USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the recruiting process. This isn’t about where 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 identifies appropriate colleges for potential recruits and delivers online college planning for student athletes of all talent levels and ages.
Hard work has always been the key to success for Brooks Thompson, the men’s basketball coach at Texas-San Antonio. And as the head coach of an up-and-coming Division I basketball team, that key to his success has not changed. In fact, when it comes to recruiting, it might well be the area where he works the hardest.
As a high school prepster, Thompson earned Colorado Player of the Year honors, and played his way to a Division I basketball scholarship at Texas A&M University, where he later transferred and finished his collegiate career at Oklahoma State University. As if that is not impressive enough, Thompson enjoyed a 4-year NBA career, after being selected by the Orlando Magic in the 1st Round of the 1994 NBA Draft. In spite of all those accomplishments, Thompson insists he was a “late bloomer” and his success is a result of hard work. He has always focused on what he could control and didn’t worry about the other distractions. During his senior year at Oklahoma State when Coach Eddie Sutton told him a scout was at a game to see him, Thompson’s reply was, “For what?”
Thompson spoke with USA TODAY High School Sports about high school athletes and the college recruiting process.
Q: How has college recruiting changed in the last 10 years?
A: Probably the two areas that have changed the most in recruiting are the use of social media and the accessibility of the athletes. High school students today communicate through social media. I am the talker on my coaching staff, but my coaches are all active on social media. Twitter, Instagram and Facebook all make it easier to “connect” with recruits and get a feel for the character of each athlete.
Today’s high school athlete is also much more accessible. My coaching staff has more opportunities to see players compete. The number of showcases and tournaments has exploded and we can watch prospects nearly every weekend during the off season.
Q: What advice would you give a high school athlete if they aren’t getting noticed?
A: The best advice I can give a high school athlete, if they aren’t being noticed, is to make sure you are on the right team. The right team isn’t necessarily the very best team. The right team is the one with a good schedule, good coaching and one where you will have an opportunity to play a significant role. You have to play to be seen and you have to play to get better.
In addition, if an athlete is reaching out to colleges on their own, they need to be sure the colleges are the right fit for their abilities. Reaching out to schools that are not appropriate is really a waste of their time and our time. Identifying the right colleges is perhaps the hardest part of recruiting for any athlete.
Q: How do you identify players for your roster that are not 5 star athletes?
A: We leave no stone unturned. Our coaching staff does everything in our power to ensure we are finding the right student athletes to represent UTSA, both on and off the court. We open every email. We attend as many camps, tournaments and games as we possibly can.
Student athletes have to understand that recruiting is a process. Sending one email or scoring 20 points in a game won’t necessarily get you a scholarship. If we are interested in an athlete, we check with his high school coach, with his summer coach and sometimes with opposing coaches. We send our coaching staff to watch them play more than just once.
Q: How do you make sure a player is the right fit for your program?
A: My coaching staff watches players from the time they step off the bus until the time they get back on the bus. We watch how they warm up, how they interact with their teammates, how they handle themselves in competition, how they win and how they lose. We evaluate the entire package, we don’t just look at the box score.
Q: What role do high school coaches play in recruiting?
A: High school coaches can play a huge role in recruiting, both positively and negatively. If a coach is willing to vouch for a player, that speaks volumes about that player. On the flip side of that, if a coach doesn’t have much to say about one of their athletes, it really makes us take a deeper look. Typically speaking, the character we see and hear of an athlete in high school, is the character he will bring to us at UTSA.
Q: Who plays the most important role in a student athlete’s recruiting process?
A: Without question the athlete plays the most important role. They are the ones that ultimately control all facets of what makes them a recruit. If an athlete takes care of business in the classroom, on the court and in their personal life, everyone will want to see them succeed and will be more willing to help them out. Good athletes with good grades and character are easy to promote to college coaches.
Q: If you had the chance to give a recruit one piece of advice, what would that be?
A: Every student athlete should look for a college where they can enjoy the experience with their teammates, while they get their degree. Find a school where you will have a role on the team and make sure you finish your education. Being a college athlete is so much more than actually playing the sport. Do the best job you can to prepare for a successful college career. It can and will literally change your life.