By Joe Henricksen
The recruiting fortunes of college basketball programs and the type of recruit they land come in all shapes and sizes. These players receive different forms of hype and their signature on a national letter-of-intent can be scrutinized in a number of ways. Here are a few of those wide-ranging type of recruits and their not-always-so-obvious characteristics.
The Aircraft Carrier
Obvious, isn’t it? These are the guys. They will carry the fanbase, the team, the program–well, for at least a year before their arrival and then the one year on campus before they bolt. You know, like Jack Nicholson and Brad Pitt do on the big screen, like Gisele does on the runway, like Bird and Magic did for the NBA in the 80s, like Celine Dion did for Las Vegas, like Jack Tripper on Three’s Company (Well, maybe not. I was a Chrissy Snow fan myself. But you understand the significance). When you get a Carmelo Anthony for a year, a Kevin Durant, a Greg Oden, a Michael Beasley, a Derrick Rose, you have your rare Aircraft Carrier recruit. And fans better enjoy their eight months in the classroom (uh, well, maybe four months in the classroom) and 30-plus games on the court.
Attention: Every recruit is NOT a steal for that particular school on the day they commit. It only seems that way with the way it’s reported. There aren’t as many “steals” as one would believe in the recruiting world, though we throw around “recruiting steal” as if it’s a pre-requisite in a recruiting story. “The steal” is recognized when a school truly gets the player it has no business getting. You know, when the beautiful Hollywood starlet’s non-celebrity, everyday guy boyfriend is first photographed in public with her and everyone goes, “Huh?” followed by “How?” When you get that type of befuddled feeling you know it’s a true steal. But often we don’t realize how big of a steal it is until after their career: i.e. Stephen Curry and Davidson.
The Power Tandem Recruit
These are rare. The super couple. You just don’t find the likes of power couples in the recruiting world like we see in life, where we find the likes of Jay-Z and Beyonce, Brad Pitt and Angelina and those annoying couples in the old Doublemint gum commercials, featuring those infamous sets of twins. But when you do? Wow! Family members are the way to go. Look no further than the Crispins at Penn State (oh, forget that; not good enough), Blake and Taylor Griffin at Oklahoma and Robin and Brook Lopez at Stanford. But sometimes a power couple stays true and plays together like AAU and high school buddies Mike Conley and Greg Oden. Results? Ohio State lands in the Final Four a year later. That whole Peoria Manual pipeline back in the 1990s, starting with Sergio McClain and continuing with Marcus Griffin and Frank Williams, worked out pretty well for the Illini. How bad would UIC take a combo package right now similar to Cedrick Banks and Martell Bailey again? A Power Tandem Recruit(s) can help turn the fortunes of a program around sooner than later.
The Super Spring Sale Recruit
Landing the Super Spring Sale recruit is often similar to sitting there watching the NBA Draft Lottery live. Your favorite team has the 1.354% chance of landing the overall No. 1 pick. Very little hope but still worth being excited about after a dreadful season that put your team in this predicament. The commish reveals the cards. And … Holy $#&^@#*!!!!! … the odds came in! Your favorite franchise is no longer cursed, jinxed or labeled a loser anymore. The team’s fortunes have changed! Get me that season ticket holder phone number! … Ahhhhhh, but it’s 1998, which means your team just got the rights to draft … Ta-Da! — Michael Olowokandi with the first pick.
This is the time of year college basketball fans can get a little wee-too-bit giddy over the Super Spring Sale Recruit, mostly due to the sudden blown-away interest a sometimes marginal prospect receives in the spring. The kid is like, “Dang, where were these guys six months ago? I told you guys I was that good.” And the fans are like, “Whoa, is it too good to be true to be getting a player this good this late?” Yes, probably.
That’s how this spring fling goes a lot of times. College programs become desperate (players transfer out, flunk out, are driven out, pout themselves out, etc.) where they will dip down a level to fill a void or particular need. However, because of the interest and recruiting buzz (there is little left after November these days) surrounding the prospect, the fanbase believes they are getting something they’re not. Something like getting the new, revamped Domino’s Pizza and believing that, because they told you it’s new and improved as a result of listening to their customers, it’s going to be better. Suddenly this player is the Calvin Brock Award-winner in the class. Wasn’t too long ago where DePaul and Illinois fans were both in a blather over Brock as his recruitment winded down.
The Bandwagon Recruit
Their recruitment might be blown up with false pre-tenses, ignited by an AAU coach or just one big, ignorant college program showing “interest”–or simply bravado–and other Johnny-come-lately programs suddenly get involved. “What? Big State U came calling? Coach Henry Iba is interested? The Globetrotters called?” He must be good. Now a half dozen high-major programs are interested, even though four of those schools have never seen him play, and the recruitment of Jesus Shuttleworth EXPLODES!
The early hype carries a lot of weight recruit
These guys are out there, the ones who get early hype in their career and people fall all over and rave about. You know, when they start dribbling between their legs at 6 years old or–POW! BLOW UP and become the REAL DEAL in an 8th grade all-star game featuring a bunch of other 5-8 adolescents!!!!!! These recruits are a lot like those one-hit wonders, like Lipps, Inc. with “Funkytown” and Devo with “Whip It” in the early 1980s or a Biz Markie with “Just a Friend” or Candyman’s “Knockin’ Boots” in the 1990s. Make it big early and, hopefully, ride it out as long as you can–in these two cases signing that first big record deal or getting to November of your senior year when they can officially sign that letter-of-intent. When this happens a college program realizes they have just inked the player that will never be better than the 13th man.
Big boy comes calling, Little guy left behind recruit
This may date me a bit, but remember the 1986 film Lucas? (It was filmed locally here in the Chicago area in suburban Glen Ellyn). This movie storyline best illustrates this type of recruit. The popular jock in the movie, “Cappie,” woos the new girl away from Lucas (a.k.a. Leukaplakia), a socially inept 14-year old who experiences heartbreak for the first time. Translation: you feel sorry for the low-major plus or mid-major school (Lucas) that put in all the work, only to see the high-major (Cappie) swoop in and nab the prospect.
The “Snicker” Recruit
How many out there have been snickered at? Your siblings do it. Your jealous neighbor does. Don’t you do it with your inlaws? Well, these are the recruits everyone says nice things about–even rival college coaches of the school the player committed to or signed with. Of course they say nice things. They want the kid in their league. You hear the bland descriptions with no true evidence: “he’s a nice player” (but in what way?) and “he’s going to do good things” (but what?) and “he fills a role” (future manager or needed transfer for a lower-level school?) and “he brings a lot to the table.” That last one is my favorite. And what specifically does he bring to the table? Isn’t that really just a polite way of saying he doesn’t do anything particularly well or, to be more blunt, HE JUST AIN’T THAT GOOD? But really what’s happening is people are snickering behind the poor sap program that landed the less-than-desired recruit that no one really wanted.