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What is the July evaluation period, and why should I care?

Recruiting season is in full swing now. It's chaos.

The face of evil. I mean recruiting. The face of recruiting.
The face of evil. I mean recruiting. The face of recruiting.
Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

If you find recruiting to be tedious - as trying to discern the direction the mind of the average teenager and what might be influencing it can often be - then you can be forgiven for not being up on the various nomenclature of NCAA basketball's recruiting rules. If that's the state in which you find yourself, you may be wondering what the July evaluation period is and why there's a lot of chatter on Twitter about it. So was I. I googled it so you don't have to.

The first step - assuming you are all at least passingly familiar with the term "July" - is defining an evaluation period. Fortunately, the NCAA has done that for us. An evaluation period is basically a time for coaches to go watch players - I mean, "prospective student-athletes" - play. Coaches can call or write to kids during this time, and they can also host visits, but they are not allowed to talk to the players or their parents anywhere off the college's campus. This turns into a weird ballet of coaches showing up to watch kids play and making sure the kids see them there without actually interacting with the players.

This goes on for three long weekends in July. On July 6-10, 13-17, and 20-24 beginning at 5pm on the Wednesday and ending at 5pm on the Sunday, coaches can watch players play. With high schools obviously being out of season, it falls to NCAA-approved events to provide the platform upon which these guys perform. The .pdf on the NCAA's website listing these events is 53 pages long, but the events themselves will attract vastly different levels of players. Generally speaking, the high-major guys gravitate to the events put on by the big shoe companies, and the heavy hitters of recruiting are found in their wake.

These sanctioned events have a monopoly on player evaluation in competition in July, but they only charge coaches minimal admission fees. Where they make their money is selling tournament packets that have (often inaccurate) information on teams and players. Most events require at least one coach per staff to purchase a packet, often for hundreds of dollars. If that sounds like borderline extortion, well... welcome to NCAA basketball, where everyone except the actual players is finding a way to get paid.

So there it is in a nutshell. Maybe your favorite coach will be at the Peach Jam or something, duking it out with Calipari and Pitino to make sure his school is still on the list of the top targets. On the other hand, there's also value in sneaking off to a lower-profile event and maybe picking up momentum on a kid before he blows up. Basically the whole thing is kind of a circus and we're all along for the ride until pen hits paper on that LOI.