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SoCalHoops Recruiting News

SoCalHoops Recruiting FAQ--Part I:
When To Play?--(Apr. 4, 2001)

Each year there's a new crop of parents and players and each spring we are asked the same questions over and over again about recruiting:  When does college recruiting really take place?  Should I participate in a spring league or with a travel team?  Won't it be enough for college coaches to see me with my high school team?  Do I really need to play basketball in the summer? And so on and so on. . . .

Roseanne Roseanadana would probably say, "For someone from New Chersey, you sure do ask a lot of questions. . ."   But in truth and in fact, these are not unreasonable questions, and parents and players need answers.  No one is born with an intuitive sense for what college recruiting is all about,  and we don't profess to have all of the answers. . . It's a very complicated subject for everyone, but one which is capable of being made simpler by realizing a few simple truths: 

1.  There are way too many players for not enough scholarship spots;

2. Not everyone who plays high school ball will play NCAA Division I basketball;

3. Not everyone who currently plays high school basketball is talented enough to play Division I college ball; and

4.  Division I isn't the only thing out there. There are many other options besides Division I, including D-II, D-III, NAIA, NCCAA, and Junior College, to say nothing of post-graduate prep schools.  In other words, D-I might or might not happen, but there's a lot more out there than Duke and Arizona.  Really, there is. . . .

Ok, you've read this far.  Obviously you're interested in this subject.  Maybe you're a player, or you're a parent interested in finding out how your son or daughter can continue to play in college.  What to do? Where should Johnny play after the high school season ends?  Indeed, should Johnny play at all after the "regular" season  ends?   Doesn't a kid ever need to rest?. . . .

Over the years we've heard these,  and many other similar questions from parents and players who want to know what college recruiting is about and what they should be doing to stay in the game.   We'll be brutally honest right up-front:   We don't have the answers.  No one does.  And anyone who says he does is either a liar or a fool.  

We do know a little, probably just enough to be dangerous.   So if danger is what you seek, read on. . . And since we're on the verge of this year's Spring "Open/Contact" period, which starts this Friday, now is as good a time as any to shed whatever (mis)information we can. . .

Q: When does college recruiting take place.

A:  Year-round.  Seriously, colleges recruit players year-round.   But that really doesn't answer the question of when college coaches can come out to view a player they may be interested in, or when they can speak with players.  The answer to the part about when they can view players (not talking to them--we'll leave the calling to another FAQ article) is found in the NCAA recruiting calendars.  And this year there's a pretty significant change to what the historical summer recruiting period used to look like.    Here are the "evaluation" or "open" dates this year:

The Spring "Contact" period is from April 6, 2001 through April 20, 2001 [except for four days, i.e., April 9 through April 12, which is a "dead period"--no contact allowed].

From April 21 through July 7, is considered a "Quiet Period" (actually it's two separate "quiet periods" but that's getting too technical for most people).

After the spring & early summer quiet periods, then we're into the summer evaluation.  Big change this year:

Summer 1st Evaluation Period: July 8, 2001 through July 14, 2001

Summer Dead Period: July 15, 2001 through July 24, 2001

Summer 2nd Evaluation Period: July 25, 2001 through July 31, 2001

This year, the NCAA has thrown in a 10 day "dead" period in the middle of the evaluation.  No one really knows what effect, if any, this will have.  But one thing we do know is that it will cut down the number of opportunities coaches will have this summer to evaluate players. Whether it will stop kids from playing is another thing.  The internet is a wonderful tool, and there will be events that will continue and run during this "dead" period, including some of the best camps, so our own personal opinion is that many kids will continue playing with travel teams right on through this new "dead" period, and coaches will keep in contact by using the internet. . . but all that remains to be seen. 

That's basically it for this summer.   Beyond the summer, the recruiting calendar for 2001-2002 will look like this (click the link for the NCAA Official Recruiting Calendar).  In summary (if you don't want to look at the calendar) there will be a "contact" period from September 9, 2001 through October 14 and then,  starting in November through March 16, 2002,  coaches will have 70 days to pick and choose when and where they want to see players with their high school teams.  We won't bother with next spring for now, because its essentially the same (i.e., 21 days, with an interlude of 5 days for Easter/Final Four).

Q:  Do I need to play with a travel team, or can I just play with my high school team? 

Well, that all depends on who you are and what you want to accomplish.  Some players are good enough that college coaches will find them no matter where or with whom they play. Chances are if you are 7'-0" and can run, jump and effectively block shots like Tyson Chandler, and are even reasonably coordinated, college coaches will know about you no matter where you play.  It's hard to hide someone who is 7'-0" and it's even harder to hide when you're that tall and can really play the game.  Of course what you do with all that height in the "off-season" (a misnomer if ever there was one) will largely determine at what level you are able to eventually rise. . . but that's a subject for a different FAQ.  

First,  take this as a given:  Recruiting is about getting seen and known.  How you as a player should go about that is subject to much debate.  But ultimately, a player has to be motivated enough to want to to play the sport beyond the high school level.  And several other things have to fall into place for that to happen:  First, the player must be physically capable of competing with and against the players who compete at the next level.  Look around at the guys who are currently playing Division I.  Really look at them.  Get online and look at the top 100 teams' rosters.  See who is playing and how big, how fast and how strong they are.  Then ask yourself if you are fast enough, big enough, strong enough or talented enough to defend the players who play your position at the next level.   If the answer is a truthful "yes" then you can move on.  If the answer is "no" or "I don't know" then you've got some further searching (or work) to do before you set your sights on Division I.  More than half the process is about being honest with yourself about not just what you want but about what you might realistically achieve.  You need to know where you are now, so you can really chart the course to where you want to be.

Now, having said all that, the second thing a player must understand is that the decision about whether or not he or she gets to play at the next level is not up to the player, at least not entirely.    For the most part, it's up to a college coach to make the decision to give you that opportunity.  And before anyone is going to give you that opportunity, you must make a strong case,   and demonstrate, at a bare minimum, that the coach who gives you that golden opportunity won't get himself fired for doing so.  Really. 

College coaches don't get paid the kind of salaries they make to produce teams that get laughed at, or worse, teams that lose.  College coaches who don't win get fired.  Period.   No one wants to be unemployed, least of all a college basketball coach. . . Looking at it in a more positive vein, coaches will ask, "Can this player help me win?"  

Actually, there are two sub-questions which are constantly asked by college coaches when talking about players which all fall under the major rubric of "Can this player help me win?"  They are:  1) "Will he qualify?" (i.e., does the player have the necessary SAT/GPA combo to get initial eligibility as a freshman)  and (2) "Can he defend?"   A negative to either one of these questions doesn't mean that your basketball career post-high school playing days are over, but it does mean that you aren't likely to be playing at the Division I level, and JUCO or D-II, D-III and NAIA might be more appropriate.  Which is not a bad thing either, since we're on the subject:   If you are like most players, chances are you'd rather play somewhere instead of sitting on the pine for four years at a high-profile school where you'll never play.  Of course that's not true for everyone, and every program needs guys who will devote themselves to practicing with and against the first-stringers, but again, self-assessment and honesty are pretty important in this process.

Ok, so you're not 7'-0" tall.   You're lumped in somewhere with the great mass of players in high school, meaning that you're somewhere in the great median of statistical norms, i.e., somewhere between 5'-10" and 6'-2".  Of course, you've been all-everything at your high school.  Is that enough?  Again, it depends on who you are and what you're trying to accomplish.  

Understanding recruiting is a bit like understanding (or imagining) what it will be like trying to get your first job out of college.   Everyone who applies will have similar credentials:  They all play basketball; they're all "stars" and starters on their high school teams; most are decent to fair students, nice kids from good homes. So, ask yourself this:  What do you have to offer your prospective employer (college coach) that he can't get somewhere else?   What makes you unique?  How do you distinguish yourself from the rest of the guys just like you who are playing high school basketball?   The answers to these questions are not simple.  What you need to do though, first and foremost, is to stand out from the rest.  You need to first grab the coach's attention, somehow, some way.  How do you do that?  Ahh, that's the million-dollar question. . . .  

But we digress. . . this all started out with the simple question "Do I need to play on a travel team or during the summer?"    To answer that question, again, requires a healthy dose of self-analysis and honesty.  If you decide you want to take a shot at playing basketball beyond your high school years, then you have to figure out how you're going to "land the job." Whether a player "needs" to participate on a travel team or "needs" to play summer ball, is quite literally unanswerable in the abstract.  

All we can say is that the empircal evidence we've observed seems to suggest that it certainly helps, and it does so in a number of very tangible ways.

It's a crowded field out there, and there are a lot of people of have the same dream, i.e., to play college basketball.  The NCAA has developed a new chart for comparison purposes, called "Probability of Competing".   The chart shows what the percentage chances are that a high school senior competing in a particular sport will ultimately play at the NCAA level.  By the way, if you haven't already invested too much time in basketball, you might want to think about ice hockey. . . much better odds.

Seriously though, the NCAA now estimates that there are approximately 549,500 high school boys playing basketball across the country.   Approximately 157,000 of them are seniors.  Across all the NCAA divisions (I, II and III) there are approximately 4,500 freshman roster spots.  If you consider just division I, that number probably drops to something closer to about 1,100.  That means that there's less than a 3% chance that a high school senior will wind up competing at any NCAA level after graduation, and the number is about 1% when considering Division I.

We don't mean to beat anyone over the head with this, but the reality is that it's a crowded field, coaches are being pressured from all angles to win, win, win at virtually any cost (if they don't, they get fired; if they are only mediocre, the alumni get really pissed, and people start talking about buyouts, and that gets everyone edgy, including the coach and his wife or girlfriend, and we all know what happens when wives and girlfriends get edgy. . . it's not pretty).  The bottom line is that if you are a player (a) it's a crowded field, (b) coaches are driven to distraction by pressures they can't control, and their future employment depends on the talents, and in many cases the whims of a 17 or 18 year old, and (c) those same coaches have very little opportunity to really evaluate a player, get to know them, and learn what a player really can and can't do.  Anyone who says they can tell in five minutes whether a player is D-I material is either a liar or a fool, or both.  But the reality is that college recruiting is pretty much the domain of liars and fools, and in the real world, a player usually only gets about five minutes to really impress a college coach. And that my friends, is the sad truth about 90% of the recruiting world.

Of course, most good coaches don't take only 5 minutes to evaluate a player. Most will carefully and painstakingly watch a player over the course of one, two or more seasons, both with his high school team and with a club team.   Coaches don't want to make mistakes either, and their jobs depend upon recruiting the right kind of players.  And that takes time, and a coach needs every opportunity to see someone he may be interested in recruiting.

So, the short answere is that you don't need to be a genius to figure it out:  Obviously, the better alternative is to play where and when a player will be getting the maximum exposure.  Of course, again, the real answer to spring, summer and fall travel teams and exposure events comes down to  what you, as a player or parent are trying to accomplish.   But in our view, it's foolish not to participate when the opportunity presents itself.

Of course this also begs the question of what type of program a player should participate in, and that topic is really beyond the scope of this article.  Bottom line:  Recruiting, at least in the real world,  is not all hype, its not all marketing.  There has to be substance, and for a college coach to see that substance, you need to be where the coaches are; you need to be seen at the right times and in the right places.  Unless you are extremely talented or your high school coach is extremely well-connected, our view is that it only makes sense to play when and where college coaches will have an opportunity to see you play.

Next up:  All-Star Contests: How many events can a high school senior participate in?

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