Hunter said. “It’s about bringing together the right guys who we think can build a relationship and who we think can play well for Coach Woodson. Just because you have talent doesn’t mean you’ll fit in properly. It’s always about doing our homework as assistant coaches and getting to know the players, the parents, the people around them to see if they’ll be a perfect fit.

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