“You have the top 150 kids every year who are steered one way or another, and it’s always the same schools and kids with the same ability level who have that opportunity. There are a few success stories for kids outside that process every year, but we wanted to change the way this process works.”
That’s how Joseph Rocco describes the recruiting process. In a phone conversation with NBCSports.com, Rocco described how he and former Villanova star Malik Allen set out to change that paradigm, by creating the social media platform inRecruit.
“After Malik retired from the NBA, he was looking for something other than a broadcasting or low-level coaching gig,” Rocco said. The two friends, who graduated from Villanova together in 2010, decided to combine their talents and knowledge. While Allen was forging a ten-year NBA career, Rocco was practicing law. It was a perfect match.
From the beginning, they focused on making productive relationships available, not only to the mega-talented one percent, but also to kids who might not be on anyone’s radar. Their goal: to open up the lines of communication that would not only allow blue-blood programs to keep track of the big name recruits, but also help connect lower-level athletes with the right schools, be they DII, DIII or junior college.
“We have the eye of the top schools and the top recruits, and that’s good for us as a company,” Rocco said. “But at the end of the day, this platform is built for those kids outside the 1 percent. That’s most of us.”
Allen and Rocco made sure to design the platform to appeal to all stakeholders in the recruiting process: fans, athletes, journalists, coaches and even parents. Including parents was important for both men, who serve as godparents to one another’s children.
“There is no platform out there that recognizes parents as an integral part of the process,” Rocco said. “It’s their child’s future. You can’t even join inRecruit if you’re under 14 years of age without a parent’s approval. You have to involve parents or it’s not going to work.”
The beta test of inRecruit just launched in July, but two years of work went into the platform’s look and function. The Allen/Rocco team spent two years meeting with coaches from college (most notably Jay Wright and the Villanova staff), high school and the NBA. In order to make sure nobody runs afoul of the governing body’s rules, inRecruit was designed with direct input from the NCAA as well.
“We wanted to set this platform up for coaches not to be able to fail,” Rocco said. “People come down hard on the NCAA, but it’s a tough job. Social media are difficult to regulate. They write a rule based on what they know at the time, then technology leaps ahead.”
In a way, inRecruit and similar programs may end up shining some light on the often sordid business of recruiting. So much of what people don’t like about recruiting happens in the dark, directed through middlemen. Social media is so public, it may make the process less shady. “You have the opportunity to have more transparency in the process and that makes it easier for regulators and the public to see what’s going on,” Rocco said.
Right now, inRecruit is focusing on growing their network. Jay Wright and Villanova signed on first, and the Penn Quakers got wind of the service and signed up as well. In addition, Rocco says high schools, junior colleges and programs from top to bottom of the NCAA structure are creating accounts every day. Kyle Lowry of the Toronto Raptors signed up, and Rocco says that ability to be effective across national borders is the next big thing his team hopes to tackle.
“Coaches have told us they’d love to see this available for places like Italy, Spain and Nigeria. That ability to go international is definitely important.”
The internet is a big place. Perhaps inRecruit will be basketball’s organized meeting place amongst the chaos.
Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.