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 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.
Dave Slifer has been the head women’s basketball coach at Central Missouri for the last 14 seasons. In his time at UCM, Coach Slifer’s led his Jennies basketball program to the postseason 8 times. He’s won 2 conference championships and just this last weekend, he guided UCM to the NCAA Division II National Championship. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, Coach Slifer is also the all-time winningest coach in UCM history. What does all this mean, you ask? Well, to put it in simply; Dave Slifer is one of the best coaches in all of basketball!
From what it takes to get his attention as a recruit, to his insight into the differentiation between Division I basketball versus Division II basketball, here is what Coach Slifer had to say.
Q: Talk to me about the differences between the Division I and II levels. How can a recruit be confident in committing to a Division II school, over a Division I school?
A: In college basketball right now, it seems like the Division I level has turned into a 12-month a year commitment. It’s almost like playing Division I basketball is a job. At the Division II level, most of the programs don’t have the money to keep the kids around all summer. So, there is some time off for these players. “Life in the balance” has always been the motto at this level. It truly is a balance of athletics, academics and being a college student. As a Division II coach, that’s really what we are selling to the kids that are wavering between picking a Division I school, or a Division II school. We want them to get and experience that balance, so being a college athlete doesn’t feel like it’s a job. That’s not a knock on Division I, at all. It’s just the nature of the business and it’s important for a recruit to realize what they’re getting themselves into.
At the Division II level, there are a lot of different programs that can win a conference championship, each year. And every year, there are a lot of different programs that can compete for regional and national titles. It’s a real possibility and it’s a big-time event. Parity exists! Now, if you look back at the history of women’s basketball, the same can’t be said for the Division I level. There’s only a few schools competing for a National Championship, each year. Make no mistake about it, what Coach Auriemma has going on at UCONN is on another level. He’s the John Wooden of women’s basketball. But each season, it’s predictable as to who will have the best shot at winning a national title.
Lastly, look at the attendance the program is drawing for the home games. How important is basketball to that community, and to that school? I think you’ll see a major difference between some of the lower level Division I schools, and the Division II schools. Here in the Midwest especially, there are a lot of college towns. Now, they may not be huge communities, but they’re college towns. And typically, it’s easy for an entire community to get behind a team when they’re the main event. Obviously, it becomes even easier if the team is winning.
Q: How does a recruit get your attention?
A: One of the best ways to get our attention is to get to one of our camps. More now than ever before, recruiting has become an event that takes place much earlier. That means, we are making offers and getting verbal commitments from most of our kids, before they even start their senior seasons. The process seems to move up, every year. That’s why the camps become such a big piece of the identification process for us. By getting to a camp, we can identify a recruit within the rules and regulations of the NCAA.
Q: Is emailing you the best way for a recruit to land on your radar?
A: We get so many emails from services and individual kids, we’re literally inundated with those communications, every day. And, you just become numb to those after a while. If I spent my day following up on every email we get, we’d never get anything done. So, that’s certainly not the best way to go about getting our attention. To be effective, it needs to be more personal for us to really take notice of any player. I think the easiest way to get our attention is by way of the high school or AAU coach. If we’re getting a call on a player from a coach, that usually means something. It’s personal when a coach is willing to pick up the phone and talk to us about one of their players.
Q: Physical talent aside, what are you looking for in a recruit?
A: Two years ago, I experienced my first losing season in coaching. We went 11-18 and we had no team chemistry, whatsoever. Quite frankly, the team struggled to get along. Going through that season was proof to me that culture matters, probably as much as, or even more than physical talent. That said, we’re looking for mature, respectful young ladies. We want as many 4-year kids as we can. We recruit young women that are in it for the long haul and that will put a higher priority on the team goals, than the individual goals. That’s the reason we won the National Championship this year. Our girls bought into the team concept.