Had a great lunch on the road recently with Josh Schertz, the highly successful head coach at Lincoln Memorial University, a Division II school in Tennessee. One of the great things about being on the road is the different people you get to spend time with and learn from through conversation.
We were talking about recruiting at the different levels – having been a Big East assistant and a D3 head coach, and Josh having been a lower D1 assistant and a D2 head coach. Josh made a great point about the importance of evaluation at the D2 and lower D1 levels.
At the D3 level evaluation really wasn’t as important. Most of the evaluations were done for me. We had to wait until the D2 and lower D1 schools made their evaluations, deciding who was a scholarship player and who was not. Essentially they were deciding who was a scholarship player and who wasn’t. We had to have a presence with those kids that we thought might slip through the cracks so that we could get involved when they realized they weren’t getting a scholarship. We also didn’t really have to make decisions on kids. If we were recruiting 3 point guards who we liked, we would just continue to recruit them all. We weren’t offering them a scholarship or getting them to sign anything, so we didn’t really have to declare in any way who we thought was better. We just recruited a lot of good players and by the end of the spring we could usually form that into a solid recruiting class.
At the highest levels of college basketball, and in some respects the mid-major level, relationships are probably more important than evaluating. Everyone has a pretty good idea who the top 100 players in the country are, or at least who is in that mix. A lot of the mid-majors are recruiting the guys who fall just below that line, and most of them get involved with the same kids. Granted, you always have to evaluate and maybe find a kid who can play up a level or who fits your system. There is great value in finding an overlooked kid who you know is good enough to help you. But it’s more important to have the relationships with the players and the coaches involved with them, because most people agree on which kids have enough talent. There seems to be a lot more congestion in recruiting at the higher levels.
At the D2 level you are deciding who a scholarship player is and who isn’t. At the lower levels of D1, you are deciding who is a Division I player and who isn’t. There generally isn’t as much consensus, and there is a very fine line between a good D2 player and a good D1 player. That makes your ability to evaluate very important. At the lower levels you are less likely to get someone who just steers a player your way because of a relationship. If a kid can play at a higher level he’s likely going to play at that level. It’s evaluating those kids to find the ones that you know can play at your level, or who the higher level schools might miss on, that really makes a difference. The emphasis is more on evaluations than it is on relationships.
Relationships and evaluating are important components of recruiting at any level. But if you think about it, relationships are probably more crucial at the higher levels. Many coaches are simply out on the road to be seen by recruits, rather than to evaluate. Evaluating is more important at the lower scholarship levels because you are determining who is a Division I or simply a scholarship player. You can’t simply be a presence at the games of the guys you are recruiting. You have to closely evaluate what they are capable of and at what level they can be successful. Your ability to evaluate is extremely important.