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The way-out world of baseball commitments

  • Published Wednesday, August 28, 2013, at 12:52 p.m.
  • Updated Thursday, August 29, 2013, at 10:36 a.m.

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Wichita State coach Todd Butler knows how to explain commitments from players in the class of 2015. It seems a little wacky — they can’t sign until November 2014 and won’t play until the 2016 season.

Butler opens his Internet browser, finds perfectgame.org and starts counting. Twenty-three of Perfect Game’s top 50 players in the class of 2015 are committed. No. 3 Kyle Molnar, a pitcher, is headed to UCLA and No. 4 Kyle Dean, an outfielder, to San Diego. In a perfect world, a college coach would get another year to evaluate players.

WSU received oral commitments from two pitchers entering their junior year this week — Circle’s Garrett Hutson and Heights lefty Keylan Killgore. NCAA rules prohibit Butler from discussing them. He can explain the trend toward earlier and earlier commitments. It started on the West Coast, he said. The Area Code Games started in 1987 in California and the showcase tournament era of recruiting began.

“If you’re not doing it now, you’re going to fall behind,” Butler said. “Fifteen years ago, kids would take their visits…and make decisions in October, right before the November signing period. Now, kids are taking unofficial visits as juniors and sophomores in high school and looking at schools and making decisions much faster.”

This is new for Shocker fans. Butler is used to doing it this way from his time as an assistant coach at Arkansas. Recruiting is always about projecting how an athlete will develop and that skill is put to the test when evaluating someone during the summer before their junior year. By the time that athlete arrives on campus, much can change physically, mentally and academically.

“There’s a tremendous amount of projection,” Butler said. “For a pitcher, you’re looking for a deluxe arm and arm action and you’re trying to project 15 to 20 pounds on them. For the hitters, you’re looking for a physical player now, and they’re just starting to get in the weight room. When you see a good player, you can kind of have an idea how good they’re going to be in the next couple years.”

Recruiting can take on a momentum. Landing a premium arm such as Hutson, a pitcher likely to be a high draft pick after high school, can tell recruits two things: 1) Top players are coming to WSU and, 2) They better commit, or risk losing their slice of WSU’s 11.7 scholarships.

SHOCKERS AMONG THE SIX

Sean O’Mara, a senior center at Illinois’ Benet Academy visited WSU basketball earlier this month. O’Mara (6-foot-9, 240 pounds) is down to six schools, including new Missouri Valley Conference rival Loyola.

According to Joe Henricksen of the Chicago Sun-Times Hoops Report, Loyola and Xavier started recruiting O’Mara before the other schools. WSU, as well as Seton Hall, UMass and Wake Forest offered this summer.

Benet coach Gene Heidkamp said several Shocker attributes intrigue O’Mara. He wants to major in engineering. He likes WSU’s reputation for developing big men. The trip to the Final Four and Koch Arena are also important selling points.

“The atmosphere at Wichita State is well-known in Chicago,” Heidkamp said. “It’s a great environment to play in.”

Heidkamp describes O’Mara as a post player with excellent scoring and passing skills.

“He’s got a very good low-post game,” Heidkamp said. “He sees the floor very well out of the post. He can create shots out of the post, not only for himself, but for others.”

O’Mara appears to be a vital recruit for Loyola coach Porter Moser, who is trying to upgrade the talent to compete in the MVC.

“On paper, it would appear Loyola is up against it with the likes of teams in the Big East, ACC and a Wichita State program fresh off the Final Four.” Henricksen wrote. “Loyola, though, has hung in there, and Ramblers coach Porter Moser has been in on O’Mara long and hard over the past 18 months. Both Xavier and Loyola have been on O’Mara the longest, which the Hoops Report believes will make a difference in this one.”

THIS WEEK IN SHOCKER HISTORY

Wichita State defeated No. 10 Cal Poly 3-2 on Aug. 29, 2008, its highest-ranked victim in 33 seasons of volleyball. Later that day, WSU ended an 0-for-12 skid against Oklahoma in Norman to start 2-0 in the Nike Invitational. Emily Stockman totaled 31 kills and Lindsey Eckenrode added 24 in the two matches. “I’m surprised, yes, but at the same time I expected it,” Stockman said. “I think we definitely deserve to be ranked in the top 25 after we had an amazing season last year and now we beat Cal Poly.” The Shockers defeated Michigan State 3-1 the next day to win the tournament and start a season that ended with a 30-2 record.

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