Is There a ‘First-Mover’ Advantage in College Basketball Recruiting?

From an economics perspective, a first-mover advantage is when a company is the first to enter a given market and then reaps the benefits from its move.

And in the world of college basketball recruiting, such an approach can be a hit-or-miss investment that may require a high school player’s profile to stay under the radar to the point that the blue bloods stay away.

What happens when a school is the first to offer an elite high school basketball prospect a scholarship?

We dug through online recruiting rankings to find out.

Using data from the 247Sports Composite rankings, just eight top-100 players in the 2018 recruiting class enrolled at the school that extended them their first reported scholarship offer.

Seven players that were ranked among the top 100 last year weren’t included in the study because they ultimately didn’t attend college or they didn’t have the order of their reported scholarship offers listed on their player profiles on 247Sports.

The eight players whose schools were the beneficiaries of reportedly offering each player his first scholarship included just one five-star prospect, Maryland center Jalen Smith, who was ranked No. 16 in last year’s recruiting class.

The complete list is below.

Player 247Sports Composite Ranking Commitment Number of Reported Offers (per 247Sports) In-State?
Jalen Smith No. 16 Maryland 9 Yes
Brandon Williams No. 34 Arizona 7 No
Courtney Ramey No. 43 Texas 23 No
Gerald Liddell No. 49 Texas 13 Yes
Daniel Oturu No. 50 Minnesota 8 Yes
Cormac Ryan No. 68 Stanford 11 No
Derek Culver No. 84 West Virginia 5 No
Foster Loyer No. 96 Michigan State 7 Yes


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The average ranking of the eight players was No. 55, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings.

Four of the eight players committed to an in-state school, including Smith, who was a Maryland fan growing up, and five of them had fewer than 10 reported scholarship offers.

That could suggest that local players who have smaller-scale recruitments – compared to, say, former North Carolina forward Nassir Little who had 37 reported offers – and project to be three or four-year college players might be more likely to commit to the school that offers them their first scholarship than their higher-ranked, out-of-state counterparts.

The top 15 recruits in the 2018 recruiting class received an average of 18.3 offers, according to data from 247Sports. Just three of them attended an in-state school – as nationally elite prospects their recruitments typically expanded well beyond state or regional lines.

The highest-rated 2019 prospect who has committed to the school that offered him his first scholarship is Arizona point guard signee Nico Mannion, the No. 11 recruit in this year’s class, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings.

Being the first school to offer an eventual top-100 recruit, especially one who’s based out West, isn’t uncharted water for the Wildcats.

According to data from 247Sports, 59 different schools were responsible for offering the first reported scholarship to the 93 top-100 players examined from last year’s recruiting class and Arizona was among the schools who struck first the most often.

Texas led all schools with six “first offers,” according to 247Sports, followed by Penn State (5), Arizona (4), Maryland (4) and Massachusetts (4).

The Longhorns landed two players to whom they extended a “first offer,” while the Wildcats and Terrapins received one such commitment. The Nittany Lions and Minutemen both whiffed on their four attempts.

Even though Penn State is listed as the first school to offer Cam Reddish (Duke), David McCormack (Kansas), Eric Ayala (Maryland), Noah Locke (Florida) and Jermaine Harris (Rhode Island), it lost out on each player – almost every time to bigger, better and more history-rich programs.

Clearly, program stature matters, too.

Penn State has enrolled just two top-100 recruits during the modern recruiting era, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings, and both of those prospects enrolled in 2016.

One of them, Lamar Stevens, barely cracked the top 100 at No. 98.

UMass has actually landed more top-100 recruits in the last decade and a half than Penn State. The Minutemen have had five top-100 commits, but three were between 2003 and 2009, so it’s not like UMass has been regularly enrolling elite high school players, either.

If you see that your school is the first to offer a highly regarded prospect in the 2021 or 2022 recruiting classes this summer, prepare yourself for a two or three-year recruitment that is more likely than not to end in the player committing elsewhere down the road.

However, if your favorite team is a power conference program (but not a blue blood – they often operate at a higher level on the recruiting trail) and the recruit lives in the state and doesn’t project to be a one-and-done talent, then keep your fingers crossed because that’s a recruiting recipe that’s worked out for programs in the past.

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