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.

No. 7 South Carolina upends No. 3 Baylor to advance to the Elite 8

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NEW YORK — It was with a whipping and a whimper that Baylor’s season can to an end on Friday night.

The final two minutes of the game wasn’t actually a game. No. 7 seed South Carolina dished out a 70-50 beatdown that wasn’t in doubt after the Gamecocks used an 18-0 run at the end of the first half to turn a rock fight into statement, and for the final two minutes of the game, the Gamecocks and, eventually, Baylor dribbled out the remaining seconds before joining arms at center court for a postgame prater.

It’s the third straight year that Baylor has been bounced from the NCAA tournament by a team seeded lower than them. In 2015, it was R.J. Hunter’s heroics that knocked his dad off of a stool and sent No. 14 seed Georgia State into the second round of the tournament. In 2016, the Bears fell in the first round to No. 12 seed Yale, prompting one of the most memorable press conference moments in NCAA tournament history.

And on Friday night, it was South Carolina that sent the Bears into offseason hibernation.

It was a disheartening end to a season, a loss that will surely provide fodder for the people that traffic in ‘Scott Drew can’t coach’ jokes, the irony being that the 2016-17 season was definitive proof that Scott Drew is almost certainly better at his job than you are at yours.

“When you coach for a while and you make Elite Eights and Sweet 16, you kind of start taking it for granted that you will always be successful in March,” Drew said. “But it’s a good reminder to be here and know how hard it is.”

No. 1 North Carolina handles No. 4 Butler en route to Elite Eight

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North Carolina, the top seed in the South Region, led by as many as 20 en route to a 92-80 win over No. 4 Butler in the Sweet 16 matchup on Friday night at the FedEx Forum in Memphis.

The Tar Heels were led by 26 points, off 8-of-13 shooting, from junior point guard Joel Berry II. The 6-foot floor general had been hampered by an ankle injury through the first weekend. While he still seemed to favor that same ankle at times, his play was a big improvement on his 3-of-21 shooting through the NCAA Tournament’s first two rounds. Justin Jackson nearly matched Berry’s game-high with 24 points.

Andrew Chrabascz, in the final game of his four-year career at Butler, finished with 21 points, seven rebounds and four assists.

North Carolina, the last of the ACC’s nine tournament bids, advances to the Elite Eight to face the winner of No. 3 UCLA and No. 2 Kentucky. The Wildcats own a win over North Carolina, defeating the Tar Heels, 103-100, on Dec. 17 behind 47 points from Malik Monk.

Missouri lands No. 1 player in Class of 2017 as Michael Porter Jr. commits

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Missouri and new head coach Cuonzo Martin have landed the No. 1 player in the Class of 2017 a week after he took the job as forward Michael Porter Jr. committed to the Tigers on Friday.

Formerly a Washington commit under now-fired head coach Lorenzo Romar, the 6-foot-9 Porter was released from his Letter of Intent this week and many believed he’d end up back at Missouri.

The Porter family lived in Columbia for many years as two of Michael’s older sisters play for the Missouri women’s team while Michael Porter Sr. was an assistant coach for the women’s team.

When Porter Sr. was hired to Missouri to be an assistant coach on Martin’s staff this week — after losing his assistant coaching job at Washington when Romar was fired — it all but sealed the deal that the Porters would return to Missouri and Michael Jr. would play for the Tigers.

Missouri might not be an NCAA Tournament team next season after struggling to an 8-24 finish and 2-16 record in the SEC. But Porter might be the most productive freshman entering college basketball next season as he has a chance to be dominant in the SEC.

Oklahoma State promotes assistant coach Mike Boynton to head coach

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Oklahoma State has decided to promote assistant coach Mike Boynton to head coach, the school announced on Friday.

Boynton was an assistant with the Cowboys under former head coach Brad Underwood, who left Oklahoma State to take the Illinois job last weekend. Also an assistant coach at Stephen F. Austin, South Carolina, Wofford and Coastal Carolina, Boynton is a native of New York City who played his college ball for the Gamecocks.

The hire of Boynton is surprising since he doesn’t have any head-coaching experience as it follows in the footsteps of Cal promoting assistant coach Wyking Jones earlier in the day. Boynton also notably won the job over broadcaster and former Oklahoma State guard Doug Gottlieb as Gottlieb interviewed for the job but wasn’t selected.

 

Rhode Island junior E.C. Matthews will return to school

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Rhode Island junior guard E.C. Matthews will return to school for his redshirt senior season, the school announced on Friday.

The 6-foot-5 Matthews led the Rams in scoring at 14.9 points per game this past season as he returned from a torn ACL and helped Rhode Island reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1999.

Besides for being a talented scorer, Matthews is a good overall playmaker for the Rams as he also put up 4.3 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game.

With Matthews returning, it gives head coach Dan Hurley a huge weapon for next season as Rhode Island returns everyone besides the senior front court of Hassan Martin and Kuran Iverson.