Recruiting coordinators play pivotal role during summer months

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It goes without saying that the month of July is an important one in college basketball circles. Many current players spend the month on campus taking summer school classes while the newcomers take advantage of the relatively slow pace to get acclimated to their workload both on the court and in the classroom.

But while the players are on campus, the head coach and his assistants are on the road, scouring the country in search of the players capable of helping them hang a banner in the rafters. Essentially July underlines the importance of the recruiting coordinator, as he’s the assistant who addresses the task of determining where the program’s recruiting targets will be and which coach (or coaches) need to be present.

This process begins well before the summer months, as coaching staffs have a total of 130 days to use during the season in order to evaluate prospects on their high school teams. With the two spring open periods (one in April and another in May) essentially being one weekend apiece, it’s important that a coaching staff takes full advantage of their opportunities to see players during the winter.

To read through NBCSports.com’s series on July’s live recruiting period, click here.

“From our perspective the first thing we try to do is evaluate kids before the spring,” California assistant Gregg Gottlieb, who also leads the program’s recruiting efforts, said in a phone interview with NBCSports.com.

“We’re allowed 130 evaluation days during the season, and the better job you do with the previous year’s class the more time you have to get ahead in terms of evaluating kids for the following year.”

The summer open periods are helpful for a coaching staff, as coaches are able to observe how players have (or have not) progressed. But a lot of the scouting work that’s required to figure out whether or not a player will fit into a program has been completed by the time coaches are able to hit the road during the offseason. And to be frank, this had better be the case given the limited opportunities programs have to hit the road.

“One of the reasons why I like seeing kids in the spring and then going back in the summer is that there’s a three-month time period, so you can see who has improved,” said Gottlieb. “You’re seeing different things, or maybe they haven’t changed at all and other people have passed them.”

The summer months can be as much about being seen as they are about observing the prospects, meaning that the staff has some work to do when it comes to pinpointing which players are priority recruits and who should make appearances at said player’s games.

Of the four coaches (head coach and three assistants) on a staff only three can be out on the road recruiting at any given time, and this rule is taken into consideration when discussing schedules for open evaluation periods.

“The other thing, from a recruiting coordinator standpoint, is figuring out where all these [prospects] are playing and how you’re going to maximize seeing the kids you want to see,” noted Gottlieb. With the sheer number of grassroots events, not to mention the fact that they’re spread out across the country, those travel plans can be more complicated than some realize.

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Recruiting during the summer is challenging enough for an established coaching staff. And for a new coaching staff, the juggling act makes it even more important that the new staff stick to its guiding principles. That’s the case at Longwood, a program with an entirely new coaching staff led by head coach Jayson Gee.

This is where connections come into play, and that’s true for any program much less ones with new coaching staffs. Both Gee and recruiting coordinator Andy Farrell have a wide array of connections in the recruiting world, which helps to not just open doors but also make sure that the doors opened are the right ones.

“We have to follow our key recruits, but in between those games we have to look at kids where you have relationships with their coaches,” said Farrell. “Luckily coach Gee’s been a coach for 25 years so he has a lot of relationships. So we always look at all the teams in an event, where in between games we can take a look at teams that someone on the staff has an established relationship with.”

New coaching staffs miss out on the opportunity to evaluate players during the winter, making it even more important that the staff sticks to the tenets meant to be the foundation of the program. Establishing a new program may lead to there being more opportunities to add players, but the programs that enjoy the most success tend to avoid straying too far away from their most important tenets.

Coach Farrell noted the program’s six-member incoming class and three sophomores when discussing the need to keep the program’s core beliefs in mind when out evaluating players at July events.

“We don’t necessarily want to cast too wide of a net where we’re going to lose some of those values because we do have a foundation,” said Farrell. “The foundation that we’re laying is based on toughness, coachability, style of play and defense. The net is widened some, but only because of coach Gee’s 25 years of relationships.”

Depending on the program, the recruiting coordinator’s been hard at work putting together an itinerary of sorts for the coaching staff  weeks and months in advance. But the one thing that doesn’t change is the importance of understanding the kind of player who will fit into the program.

Championships are ultimately won in March, but reaching that point is almost impossible if a program doesn’t put forth the proper amount of work in July.

Raphielle can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Creighton’s Khyri Thomas posterizes defender

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Creighton rising junior wing Khyri Thomas, like several of his teammates, are taking part in the Omaha Summer League this offseason.

On Thursday night, the 6-foot-3, 205-lb. Thomas eviscerated a defender with a one-handed posterization.

Thomas is coming off a breakout sophomore campaign for the Bluejays. He started all 35 games, averaging 12.3 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.5 steals per game. Aside from the increase in offensive production, Thomas served as one of the top defenders in the Big East. He shared the Big East Defensive Player of the Year Award with Villanova’s Josh Hart and Mikal Bridges.

Zion Williamson throws down 360 windmill dunk

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Zion Williamson added another jaw-dropping dunk in the layup lines on the first night of the second live evaluation period.

Williamson and his SC Supreme team took on Each 1 Teach 1 at the Hoopseen Best of the South at the LakePoint Sporting Community in greater Atlanta.

The 6-foot-7 power forward threw down a 360 windmill dunk during his pregame routines.

Each 1 Teach 1 would pick up a 70-67 victory over SC Supreme. Williamson would end with a monster stat line of 37 points and seven rebounds.

Appalachian State freshman shooter to transfer

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A 3-point threat became a late addition to the transfer market earlier this week.

Appalachian State rising sophomore Patrick Good informed head coach Jim Fox on his intentions to leave the program. He was granted his release on Wednesday, according to Bret Strelow of the Winston-Salem Journal.

“I was pretty shocked when he came in to tell me he was leaving,” Fox told the Winston Salem-Journal. “He was a guy who had a very good freshman season, and we’re surprised to see him go.”

“I enjoyed being around the team and the experience that I got from the first year,” Good added. “I don’t think I would change that for anything. I just felt like moving forward, there is just so much more that I was capable of.”

Good appeared in 29 of 30 games, all of the bench, for the Mountaineers. The 6-foot guard averaged 7.0 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 1.6 assists per game. His biggest asset to his newest team will  be in his ability to shoot from deep, connecting on 41 percent of his attempts during the 2016-17 season.

If Good plans to remain in at the Division I level, avoiding a year spent at a junior college, he will need to sit out the 2017-18 season due to NCAA transfer regulations. He will have three years of eligibility remaining.

Iowa State adds graduate transfer Zoran Talley

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Iowa State added a scoring option on Thursday night, one who is eligible immediately.

Zoran Talley, who spent his first three seasons at Old Dominion, will join the Cyclones as a graduate transfer this season.

“We are excited to add Zoran to our program,” Iowa State head coach Steve Prohm said in a statement issued by the athletic department. “He has had great success, both personally and as a team, at ODU and will be an asset for our team. Zoran brings versatility on both ends of the floor and his ability to play and guard several positions will benefit us. He can score and make plays and with him being immediately eligible, that is great for us.”

Talley, a 6-foot-7 wing, averaged 11.3 points for the Monarchs last season as a sophomore. However, he was dismissed from the team in April for a violation of team rules. This was preceded by two separate suspensions during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons, according to Ed Miller of the Virginia Pilot.

He redshirted the 2014-15 season, leaving him two years of eligibility remaining at Iowa State. He is set to graduate in August.

Talley and fellow graduate transfer Hans Brase (Princeton) provides a boost in scoring, as well as in experience, in a frontline that returns Solomon Young, the rising sophomore big man.

Ex-NCAA scoring leader Daniel ready to return for new team

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee guard James Daniel III finally has the chance to deliver a follow-up performance to his 2015-16 NCAA scoring title, an opportunity that essentially eluded him last season.

After an ankle injury caused Daniel to play just two games last season at Howard, the 6-foot graduate transfer brings experience and offense to Tennessee’s backcourt.

“I wanted to go on the biggest stage for my last year and try to pursue my hopes and dreams since I’ve been a little kid, which was to get to the NBA,” Daniel said.

Daniel likely won’t be shooting or scoring as much as he did at Howard, where he averaged 27.1 points per game to lead all Division I players in 2015-16. He’s more interested in getting to the NCAA Tournament, something he hasn’t done and Tennessee hasn’t accomplished since 2014.

“At this point in my career I’m ready to win,” Daniel said. “That’s pretty much what I have to do. I feel like if we win, my personal goals will be met.”

Daniel believed that NCAA berth would come last season as Howard was favored to win the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.

Those plans quickly went awry.

Daniel was diagnosed with a high ankle sprain that caused him to miss the first 14 games of the season. After returning and playing just two games, Daniel learned he had a chipped bone in his ankle. With Daniel out for the rest of the season, Howard finished 10-24.

That injury allowed Daniel to redshirt the 2016-17 season, giving him one more year of eligibility. He decided to spend that season in a bigger conference and considered Michigan, Ohio State and DePaul before selecting Tennessee.

Daniel remembered watching Tennessee games when he was younger and appreciating prolific guard Chris Lofton, who starred for the Volunteers from 2004-08. When Daniel visited Tennessee, he bonded with the team and sensed a family atmosphere.

“They’re competitive,” Daniel said. “They all want to win. That was the most intriguing part.”

Although Daniel’s ankle leaves his status uncertain for Tennessee’s three exhibition games next month in France and Spain, he’s expected to be ready in plenty of time for the start of the season.

Tennessee is counting on the additions of Daniel and Vincennes University transfer Chris Darrington to solidify a backcourt that struggled with inexperience last year.

“With Chris Darrington and James Daniel, we felt like we could get guys who liked to score and were not afraid to go make plays,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. “I think that’s going to help these younger guys because they were put in situations they’d never been put in before.”

Barnes cited the maturity Daniel brings as Tennessee’s lone senior. Daniel will turn 24 on Jan. 29, about a month after Tennessee begins Southeastern Conference play. Nobody else on Tennessee’s roster is older than 20, though juniors Kyle Alexander and Brad Woodson will have their 21st birthdays before the season starts.

“He’s older than all of us, so I think I can learn some things from him,” Darrington said.

Daniel’s teammates will learn plenty about his knack for drawing fouls. Not only did Daniel lead all Division I players in scoring during that 2015-16 season, he also topped the nation in free-throw attempts with 331.

They’ll also learn about his work ethic. Daniel’s father, James Daniel Jr., remembers how his son used to take about 200 jump shots every morning before his classes started at Phoebus High School in Hampton, Virginia.

“He’s just been a workaholic,” James Daniel Jr. said. “Well, we’d call it a workaholic, but he’d probably say it was something that he loved doing.”

All that practice helped Daniel overcome his lack of height at Howard to become an NCAA scoring leader. Now he’s ready to compete at a higher level.

He got an idea of what to expect from Quinton Chievous, who made the move in reverse by leading MEAC program Hampton to the NCAA Tournament after starting out at Tennessee. Daniel said Chievous told him he “should do really well here.”

Daniel agrees.

“I don’t think they would have brought me here if they didn’t think I could compete at this level,” Daniel said.