College Chalktalk

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.

Indiana lands four-star Class of 2017 wing Justin Smith

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Indiana landed an athletic wing commitment on Monday night as four-star small forward Justin Smith pledged to the Hoosiers on Twitter.

The 6-foot-6 Smith is a native of Lincolnshire, Illinois and comes from Stevenson High School as he’s regarded as the No. 105 overall prospect in the Rivals national Class of 2017 rankings.

A high-flying wing who is great in the open floor, Smith should fit the Hoosiers’ uptempo system perfectly and if he’s able to get a more consistent perimeter jumper then he has a chance to be a really nice piece for Indiana.

Smith joins three-star guard Al Durham in Indiana’s recruiting Class of 2017.

Michigan State addingTom Izzo Hall of History wing in remodeled Breslin Center

CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 22:  Head coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans reacts against the Virginia Cavaliers during the third round of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Time Warner Cable Arena on March 22, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo has already been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this fall and the longtime Spartans head coach is receiving another unique honor in the remodeled Breslin Center.

The school announced over the weekend that the Tom Izzo Hall of History will be added to the Breslin Center renovations as the building is supposed to be completed by the fall of 2017.

“The Tom Izzo Hall of History will become a great gathering place on our campus where together we can celebrate the excellence of Spartan Basketball and MSU Athletics,” athletic director Mark Hollis said in a release. “When this facility project is complete it will be the finest college basketball facility in the country, so it’s only fitting that Tom’s name will be a permanent part of it.”

Overall, this is a nice addition to the Breslin Center, especially since Izzo and Michigan State basketball will forever be associated with one another. It should be cool for fans to go through it and re-live great moments in Michigan State history and the wing is another nice recruiting tool that can help point out all of Izzo’s biggest accomplishments.

 

Puerto Rico Tip-Off Tournament moving to Orlando amid Zika concerns

Lon Kruger
(AP Photo/Brandon Dill)
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Amid concerns over the Zika virus, the annual Puerto Rico Tip-Off announced a change in venue on Monday. Rather than staying on the island, the tournament will move to Orlando and all games will be played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney.

The dates and teams will remain the same for the event as it will be played Thursday, Nov. 17, Friday, Nov. 18 and Sunday, Nov. 20. The field for the event includes Arizona State, Clemson, Davidson, Missouri, Northern Iowa, Oklahoma, Tulane and Xavier.

“We enjoy the beauty and accommodations that are afforded in Puerto Rico and wanted to make every effort in playing the event in San Juan, but the concern for student-athlete and spectator welfare became the primary driver in the decision,” Pete Derzis, senior vice president of ESPN Events said in the official release.  “We intend to return to Puerto Rico in the future.”

Puerto Rico is currently under a Level 2 alert for Zika according to the CDC. Since there have been cases of Zika on the island with native mosquitoes, it’s probably a smart move to eliminate all concerns over the virus if they can easily move the tournament elsewhere. It probably isn’t ideal for fans who purchased travel packages to Puerto Rico to watch the event, but it’s a small price to pay for the safety of everyone involved.

The Puerto Rico Tourism Company is also upset with the decision as Executive Director Ingrid Rivera Rocafort released a statement on Monday night.

“We are disappointed about this decision that we believe has been based on fear not the facts about Puerto Rico,” the statement read.

“There is no public health reason to cancel the Puerto Rico Tip Off or any sporting event in Puerto Rico. There is no doubt that our strong fan base and local spectators would have turned out to support their teams. Less than one percent of Puerto Rico’s 3.5 million population has contracted Zika, a far cry from projections. The hype and misinformation is fostering irrational decisions.”

PHOTO: Purdue unveils statue of John Wooden outside Mackey Arena

John Wooden (Purdue Athletics)
Purdue Athletics
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John Wooden will forever be associated with the UCLA program for what he did while coaching there.

10 national titles in 12 years, including seven in a row. Not bad, right?

What some people may forget is that before he got into coaching, Wooden was one of the best basketball players in the world. He played his collegiate ball at Purdue, where he was a three-time all-american and the 1932 National Player of the Year.

To honor Wooden’s legacy as one of the greatest Boilermakers ever, Purdue built a statue of Wooden and unveiled it in front of Mackey Arena this weekend:

“Not many people think of Johnny Wooden as a Boilermaker, but when I got here in 1957, some of the old-timers still remembered him as a player,” Jim Hicks, the alumnus that donated the statue, said. “I’m so delighted that people will see this statue and read his Pyramid of Success because I think the pyramid was his most important contribution.”

One of the neat touches of the statue: Wooden’s Pyramid of Success is right there for all to see.

North Carolina lands third commitment in 2017 class

SAN ANTONIO, TX - MARCH 23: Head coach Roy Williams of the North Carolina Tar Heels looks on during the third round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament against the Iowa State Cyclones at the AT&T Center on March 23, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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North Carolina picked up their third commitment in the Class of 2017 on Monday in big man Brandon Huffman.

A four-star prospect who will play his final season of high school ball at Word of God Academy in North Carolina, Huffman’s strength at this point in his development is as a defensive presence around the basket. He stands 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-5 wingspan and should be able to help replace Kennedy Meeks, who graduates this spring.

Huffman’s development on the offensive end of the floor isn’t quite there yet. A native of Anchorage, Alaska, Huffman is still learning how to be more influential on that end.

Huffman joins Jalek Felton and Andrew Platek in UNC’s 2017 class.