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 Playced.com. This week’s article is written by Ross Hawley, the president of the company. Playced.com identifies appropriate colleges for potential recruits and delivers an online DIY college planning experience for student athletes of all talent levels and ages.
Billy Kennedy coached teams are known for the defense they play. From his time at Murray State to his current group at Texas A&M, it’s that defensive-minded approach that makes Kennedy’s teams so successful. And with a current ranking of 24th in the country, it certainly appears that this year’s Aggie team is geared up for another tournament run!
But defense is not the only trademark of a Kennedy team. Surprise, surprise… He is also known for recruiting and landing some serious talent, year in and year out. Recently, I spoke with Coach Kennedy about that very topic: college recruiting. Here is what he had to say.
Q: When do you and your staff start identifying the right players for your program?
A: Typically speaking, we start doing our serious research on potential recruits during their freshman and sophomore years of high school. We make the majority of our roster decisions on young men during their sophomore year, but we definitely start identifying potential “fits” for our program as early as freshman year. There are even some instances involving really special athletes that land on our radar their 7th or 8th grade year of middle school. It really does depend on the skill level of the athlete being recruited. The more talented a young man is, the earlier the recruiting process usually begins. Our staff relentlessly commits, regardless of age, to finding and adding the best young men to our roster, year in and year out.
Q: How does your staff identify potential recruits for your program?
A: The good thing about competing at the NCAA Division I Level is that identifying recruits is usually a pretty easy thing for us to do. Most of the time, the type of kids we recruit are identified early in their high school careers by many college programs, not just Texas A&M. Whether they are playing for a quality AAU team or their varsity high school team, we really just pay attention to the “buzz” around the game and go watch as much quality basketball as we can. In addition, we bring many potential recruits on campus through our team camps. It really boils down to our staff watching as many games and as many recruits as possible, by whatever means necessary.
Q: What would you tell a recruit if he was interested in your program and you had not yet identified him as a potential fit for your program?
A: Like many major Division I programs, we receive so much interest from so many high school recruits. As thankful as we are to receive an email from a young man wanting to be a part of our program, it is extremely difficult to review and respond to all of that interest. It is hard for an athlete to standout through an email, especially when his email gets mixed in with the emails coming from recruits that think they can play somewhere they really can’t. That makes filtering through recruit emails an almost impossible task.
For our program specifically, I would advise a young man to have his high school coach or AAU coach reach out to our staff, on his behalf. If that recruit truly has the ability to play at this level, it is going to take a personal conversation with his coach for us to even consider taking the next step.
Q: What can a student-athlete control during their recruiting process?
A: Everything. The student-athlete should control everything that happens. From figuring out what kind of a degree they want to what type of a program they want to play for, they should control it all. The quicker a recruit can “zero in” on the colleges that he/she genuinely has interest in, the better off they will be. The college recruiting process shouldn’t be about how many schools have interest in you or how many offers you get, it should be about you finding the right school. The priority is to get a degree and have a successful career, not to just get a scholarship. Control the things that matter, not the things that are all hype.
Q: What are some red-flags you pay attention to with recruits?
A: A high school athlete that has changed schools multiple times in their four years is a major red-flag. A high school athlete that has changed AAU teams multiple times in their high school career is also a major red-flag. When we see an athlete move around that much, it makes us really wonder what is going on. Is it a toughness issue? Does this athlete have a problem handling adversity? It really makes us question what the deal is. Obviously, there are exceptions to the rule and an athlete that has made a change or two is not necessarily something to be concerned with. But when it becomes a yearly-pattern, that is something that makes us dig a little deeper in understanding who that recruit really is.
Social media is also something that we pay great attention to. We keep up with the guys that “Twitter” all the time and love all of that. We want to know what kind of a kid we are getting. Are they about winning and team or are they more interested in things that don’t matter? Social media has a way of revealing someone and can be very telling. If we are making a scholarship decision, we tend to lean towards the guys that aren’t so involved in that stuff.
Q: What advice do you have for parents of student-athletes going through the recruiting process?
A: College recruiting is a business and I would really tell parents and athletes, alike, to treat it as such. By taking a business-like approach, the student-athletes and their parents will be in control of the outcome and that’s how it should be. Selecting the right college to attend is an investment into a young man or woman’s future, it’s not just about basketball. Get past all the emotions that come along with the experience and get to the important stuff. Recognize what it is that you want, put a game plan together and take those steps to making a quality choice.