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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

RECRUITING: NOT THE BEST PLAYERS, THE RIGHT PLAYERS

Obviously on the road July recruiting this summer and have been thinking about areas coaches should look for in evaluating players.  The primary stuff is easy: ball handling, shooting, quickness, passing, etc.  It doesn't take a genius to watch a game and recognize a good skill set. 

But great recruiters peel back layers to work to recognize if a student-athlete would fit their program.  You have to consider other things like your team's system of play...the personality of your head coach...the chemistry of current team.

Probably the best recruiting scene in a movie comes from "Miracle" the story of the 1980 USA Hockey Team coached by Herb Brooks.  As his assistant coach Craig Patrick looked through a list of players that Herb wanted to keep, he noticed that several of the perceived best players in the nation had not made Herb's final cut.  As Coach Patrick voiced his opinion, Herb replied, "We're not looking for the best players.  We're looking for the right player players." 

That is the essence of recruiting.

Does this mean that you don't occasionally take a chance on a kid that doesn't quite fit your program's profile? Of course not...but you better know what you are getting and the possible effects it will have on your team.

For instance, in recruiting at UCF, there are certain things I'm going to look for during the evaluation process that goes beyond the fundamentals of the game.

HOW DOES SHE HANDLE ADVERSITY?
1. What is her response after missing an easy shot or lay-up?  Does she pout or get angered with herself? Is she busy looking for excuses or a scapegoat? Or is she an "NBA" player -- Next Best Action?

2. How does she respond after giving up an easy shot?  Does it not really seem to matter to her? Or can you see some disappointment in her look?  Does she respond with intensity on the next defensive possession?

3. What is her demeanor if she makes a great cut or runs the floor and a teammate misses her? Does she show disgust towards her teammate?  Does her body language show everyone in the building that she was open but was missed? Or does she flow smoothly into the offense ready for the next opportunity?

4. How does she respond when a teammate makes a mistake?  Does create attention to herself to let everyone know she caught the mistake? Or does she find a way to pat the teammate on the back and lift her back up?

5. What is her response when a coach gets on her?  Does she have a negative or combative response?  Does she look inattentive?  Or is she locked in on the message of the coach?

6. How does she play when her team is behind?  How does she play when her team is behind and beyond coming back?  Does her speed change?  Does her attitude differ?  Does her enthusiasm decrease?  Or is her play seamless -- still playing each possession like it matters?

7. How does she handle officiating?  Does she let a bad call effect her play?  Is she too busy helping the officials to play at a higher level?

HOW DOES SHE COMMUNICATE WITH HER TEAMMATES
1. How does she talk to them on the court?  Is she positive or negative?  Is she proactive in her communication to help her teammates?  Is she instructive with her comments or destructive?

2. How is her body language?  Many players don't realize the strength or consequences that their body language can have on their team.

3. How does she communicate after mistakes?  After mistakes by her does she take responsibility or blame someone or something else?  What about a teammate's mistake -- what is her body language in that regard?

4. What about her communication from the bench?  Is she cheering her teammates on?  Is she giving them constructive talk from the bench?  Or is her body language poor when her team makes a mistake?  Maybe she is over there resting and relaxing and not paying too much attention to the game.

HOW IS SHE IN CONCENTRATION AREAS
1. During free throw situations, is she relaxing to taking the opportunity to get her team focused on the next possession?  I love to watch players as they walk to the free throw lane when a teammate or opponent is shooting to see the level of communication -- it's almost a mini timeout if handled properly.

2. What about after a bad call?  How does this effect her ability to concentrate?

3. What is her level of concentration during instructions?  The best place to evaluate this is in a practice setting.  I am often amazed at coaches that don't take the opportunity to observe a player in a practice session but then are critical of how poorly she now practice in college.  If we as coaches truly believe that practice is a critical component to player and team development than why would we not evaluate players in practice as well as games?

4. What is her level of concentration during timeouts?  This is two-pronged.  Is she greatly focused on every word of the coach during the timeout or does she have a wondering eye?  Now what about her level of concentration during a timeout when she is not in the game?  Is she still paying attention?  Did she jump up and encourage her teammates as they came off the floor?  Is she giving them encouragement or instruction as they step back on the floor.

5. Is she an "eye-to-eye" player?  The best players in terms of leadership and concentration always look their coaches, teammates and everyone else directly in the eye during concentration.

HOW ARE THEY AWAY FROM THE BALL
1. What about cutting?  Do they only cut hard when the play is designed to get them the ball?  Or are they cutting to create help at all times.

2. Are they always running the floor at maximum speed?  And we are talking offense and defense.  And how hard are they running if they are trailing the play?  Are they determined to get back into to the play or has this become a time to buy a quick blow.

3. Defensively are the resting in helpside?  Or are they still in the stance working to help their teammates?

As I went through this list a couple of times I believe it is not only a good list for us in terms of recruiting the type of student-athlete that will be best for our program but it is also a great series of questions to work with in regards to our current players and team in moving them forward to becoming the best they can be!