Saturday, January 24, 2009

Recruiting Process

Recruiting HS basketball players has never been an exact science. In the past college coaches did great research and watched players enough to gain a great understanding of a players basketball ability, attitude, desire, grades, and even personal background. Unfortunately the current rules limit the times a coaching staff can visit and watch potential players due to NCAA regulations.

Because of this players are recognized and identified more through AAU/Travel Teams and summer travel tournaments and camps than actual HS teams. They are also identified through HS basketball scouting services run by very nice people who often never played basketball or coached. They are mostly great fans who love the game and as a hobby might have started by just following the HS game and tournaments. Nothing wrong with this but coaches need to understand the importance of doing their own research. The problem is many very good players go under recruited because of the dependency of these reports that are not always accurate and definitely not inclusive based on missing so many kids who do not play with the teams that actually travel to Vegas, California, Florida, and other parts of the United States where the better funded and better known rec/AAU teams play during the non HS season.

Many services rank players as early as 7th grade. I have seen so many kids ranked early who have gone on to have less than distinguished college careers. I do not think those young men have anything to be ashamed at, but the scouting services do because of the pressure put on these young guys. How do you know who is the best 7th grader in America? Maybe they can say the best 7th grader in certain towns, on certain travel programs, but certainly not in America. But this happens all the way up to kids rising senior year in HS. I have seen rankings make and break players. If a kid does not travel in the summer with a GOOD program such as: the NJ Playez, New Heights, Va. Squires, LI Panthers, Metro Hawks, Riverside Church, Newark Rams, DC Assault, Boo Williams, DC Blue Devils, Sam Rhines, BABC, Atlanta Celtics, and others it is very difficult to get noticed. That's why many kids go under the radar of college coaches. Even the scouting services are more involved with these programs than those who are less known.

There are those who have been running scouting services for years who are really on point more than others. I love the work of local guys like Ed Butler, Steve Keller, Russ Blake, and definitely Tom Konchalski. But even they have been wrong and can not see every player enough to always get it right. In fact I still laugh at the stories about Mike O' Koran from Jersey City and Hudson Catholic if I remember right. I heard from many current and ex college coaches that Tom, who really knows his stuff and is a GREAT GUY, ranked O' Koran as a D2 or D3 type player. Fortunately Dean Smith thought otherwise lol. If Tom can miss a few so can others.

On the college front. Once one team gets involved another from the same conference will get involved without even seeing the player perform. I still remember being on a flight to a school visit with a player and the team playing the school that the player was visiting got on at a stopover. The Head Coach noticed and the next week had an assistant at the kids game based on seeing him on the way to visit a competitor. The odd thing is the new school had been contacted but had no interest prior to seeing the kid on the plane. Common question often asked is "Who Else Is Recruiting Him" when they get a referral or name of a prospect. Very few watch for themselves and most go on first impression more than doing a longer evaluation. Some, including guys like Al Skinner, really depend on what they see more than the scouting services. But they do use the services to get a list of who to see. But sometimes it just pays to get out and see for your self. Somewhere in America is the next Karl Malone, Charles Oakley, Steve Nash, David West (who wanted to attend Wake Forest so bad), Rick Mahorn and others who can really play the game at the highest level but are being under recruited despite playing on travel teams.

So teams that have needs, and are not recognized as elite programs, and lack all the things needed to attract the so called elite recruits, and are not in the cheating game to get players, need to get out and see for themselves who is available to meet their needs. If a team needs a great PG they will be up against great programs to gain the services of such players because a true great PG is hard to get. But honestly passing point guards are far and few between. It is like a lost art. The new thing is combo guards and scoring point guards. It is also hard to get great centers, and forwards. And great means program changers not just freshmen starters. I honestly feel when it comes to regular guards there are plenty including many none of us know about. I also feel a good combo guard at Akron could be a good guard at most places. But a good Forward at Akron might not do as well at other places. It is a bigger difference in strength and skills for big guys than guards on the various levels of division 1 basketball. But again guards who can play can play with opportunity and confidence!

Now about me saying certain kids can play. I know JR Inman can play and so does those who really follow the game. Look at the combined SHU and RU posts on the SHU board. Almost every post says the starting line-up should include JR Inman. All he did was start as a freshmen on a team with a winning record, make the BE All Rookie Team, Make the Freshmen All American Team, Lead the team in scoring in other years, and start at Rutgers for 3 seasons. Not too bad to me. And surely nothing to hang his head about despite folks turning on him and saying he is not a BE player. What has happened is he has lost his confidence and has not developed as he might have at other places. Some of this is his fault, and some is the fault of the coaching staff. As far as FIG is concerned I was always a JR Inman fan and still am. I also like Farmer and have since he was a 9th grader at St. Augustine Prep. When it comes to Shayle Keating folks love throwing his name at me and I love it because I am sooooooo proud of him! Yes I thought he should have played because Rutgers needed a PG who at least passed the ball. I never said he was the best player or should start except as a way to wake the RU Team up. I just thought he could have given RU some minutes and he did on occasion. I thought he had game but was not respected by many because of his walk-on status. The PG position is very important to the success of a college program. I still remember Lou Carnessecca starting PGs who were nowhere as talented as the rest of the team because they made plays and got everyone involved without feeling they had to shoot and score. Without a true leader and distributor, life in the BE will always be tough.

In conclusion I again point out Javae Gilchrist and his ability to play the game well. He might be a 2 or 3 star guy on reports if he has even been seen. But I know talent and this kid has talent. He is the type of kid who will go under the radar and emerge one day as a very good talent and folks will wonder how he was not recruited by certain schools. And for the record I have seen him 3 times, and before watching him I did not even know him. But I did just find out he was MVP in the 2007 Indian Hills Christmas Tournament when he played for Queen of Peace and his teammate from Queen of Peace is a current red shirt scholarship player at Providence of the Big East. This kid just was not involved enough this past few summers with the right teams to become recognized. Put him on the Metro Hawks, Playez, etc. and he would be highly recruited. All he does is make people around him better by keeping them involved and on their toes. And when you can get 20 assists in a game as a 6 ft 2 and growing 17 year old point guard, you are indeed special. Special enough for at least 2 D1 programs to say he most likely is too good for them to waste time recruiting but they would take him in a heartbeat if he could sign today.

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