Does The Declining Influence Of The High School Basketball Coach Hurt College Programs' Local And Regional Recruiting Efforts?

| 6 Comments | No TrackBacks

By Roy and Harv Schmidt

Over the past several years, Illinois high school basketball coaches have lost a tremendous amount of influence over the recruitment of their top players. While we are not going to debate the merits of those who do have influence, this blog is going to offer an in-depth analysis of what this declining influence means to college coaches, parents, and the prospects themselves within the recruiting environment.

In the 25 years that we have been involved with recruiting analysis in the state of Illinois, we have often commented on the state of recruiting as it pertains to Illinois high school basketball prospects. We have come to the conclusion that the high school coach has lost a tremendous amount of influence in the recruiting process. We have commented extensively on the early signing period and the rising influence of the spring and summer evaluation periods. We have also commented on the AAU coaches, handlers, and other key people associated with this process. However, we have not too often looked at how the declining influence of Illinois high school basketball coaches has impacted the ability of regional college programs to recruit top Illinois prospects.

What does it mean when Illinois high school basketball coaches have lost influence over the recruitment of their top players? Well, to explore possible answers to this question, we must first understand WHY the influence has been lost to begin with.

First of all, the time of year when high school coaches earn their living has itself lost a tremendous amount of influence on the exposure and recruitment of Illinois high school basketball prospects. In other words, the regular IHSA season hardly means anything anymore from a recruiting standpoint. Prospects usually sign letters of intent by the November signing period of their senior seasons. However, the recruiting process starts much earlier than that. The pressure to win among college programs is so high that commitments are secured at earlier and earlier ages. These commitments are often secured during the spring and summer when high school coaches are not even working. Yes, there are a few high school coaches who demand that the recruiting process goes through them. If their players do play spring and summer AAU or travel ball, they always accompany them wherever they play. However, many more coaches need to do this or else all control is lost.

Second, high profile spring and summer exposure camps and events are where ALL of the top 100 and beyond national player rankings lists are made. How a prospect performs in the regular season rarely means anything anymore. We have seen enough Mc Donald's All-Americans with subpar senior seasons to know that this is true. Consequently, it is essential that all top players attend these events. It is even more essential that all college programs which desire to get the best possible players attend these events as well. Naturally, this expands the recruiting horizons for all of the prospects.

Back in the old days, when high school coaches had more control and there were less events going on in the spring and summer, college coaches went out more during the regular seasons to scout, evaluate, and recruit high school prospects. Because this would often conflict with their own program's game, practice, and travel schedules, college programs often did not travel all over. This meant that top prospects were primarily recruited at the local and regional levels. Sure, the Top 30-50 prospects would draw coaches from all over, but most recruiting lists were stacked with the local and regional favorites who had more time to recruit prospects and to evaluate them.

Third, when AAU and travel ball became prevalent and the "off season" began to replace the regular season in its recruiting significance, the players involved with influencing a prospects' recruitment changed. This is significant, because for better or for worse, these people have different mindsets. Unlike most high school coaches, they are NOT certified teachers or educators. They do not look at those things the same way that a certified educator may look at them. Consequently, they will not favor all of the financial and career advantages associated with attending the local or state university. Parents who have taken control from high school coaches are often overzealous and think their kids are better than they are. They are more inclined to want to send their kids away in order to maximize on an opportunity, especially if the kid can get a full scholarship. As a result, parents today are much less inclined to show loyalty to state, local, and regional colleges and universities.

AAU and traveling coaches also have different mindsets by nature. Just read their marketing literature, and you know that these coaches and their success is judged by how many Division I players they produce, and the number of D1 programs they send them to. This is especially true if the program (as is almost always the case) receives huge funding from a shoe company. These companies have contracts with college programs across the country, so what is the incentive to send a program's top prospects to the same two or three local or regional college programs? Simply put, there is no incentive whatsoever.

Expanding the avenues of recruitment to as many colleges and universities across the country as you can is the best way to maximize the recruiting opportunities for every prospect in the program. We are not saying this is wrong or right. However, we ARE emphatically saying that this means that many colleges and universities have to work that much harder to recruit the top local and regional prospects.

During the old days when the high school coach was the primary and maybe only recruiting contact, colleges would invite high school coaches to speak at camps or participate in developmental clinics. The relationships between colleges and high school coaches was much more "tight" then. Sure, these relationships still exist and they must. However, they are no longer guarantees of recruiting success. For example, the days are long gone when Lou Henson could walk down the streets on the south side of Chicago with Simeon coach Bob Hambric and go to a fishery like two long-lost buddies, knowing that Simeon's top prospect would go to Illinois.

Yes, Illinois is still THE king in Illinois high school basketball recruiting. Yes, they keep a lot of top talent at home. And yes, they have great relationships with most high school coaches, and have worked hard at developing much stronger relationships with Chicago Public League coaches. However, if they leave it at this, they could lose out on many recruits. Instead, the hiring of assistant coach Jerrance Howard was indicative of head coach Bruce Weber's realization that it is primarily the AAU coaches, parents, and others that will ultimately determine the Illini's recruiting success. Howard has cultivated all of these relationships, and has made Weber's relationships in this area that much stronger as well.

Finally, look at the recruiting lists, scholarship offers, and actual commitments and signings of top Illinois prospects from the leading AAU and travel club programs in Illinois over the years,(such as the Illinois Warriors, Illinois Wolves, Rising Stars, Mac Irvin Fire, Mean Streets, and Full Package, among others). Kids from Illinois are going all over, for all of the reasons outlined above. Yes, most if not all of these programs value and emphasize strong relationships with the local and regional programs, but some place even more emphasis on a national recruiting profile. This has not affected Illinois as much because of their Top 20 national profile. It used to affect Northwestern, but the new direction which Bill Carmody went with the hiring of assistant coach Tavaras Hardy was similar to the approach taken by Weber with the hiring of Howard. Thus, Northwestern's recruiting has taken off and Hardy has deserved every bit of praise for being one of the top up and coming recruiters in all of college basketball, not just the region.

It will be interesting to see if local, state, and regional college programs come to grips with the recruiting realities mentioned in this blog. Many of them already have. However, those who have not may not be in a situation to control much. In today's age of overhyped prospects and when most parents and AAU coaches have a tendency to oversell prospects, this almost "kills" the local and regional low and mid-major college programs, not to mention the efforts of many small colleges. Those programs that overcome these obstacles to continue to land top prospects are truly the best recruiters that you will find anywhere!

No TrackBacks

TrackBack URL: http://blogs.suntimes.com/cgi-bin/mt-tb.cgi/19875

6 Comments

THE BIG QUESTION IS - IS THIS AN OPEN RECRUITING PERIOD
THIS UPCOMING WEEKEND, IF IT IS, HOLLIS HILL FROM CHICAGO
VOCATIONAL WILL BE THE CENTER OF ATTENTION AT THE U.I.C.!
MARCUS JORDAN FROM YOUNG IS STILL UNSIGNED!
WHAT ABOUT THE YOUNG MEN FROM FOREMAN HIGH SCHOOL, THEY
ARE STILL I BELIEVE ON THE MARKET FOR A RESPECTIVE
COLLEGE!
BIG TIME COACHING THIS WEEKEND, VINCE CARTER, MIKE OLIVER,
CHRIS HEAD, COACH THORPE, TERRY HEAD, TY SLAUGHTER,
COACH PICKETT, COACH KIRKSEY, GREAT COACHING TO BE SEEN!
WHAT ALL OF THESE MEN HAVE IN COMMON, THEY HAVE ROLLED
UP THEIR SLEEVES TO MAKE THEIR RESPECTIVE PROGRAMS ONE
ANY YOUNG MAN WOULD BE PROUD TO PLAY FOR, I SALUTE YOU
COACHES, THE CREAM ALWAYS RISES TO THE TOP!
ALSO WHAT IS BEING PROVEN, IT DOESN'T MATTER WHAT SCHOOL
YOU ATTEND FROM THE ABOVE SCHOOLS, IT ONLY MATTERS IF
YOU GO THERE WITH THE MINDSET OF HELPING YOUR SCHOOL BE
MORE SUCCESSFUL!
COACH CHRIS HEAD AND COACH THORPE, HAVE WON STATE
CHAMPIONSHIPS!
COACH VINCE CARTER HAS COACHED IN PEORIA BEFORE!
WHITNEY YOUNG HAS PLAYED IN HAWAII AND CALIFORNIA THIS
SEASON!
THE U.I.C. THIS SUNDAY WILL BE THE BEST TICKET IN TOWN!

Great job again guys, I love reading you alls blog; but this time I think it is somewhat misguided.

Neither high school or aau coaches should guide the college decisions of a player. These decisions should be made by the PLAYER and their PARENTS. Who cares if the high school or AAU coach as a great relationship with the college coach? Will this fact help the player become an exemplary citizen? More than likely no.

In my opinion a player should base their decision on the following general factors: what type of education will I get, should basketball not work out? how will I fit in the system that the college coach is working? will the college coach be around for my tenure at the institution? how many players at the same position are currently at the school? how many players of the same position are being recruited by the college coach?

Of course there will be additional questions that are tailored specifically toward a recruit, this is a given. once players, parents, and coaches across the board realize what college is about ... the recruiting game will become what it needs to be

Roy and Harv Respond:

We agree with all of your criteria. We are not so sure, however, that parents are well equipped or well inclined to always make these decisions, nor are the kids. Yes, the final decision must be made by the kids and the parents, but they do need guidance, and we were merely pointing out, for better or worse, how that landscape has changed. High school coaches have lost influence while AAU and summer travel coaches have gained it. Thanks for your kind words!

UNFORTUNATELY THE COACH IN ALOT OF CASES IS THE FAMILY!
IT WOULD BE NICE IF IT WERE THAT WAY,BUT THE COACH SPENDS
SO MUCH TIME WITH THE PLAYER, THE FAMILY TRUSTS THE
COACH TO HELP THEM WITH THEIR DECISION!
HAVE YOU WATCHED THE UNIVERSITY OF OREGON PLAY, THEY HAVE
4 CHICAGO AREA PLAYERS, THAT IS BECAUSE OF AAU BALL, THE
COACH, COACH KENT WOULD HAVE NEVER KNOWN ABOUT 2 GUYS
FROM HALES, 1 FROM THORNTON AND THE OTHER ONE FROM
FARRAGUT, IF IT WEREN'T FOR AAU!
I KNOW SOME OF YOU DON'T LIKE AAU, I RESPECT IT, I KNOW
THAT WITHOUT IT, ALOT OF YOUNG PEOPLE WOULD BE WALKING
THE STREETS RIGHT NOW, JUST MY HUMBLE OPINION!
COACHING ON THE HIGH SCHOOL LEVEL IS SO INCONSISTENT
THAT AAU BALL IS THE WAY ALOT OF PLAYERS END UP BEING
RECRUITED ANYWAY!
DON'T GET ME WRONG SOME AAU PROGRAMS ARE GARBAGE, IT'S
NOT THEIR FAULT, IF YOU DON'T HAVE THE FUNDS, YOU ARE
IN WAY OVER YOUR HEADS!
WHY DO YOU THINK PLAYER'S ARE TRANSFERRING FROM THIS
SCHOOL TO THAT SCHOOL?

great article high school coaches just dont have the control any more.some college coaches do better with the family then thy do with the aau coach or outside influinces thats why i think ill think bruce webber made a great hire in j.howard what do you see his future holds as a head coach? I know that aau coaches hold more influnce than most head coaches in football if your borderline good your coach would really need to get your tape out unlike basketball the summer and spring can make you so if you are invited to play for a aau team and you get offers from your play in the summer it seems that coach would become more valuable to that player and recruiter.

COACH JERRANCE HOWARD HAS THE PERFECT ROLE, HE IS WORKING
AT HIS ALMA MATER, HE HAS U OF I RECRUITING BACK ON TRACK
HE IS A FORMER PLAYER, WHY WOULD HE WANT TO BECOME A
HEAD COACH AT ANOTHER UNIVERSITY AND LEAVE A GREAT PLACE!
REMEMBER THE MOVIE CITY SLICKERS, ALL YOU HAVE TO KNOW
IS ONE THING IN LIFE AND YOU WILL BE SUCCESSFUL, COACH
HOWARD'S GREAT ASSET IS RECRUITING AND REPRESENTING HIS
ALMA MATER!
DON'T YOU AGREE HE IS DOING A GREAT JOB?
HE IS A CLASS-ACT!

Roy and Harv Respond:
Phil, yes Jerrance Howard is a great recruiter, class act, and has many other assets other than that. He is LOYAL to his alma mater which increases the "trustworthiness" of his recruiting pitches. We think he will be at Illinois for a while, but others will go after him hard eventually.

Phil, you are a class act too!

ONCE AGAIN GUYS, YOU HAVE PRESENTED A VERY BALANCED AND WELL WRITTEN ACCOUNT ON THE STATE OF HIGH SCHOOL HOOPS IN ILLINOIS. ALTHOUGH I DON'T KNOW PERSONALLY WHETHER TODAYS' RECRUITMENT PROCESS IS BETTER OR WORSE THAN IT WAS IN THE PAST, I DO BELIEVE THAT THE PROLIFERATION OF AAU AND TRAVELING TEAM BALL HAVE GIVEN KIDS A LOT MORE EXPOSURE TO COLLEGES, AND HAS ALLOWED THE COLLEGES ACCESS TO MORE PLAYERS IN AREAS THAT THEY MIGHT NOT HAVE HAD OTHERWISE. SURE, THE PROCESS HAS EXPANDED THE CIRCLE OF PEOPLE WHO HAVE INFLUENCE ON THE PLAYER, BUT SOME MIGHT ARGUE (SUCCESSFULLY IN SOME CASES) THAT IT WAS NEEDED. HOWEVER, WHAT IS PROBABLY MORE TRUE IS THAT AS THE GROWTH AND POPULARITY OF COLLEGE HOOPS HAS BROUGHT INCREASED REVENUES AND NOTORIETY TO THE UNIVERSITIES AND COLLEGE COACHES, OF WHOM MANY OF THEM HAVE A PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH SHOE COMPANIES,IT HAS HELPED CREATE A COTTAGE INDUSTRY (SUMMER BALL) WHICH HAS LEFT SOME HIGH SCHOOL COACHES OUT OF THE SPHERE OF INFLUENCE. SO, IT APPEARS TO ME THAT THEY ARE MUTUALLY DEPENDENT UPON EACH OTHER. AS FAR AS U.OF I. AND N.U. HIRING JERENCE AND TAVARES, BOTH ARE STELLAR YOUNG MEN, WHO INSPIRE LOYALTY TO THEIR PROGRAMS, AND ARE FAMILIAR WITH THE CURRENT SYSTEM OF RECRUITMENT. I HAD THE HONOR OF COACHING BOTH OF THEM IN THE SUMMER WITH L.B. AND THE ILLINOIS WARRIORS, AND I CAN SAY UNEQUIVOCALLY THAT ANYTHING DONE BY THE WARRIORS ON THEIR BEHALF WAS DONE TO ASSIST THEM IN HAVING THE KINDS OF CAREERS THEY ARE HAVING TO THIS POINT. BECAUSE THE STATE OF ILLINOIS HAS, AND PROBABLY WILL ALWAYS HAVE A HIGH NUMBER OF EXCEPTIONAL PLAYERS, WE WILL ALWAYS BE AFFECTED BY ANY CHANGES THAT OCCUR IN THE HIGH SCHOOL GAME. BUT AS LONG AS GUYS LIKE YOU TWO ARE AROUND, THERE WILL ALWAYS BE A LEVEL OF INTEGRITY, BECAUSE EVERYONE KNOWS THAT YOU WILL TELL IT LIKE IT IS...

Roy & Harv Respond:

Dwayne,


We want to emphasize that this blog was NOT an indictment of AAU basketball as a whole but rather an effort to distinguish how the recruiting landscape has changed and the part that AAU and traveling team coaches have played in that without trying to focus on whether everything is right or wrong. We know that there are AAU programs out there that do things the right way, and with that being said let us just say this:

Larry Butler gets a bum rap from other media pundits and rival AAU coaches who think that they know what he is all about but really don't. The bottom line is that Larry was the pioneer of AAU basketball in Illinois and got it going before it even reached the level of popularity that it enjoys today. We believe that those AAU people who don't get along with him are the ones who are mostly jealous of the level of success that he has enjoyed. Have we always agreed with every decision that Larry has made? No, but what can't be disputed is that he cares about the development of his players and gets results. Anyone who argues that merely needs to look at his track record and the number of players who have come through the Warriors program who have either gone on to the NBA or are now college coaches. Plus how many Warriors players over the years could have ever been labeled as a truly "bad kid"? The answer is less than a handful. There is no question that Larry will remain one of the most influential (if not THE most influential) people in Illinois when it comes to high school basketball and the AAU circuit.

Leave a comment

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Roy & Harv Schmidt published on February 11, 2009 12:30 PM.

Seeding the IHSA State Tournaments A Most Difficult Task was the previous entry in this blog.

These Teams Will Be Playing In Peoria is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.