By Roy & Harv Schmidt
If there is one thing that is certain in the world of college basketball recruiting it is that nothing is ever certain. There is no question that things can change in the blink of an eye, and this past weekend's commitments from Zion-Benton's Lenzelle Smith and Seton Academy's D.J. Cooper are proof of that. Not only that, but when one player commits it often has a great effect on the decision of another, and we believe that with Smith and Cooper now in the fold, there are some other prospects whose recruitments will end up going in a different direction.
Former Purdue head coach Gene Keady summed it up best when he said, "recruiting is like shaving. If you don't do it every day you end up looking like a bum." To paraphrase, what he meant was that in order to be a great recruiter you have to keep at it every single day and can't afford to sit back and relax for one moment. If you do you will either get beat or worse yet be out of a job.
With the accelerated pace that college basketball recruiting has taken in recent years, Keady's remarks hold true to an even greater extent today. Perhaps no one in the business understands this any better than Ohio State head coach Thad Matta, and that is why we believe that he may be the best recruiter in the game. Need proof? Matta already has five commitments from the class of 2010, including the one that he received from 6'3 Zion-Benton guard Lenzelle Smith this past weekend. It is a class that could very well rank as the best in the nation when it is all over.
Another coach who truly understands this recruiting approach is University of Illinois assistant coach Jerrance Howard, who has said to us on many occassions that as a recruiter "you can never rest, you have to be able to keep it going." It is that aggressive philosophy that has been instrumental in helping the Illini land four commitments from top-tier players in the class of 2009 and three from the class of 2010, including the top two players in that class from Illinois in 6'7 Jereme Richmond and 6'4 Crandall Head. As a result, the Illini coaching staff has now turned the bulk of its recruiting focus towards the loaded 2011 class.
Recruits are certainly tuned in as well, and that is the primary reason why things can turn around in a heartbeat. As we pointed out at the beginning, the commitments from both Smith and Cooper are indicative of that. At the start of the summer one of Ohio State's top recruiting priorities in the 2010 class was 6'2 guard Anthony Johnson from Whitney Young. Many sources (including us) thought there was a good chance that Johnson could commit to the Buckeyes before the summer was over. However, it did not happen and as the Buckeye coaching staff watched Smith throughout the July evaluation period, it reached the point where Smith became an even higher priority. As a result, Smith ended up seeing the opportunity that was in front of him at Ohio State as being too good to pass up.
Cooper's recruitment, meanwhile, may have taken even more turns than Smith's did. At the beginning of September it looked as though Kent State was the leader for the 5'9 point guard and several others even thought that Cooper would commit to the Golden Flashes on his official campus visit. Instead, Kent State ended up landing a commitment from an in-state point guard from the 2009 class, forcing Cooper to redirect. In the end, Cooper committed to Ohio University while on his official visit to the Athens, OH campus. He became sold on the offense that Bobcat head coach John Groce intends to implement as well as the tough non-conference schedule that he has put together. It enabled the Bobcats to withstand a strong effort from Loyola-Chicago and a late run by Wichita State in order to close the deal.
In addition to becoming more fast-paced and recruits making decisions at an even earlier age, what is also interesting when analyzing recruiting as a whole is that when one player's recruitment changes, it can also end up changing another's completely. This is true with respect to both Smith and Cooper. Now that Smith is in the fold, we look for things to completely open up for Anthony Johnson. Other schools that we see as being factors in his recruitment include Purdue, Marquette, Iowa State, Notre Dame and California. The Golden Bears just recently offered Johnson a scholarship.
Cooper's commitment figures to have a good degree of influence on James Kinney, a 6'1 point guard from Champaign Centennial. Kinney, who has a considerable number of scholarship offers on the table, had been scheduled to visit Ohio University this next weekend (September 27). Would anyone like to take bets now as to whether he will even take that visit?
Just as college basketball coaches can't afford to let up when it comes to recruiting, the same can be said about scouting services with respect to covering it. That is why we vow to continue to stay on top of it on a daily basis.
Additional Recruiting Notes
... DePaul University has placed a heavy emphasis on JUCO and prep school players when it comes to recruiting the class of 2009 and their approach is paying off, as the Blue Demons have landed a commitment from 6'5 wing Michael Stovall from talent-laden Mineral Area College in Park Hills, MO. Stovall played his high school basketball at Marshall and his commitment could enable Blue Demon head coach Jerry Wainwright and his staff to make an even stronger run for Marshall's 6'2 guard Darius Smith, who DePaul has been recruiting hard.
... 6'4 shooting guard Matt Vogrich from Lake Forest cancelled his official visit to Wake Forest University this past weekend and is now scheduled to visit Stanford officially next weekend (September 27). Vogrich has already visited both Notre Dame and Michigan, the other two schools that remain among his frontrunners.