By Joe Henricksen
The City/Suburban Hoops Report gets it. Kids and their support system, by and large, want to play basketball at the highest level and for the biggest name possible. Some just want to say that magical letter and number — “I’m D1!” Others just want to be seen on Big Monday and ESPN, say they are a “high-major.” There are some that simply want that Jumpman logo on their shorts. Yes, I’m serious. These are the priorities for some.
And with that so many fail to look past the important aspects of choosing the right level and the ideal fit when signing that letter-of-intent. They fail to find the right conference, program, coach and system they can truly flourish and succeed. They don’t look at the role they will be playing at a particular school. Every year there are a few prospects that fail to realize that finding the right fit is most important in their ultimate success at the college level.
All across the state and all across the country the recruiting game is heating up as the November signing period is less than two months away. College coaches are on edge, getting testy, even frustrated as they turn the heat up on their targets. After all, coaches are trying to preserve their jobs and recruiting is where they make or break their futures.
While mistakes can and certainly are made, for the most part, though, the majority of college coaches know what level a high school prospect should be playing in the college ranks, while the majority of high school and AAU coaches tend to think “their players” can play at a higher level than they are being recruited at.
Prospects can let the process drag on, linger and see what is there for them in the end, always hoping for something better while perhaps losing out on a golden opportunity somewhere else. They can even wait it out, play out their senior season and possibly secure that higher-level offer during the late signing period in April. It happens. College programs are often left searching to fill a scholarship in April when the pool of available players that can truly play at their respective level has shrunk. Thus, they are more likely — or forced — to reach and take a flyer on a kid. And it’s easy for a kid to get caught up in the possibilities.
Now, that player that was destined to play at a high-level Division III or Division II school has the long-awaited Division I scholarship offer on the table. Now the player more suited for low-Division I basketball has a legitimate mid-major program offering. Now the ideal mid-major prospect, who had his pick of mid-major schools in November, has a taker from a school in a high-major conference.
So the kid finally has his bigger offer. In his mind waiting it out proved to be the right move. In his mind there is no comparison between his other offers and the most recent, which is perceived to be a higher-level and better offer. But is it really a better offer?
The scenarios are endless
Is it really better to go to a high-major school that has zero basketball tradition, gets thumped in league play and has little to no chance of playing postseason basketball rather than heading to a highly-respected and successful mid-major program?
Is it really wise to take a chance, go to the one high-major school that offered — even if no other high-major schools did — only to be recruited over (i.e. recruits coming in better than you in following seasons) during your time there and see little to no playing time?
Is it rational to go to a higher-level school when you were probably their third or fourth choice? Is it smart to go to the higher-level school with two players already at your position, or the coach is on the hot seat and may not be there in a year, or the system is not suited for your style of play?
There are some kids who may want to sit on the bench of a Big Ten or Big East team rather than play meaningful minutes for a mid-major program. There are kids that may want to be a role player for four years at a high-major school rather than be an impact player at the mid-major level. But then there are those that are blinded, getting bad advice and missing out on a wonderful opportunity that offers the total package because of a dream they can’t let go of.
There are always exceptions, special cases where an elite player can wait as long they would like and the big schools are still salivating at the end. And there are cases where players simply evolve into a higher-caliber player, making huge strides and becoming the classic late bloomer. But when it’s all said and done, that late offer is very likely coming from a school that really didn’t have that player real high on their recruiting board just five or six months earlier but circumstances have dictated that they do now.
Listen, if a player with legitimate Division I basketball ability is not being recruited at the level they think they should be, there is probably a reason. When you think about all the exposure kids have now via the AAU circuit, along with the elite camps and team camps they attend, these players have been watched by dozens and dozens of college coaches at all levels. They are what they are.
There are so many choices — good choices! — for high school players that, unfortunately, aren’t always recognized and seen by the kids and those around them.