What is your process for evaluating talent?  It’s crucial to define what is important for you and what fits with your program.  You can do that by asking the right questions.

Whether evaluating potential players or your current players, come up with the questions that tell you what you need to know.  Here’s what I ask myself when I’m evaluating good players.

Is it natural?

Natural ability is the most important element in talent evaluation.  Does he make adjustments comfortably without slowing down?  Can he switch hands easily off the dribble when a defender cuts him off?  Does he change pace and change direction comfortably when needed?  If he looks like he’s really working hard to make adjustments, it’s not that natural to him.  The more natural ability, the better the player and the higher the ceiling.

How does he pass it?

A player at any position who is a good passer has a good feel for the game.  If he passes the ball at the right time it tells you two important things – he knows how to play and he’s unselfish.  I want both of those on my team and in the game.

How connected is he to his teammates?

A great player who is isolated from his teammates scares me.  Maybe he thinks he’s better than they are, maybe he’s just self-centered.  You can tell by the ease of their communication with one another.  Are they on the same level, or is their an alpha male thing going on?  A great player who can connect with his teammates is one you can win with.

Does he make his teammates better?

There are great players who are very productive, but they need the ball and they need space and get out of their way.  There are also great players who make their teammates better.  They find the open man, they make simple plays.  You can tell if their teammates are feeding off of the talent of the best player or if they are sitting around watching him play.  To me there is a significant difference in who I want on my team.

Does he communicate?

The best player doesn’t necessarily have to communicate.  He can just go out there and be the best player.  But if he communicates with his teammates he’s both engaged and selfless.  Good players get out of their own head and think about more than just themselves.  How much they communicate shows you their ability to do that.

What type of effort does he give defensively?

The defensive side of the ball shows you if he’s willing to do the hard stuff.  Most good players don’t need to be great defensively, they’ll usually be on the floor anyway.  His commitment on the defensive side of the ball will give you a good look at how much winning really matters to him.

What do his bad games look like?

What you see out of a player when he plays poorly gives you a window into his soul.  I like to watch a player I am recruiting play poorly.  Does he change his approach?  Does he give in?  Does he check out on his coach and teammates?  Over time you should be able to tell how much ability he has to play well.  Watching him play poorly will tell you more about who he is.

How productive is he?

Believe it or not I think production is one of the most underrated aspects in evaluating ability.  We evaluate based so much on ability, look and potential sometimes that we don’t pay close attention to how productive the player is.  If a kid is undersized but he gets 10 rebounds against good competition, maybe size isn’t a factor?  If he plays a little wild but ends up with 7 assists and 1 turnover, maybe he’s comfortable playing that way?  You’ll learn a lot by keeping specific statistics.

I like to stat out players when I’m evaluating them for our program.  We make sure we stat out our practices early in the year to get a good look into what’s really happening.  Sometimes your mind can play tricks on you.  If he doesn’t look like a certain type of player, check the stats.  His production is more important than his look.

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