For 40 days and 40 nights, beginning Monday, college basketball coaches will rain down upon the homes of the nation's top high school seniors.
It's recruiting season.
Under NCAA rules, coaches are allowed to visit the homes of prospects only between Sept. 1 and Oct. 10, or after the completion of the prospects' senior seasons.
Before Monday, recruitment of the Class of 1987 had been limited to letters and phone calls.
That means the nation's elite will spend the next 40 days smiling, listening attentively and offering coffee and cookies to groups of strange pitchmen trying to sell themselves and their schools to the wide-eyed prospect and his family.
"It's an important time," Judas Prada, an assistant coach at Loyola Marymount, said of the initial visitation period. "You get a chance to talk to the mom and dad face to face. It lays the groundwork as far as finding out where you stand."
With the advent three years ago of the early signing period, the preseason visitation period has taken on even greater importance. One week each fall--Nov. 12-19 this year--is set aside for prospects to sign letters of intent before their senior seasons.
If they don't sign early, they can't sign until April 8, 1987.
Several Valley players will be busy in the next six weeks, although none of them are expected to attract the attention from recruiters that Cleveland's Trevor Wilson did last year or Simi Valley's Don MacLean will next year.
According to Don Mead of the Irvine-based Western Basketball Prospect Scouting Service, about 15 Valley players can expect to be visited.
The Valley's top prospects, Mead said, are 6-5 Shelton Boykin of San Fernando, 6-5 Sean Davis of El Camino Real, 6-2 Kevin Franklin of Taft and 6-8 Gary Gray of Granada Hills.
Others who will be recruited, Mead said, include: 6-5 Kendell McDaniels and 6-3 Marcus Malone of Kennedy, 6-4 Steve Ward of Calabasas, 6-8 Jonathan Walker of Thousand Oaks, 6-3 Albert Fann of Cleveland, 6-0 Josh Oppenheimer of Notre Dame, 6-0 Mike Michelson of Hart, 6-5 Sam Puathasnonon of Granada Hills and 6-8 David Heckmann, 6-4 Paul Keenan and 6-0 Rick Welch of Westlake.
Gray will attract a lot of early attention because of his size, Mead said.
"In the early recruiting," Mead said, "the big kids get the most attention. Some of the other kids won't get recruited so hard until later on.
"Franklin and Davis, the recruiters are worried about their grades a little bit and they're guards, so they might not be recruited as actively as they will be later.
"Boykin, because he's such a very good athlete, will be recruited very hard early."
The initial visitation period can be a trying time for the coaches and the players.
Representatives from more than 20 schools have asked to visit Oppenheimer. Considering that each visit lasts about two hours, that's a lot of time devoted to listening to a sales pitch.
But, said USC Coach George Raveling, "it's a double-edged sword. It's a busy time for the coaches, too. I've got 26 visits scheduled in 31 days."
Boykin, who has lined up visits from about 10 schools, expects it to get a little boring after a while.
"You hear the same thing over and over," he said.
Said Prada: "A top prospect probably will be bored by it all because he's been recruited since he was a sophomore. I think this month is more exciting for a kid who's getting his first taste of recruiting. For the top kids, it's probably a pain in the butt."
Among the Valley's top prospects, only Gray and Franklin said they plan to sign early.
"I'm getting tired of the phone calls," said Gray, who expects to be visited by about 10 schools, including UC Santa Barbara, Washington State, Oregon, Arizona, Georgia Tech and Duke. "I want to sign early, so I can get the pressure off."
Franklin, too, said he is growing tired of the pressure.
He wants to sign early, he said, "so I can concentrate on the books and basketball. If you wait, the school can find a player with equal talent and you might have a hard time signing."
Will Boykin sign early?
"No, no, no, no," he said. "I want to see who's going where. And when I find a school I like, I want to see how many seniors they're going to be losing."
Davis won't sign early because "I want to wait to see what comes up," he said.
But even those who don't plan to sign early can expect a lot of company in the next few weeks.
It won't let up for 40 days.
SENIORS TO WATCH
PLAYER HT. SCHOOL Shelton Boykin 6-5 San Fernando Sean Davis 6-5 El Camino Real Albert Fann 6-3 Cleveland Kevin Franklin 6-2 Taft Gary Gray 6-8 Granada Hills David Heckmann 6-8 Westlake Paul Keenan 6-4 Westlake Marcus Malone 6-3 Kennedy Kendell McDaniels 6-5 Kennedy Mike Michelson 5-11 Hart Josh Oppenheimer 6-0 Notre Dame Sam Puathasnonon 6-5 Granada Hills Jonathan Walker 6-8 Thousand Oaks Steve Ward 6-4 Calabasas Rick Welch 6-0 Westlake