High school junior Cole P. Anderson has worked for years to improve his game in the hopes of joining an elite men’s basketball program like Harvard’s. But as it shuts down sports nationwide, the coronavirus outbreak has disrupted his and many other athletes’ plans.
Anderson, who has communicated with Harvard’s coaching staff about prospectively playing for its program, will not be able to tour Harvard’s campus or meet with Harvard players and coaches this spring due to a rule passed earlier this month by the National Collegiate Athletics Association that prohibits all in-person recruiting until April 15 due to the public health crisis.
The Fresno, Calif. native said not being able to visit Harvard makes it difficult for him to know what it would be like to attend the College.
“It’s hard for me because Harvard’s so far away from where I live, so I don’t have really an idea of what it’s like there,” he said.
As a result of the NCAA’s rule, this spring thousands of high school athletes across the country will not tour campuses or meet with coaches — information-gathering events that help student-athletes decide where they want to go to further their academic and athletic careers.
Though prospective student-athletes go through Harvard’s admission process in the fall of their senior year of high school, many settle on a dream program months in advance.
Another high school junior who has communicated with Harvard men’s basketball, who requested anonymity because of the confidential nature of the recruiting process, said the moratorium on in-person recruiting does not affect his desire to play basketball at Harvard.
The student said he would like to attend a college that is both academically rigorous and athletically competitive. Despite the missed chance to visit Cambridge this spring, he said he does not need to go on an official visit to know that Harvard boasts strong academics as well as one of the top basketball programs in the Ivy League.
Still, recruiting visits can have value. Harvard women’s basketball coach Kathy T. Delaney-Smith said she believes athletes who have joined her program valued in-person recruiting events.
“They care about the name of Harvard, but they care more about the relationships that their instincts tell them they’re gonna have with the coaching staff and with players and that’s not going to be easy for them to figure that out,” she said.
Delaney-Smith called recruiting during the global pandemic “the great frontier.”
“There’s a lot of unknowns,” she said. “From our vantage point of having to evaluate them, we know who we want. It’s their job to figure out the differences between all their choices. And that vehicle’s been taken away.”
Delaney-Smith said her program is coming up with new ways to connect with recruits. The team unveiled a social media campaign that spotlights different aspects of the program each day, including “Takeover Tuesdays” where student-athletes post videos capturing a day in their life to the team’s official Instagram account. Delaney-Smith also said she has recently spoken on the phone with all of her recruits and is considering conducting virtual home visits on Zoom.
Some recruits are also trying to familiarize themselves with different schools from afar. Anderson said he is researching different schools’ programs and their student life online.
Since the pandemic has brought nearly all athletic competitions across the world to a halt, Anderson added that he hopes he can showcase his talent in front of scouts again soon.
“Everyone works all year round just for this certain time period of their career, and this is going to be my last [Amateur Athletic Union] season to really prove myself to all these coaches,” he said. “So I’m just hoping that I can keep — that I can get on the court one last time and show what I’ve been working for.”
—Staff writer Ema R. Schumer can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @emaschumer.