USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the recruiting process. This isn’t about where just the top five-star athletes are headed but rather a guide to the process and the pitfalls for student-athletes nationwide from Fred Bastie, the owner and founder of Playced.com. Playced.com is an industry leader in college recruiting. Their technology based recruiting service identifies the right colleges for potential recruits to pursue and provides a recruiting system that is second to none for student athletes of all talent levels and ages.
For 98 percent of high school athletes the college recruiting process works pretty much the same way for all sports, both male and female. If you aren’t a 5-Star recruit (and most athletes are not), then whether your sport is basketball or water polo, volleyball or wrestling, you have to (1) be an exceptional athlete, (2) pursue the right colleges, (3) figure out a way to get noticed and (4) close the deal.
Here is the story of an exceptional basketball player who may have had the only perfect recruiting journey in the history of the world. He wasn’t a 5-Star recruit and no one could ever expect to duplicate his experience, but we can learn from the things he did right!
Jake’s Recruiting Journey
From the time he was in kindergarten, Jake always dreamed of playing in the NBA. He loved basketball and practiced every chance he had. In fact, his parents had to install lighting in the driveway so he could practice at night. By the time sixth grade rolled around he knew that playing college basketball was a realistic possibility. He was the best player on every team he played on and although his parents were relatively short, he was the tallest student in his grade. Surely Coach K had already noticed him and was planning to make an offer soon!
By the time he was a freshman in high school, his parents thought he was going to be the next LeBron James. Here is how his college recruiting process progressed from freshman to senior year.
As a freshman Jake and his parents had high hopes he would be a starter on the varsity team in spite of the fact that he attended a very large, extremely competitive high school in Los Angeles. Jake didn’t make the varsity roster, but that didn’t change his attitude or work ethic one bit. He didn’t look at it as a negative at all. In fact, he made it a positive.
He improved tremendously because he didn’t sit on the bench and he played a significant role on the junior varsity team. In fact, the more playing time he got, the better he got.
Jake was certainly the best player on JV his freshman year (just ask his parents), and even though none of his teammates were thinking about college recruiting he was ready to get started. Jake really needed someone to answer his questions, be a mentor and help guide him through the college recruiting process. He thought about hiring a recruiting service, but luckily his Uncle Mel played college basketball and was always available to help. Based on his conversations with his uncle, Jake didn’t wait for the colleges to find him, he wanted to take his game to them.
Since he was only a freshman and didn’t have any varsity experience he decided it was too early to start contacting college coaches. However, he learned the recruiting rules and started identifying the kinds of colleges he was most interested in. He was confident that he would get his chance on varsity as a sophomore and he wanted to be ready. Jake worked just as hard in the classroom as he did on the basketball court. He understood how important academics are to college coaches. His uncle told him “Good grades open recruiting doors and poor grades can close them.”
In the spring of his freshman year Jake and his parents started looking for a solid AAU team to join for the summer. They looked for a quality team, with a great coach, a good schedule and a team where he would have a significant role. Jake projected to be a small forward in college and he didn’t want a team with four small forwards or one where he might have to play out of position.
When school started in the fall, Jake started getting ready for the PSAT and checked his NCAA Core Course GPA. Jake made the varsity roster and by the time the season was over he was the starting small forward. He had a good season and started collecting video clips for a highlight video. He also filled out the recruiting questionnaires on the college websites he had contacted previously.
After the season, Jake sent several introductory emails to college coaches. He wasn’t expecting any responses, but he wanted to get on a few coaches radar. Here’s how the emails read:
Hello Coach Smith:
First of all, congratulations on a great season last year. My name is Jake Martin and I just wanted to introduce myself to you as a potential recruit for your team in a few years. I am a 6-5 sophomore small forward at Western Senior High School and I have always followed the Mustangs. I have talked with my high school coach and he feels that I may be a good fit for your program in a few years.
I will check back with you when I decide on a summer team.
Thank you for your time,
In the spring of his sophomore year, Jake returned to his AAU team after making sure the schedule included tournaments where the right college coaches planned to attend. He also signed up for a few college camps. Whenever he attended a camp or played in a tournament he emailed the coaches ahead of time informing them he would be there. During the tournament he introduced himself to the coaches and after the tournament he followed up with an email to each of them.
Jake knew that his junior year was critical if he wanted to play in college. He kicked it up a gear on the court, in the classroom and in his recruiting efforts. On the first day of school he asked his coach if he had time to meet with him about his college recruiting efforts. When they met, Jake asked him if he felt comfortable reaching out to a few college coaches on his behalf. They discussed his athletic abilities and the kind of schools he should be contacting. He then refined his list of college options and gave his coach the contact information for the college coaches at his top schools and a copy of his recruiting resume.
The one “hiccup” in Jake’s college recruiting journey happened in the fall of his junior year. His girlfriend broke up with him right before Homecoming and he retaliated… on social media. After a few inappropriate posts, his high school coach stepped in and put an end to the foolishness. Fortunately, the posts were deleted quickly enough that no college coaches saw them. Jake apologized to his ex-girlfriend and her friends.
Jake’s grades continued to be good and while he wasn’t in the running for valedictorian, his GPA was well above average. This increased the number of colleges he could consider and he took advantage of that fact. When he sat for the ACT he scored a 24, which is pretty good considering the national average is 21. That said, he knew there certainly was room for improvement and he signed up for a standardized test review course. The next time he took the ACT he scored a 28, which was good enough (along with his grades) for admission to almost every college he was interested in.
When the high school season began, he was a starter and played very well. He never missed a practice, always put in extra work and was a leader on the court. He had a really good season and was voted first team All-District.
This is about the time things really started happening for Jake. He was now 6-7, he was the second leading scorer in his district, and his coach was very comfortable reaching out to college coaches on his behalf. For two weeks Jake made it a priority to send two emails a night to college coaches that were a fit for his abilities. Because of his efforts, he started receiving some really serious interest from the coaches he was emailing. College recruiting was fun! All his hard work had paid off and it looked like he was going to be able to choose from several offers.
The summer between his junior and senior year, Jake was asked to play on a very competitive summer team and he felt like the competition would make him a better player. That fact, along with the emails he was sending and the emails from his coach created interest from several schools. The scholarship offers started to come in the door!
In the fall of his senior year Jake verbally committed to a large Division II college in California. The scholarship money wasn’t his best offer, but none of the other colleges offered his major and that was the deciding factor.
Jake’s senior season in high school was stress-free from a recruiting standpoint and he had a great season. He was selected as second team All-State and graduated with a 3.5 GPA. He’s probably not going to play in the NBA, but he’s at the right college, earning the degree he wants and has a great future ahead of him.
Here’s the deal
Jake’s recruiting journey was nearly perfect and every recruit should hope for something similar, but surely no recruit can ever really do everything right. The Jake Martin story is obviously fictional…or is it?