As Citadel guard Marshall Harris sprints to the wing, assistant coach Rob Burke barks instructions.
“I want to see you get squared up!” Burke yells. “And I want to see you stroke the shot!”
Harris does exactly that, draining a 3-pointer during a steamy summer workout at McAlister Field House.
Last summer, such a workout — supervised by coaches — would have been against NCAA rules. But thanks to a reform package passed by the NCAA in January, college basketball coaches are now allowed to spend eight hours per week with their teams while the players are in summer school.
Six of those weekly hours are restricted to weight-lifting and conditioning. But for two hours per week, coaches are allowed to work with players on the court, supervising anything from individual skill work to full-scale scrimmages.
In previous years, coaches were not allowed to attend on-court sessions in the summer, and had to leave conditioning work to strength coaches. It’s a change Division I coaches pushed hard for, said Citadel coach Chuck Driesell.
“To me, it’s a no-brainer and I think it’s a great move by the NCAA,” Driesell said. “We are here to try to get better as players, and the best time to do that is in the summer.”
But the summer sessions aren’t just about developing skills. They also are about building relationships, as transfers in Division I have reached an all-time high — about 425 players changed schools this offseason. More time together can help coaches and players get to know each other better, Driesell said.
Also, studies have shown that athletes who attend summer school graduate at a higher rate than those who don’t.
“You get to spend time with them and communicate with them,” Driesell said. “And if we are not allowed to do that, somebody will be doing it. It’s just better for programs all around for the NCAA to let the coaches they are going to play for work with them.”
Incoming freshmen are allowed to participate, and new Citadel players Rae Robinson (from Goose Creek High School), Matt Van Scyoc and Janeil Jenkins have been working out with veterans such as all-Southern Conference forward Mike Groselle.
“It’s a great advantage for the freshmen,” Driesell said. “Other- wise, you are waiting until the first day of school to see what their strengths and weaknesses are. This way, we really get to zoom in on their skill level and their understanding of the game. We can let them see how we play and what we expect.”
Groselle said the supervised workouts help players avoid bad habits that can crop up during summer pickup games.
“In pickup games, people start going one on one or taking dumb shots,” he said. “They stop playing defense. This way, coaches can tell us what to work on so we’re not just guessing in the dark.”
It’s up to individual coaches to decide how to use the two hours of court time. Driesell and his assistants are working players in four-man groups for one intense hour at a time.
“The hour is jam-packed,” Groselle said. “They start the clock and for 60 minutes straight, you are working. There’s no standing around.”
When not on the court this summer, it’s a good bet that coaches are spending more time on their cellphones. Another rule change passed by the NCAA — for men’s basketball only — removes restrictions on how many phone calls and text messages coaches can make or send to high school juniors and seniors. Coaches now can also send private messages on Twitter and on Facebook.
Previously, Division I coaches were allowed to contact a recruit just once a month between June 15 after their sophomore year and July 31 after their junior year. Starting on August 1 after a recruit’s junior year, coaches were allowed just two contacts per week. Text messages were forbidden.
Again, the idea is that increased communication between coaches and players can foster better relationships and cut down on the number of unhappy players who end up transferring.
The change also means NCAA enforcement staff can spend less time counting illegal text messages. For example, Baylor was placed on NCAA probation after its men’s and women’s basketball programs sent 738 impermissible texts and 528 improper phone calls in a 21/2-year period.
“(We) recognized the evolving nature of communication with students as well as the importance of building solid relationships with prospective student-athletes,” said Missouri athletic director Mike Alden, the chair of the Division I Leadership Council that approved the rule change. “It appeared that we had previously regulated ourselves away from that relationship-building with these young people, unintentionally allowing third parties greater access than our coaches.”