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.
April was another fantastic month for our coach interviews. In fact, each of our three interviews featured basketball coaches who recently won a National championship! This month, we had the opportunity to sit down and talk college recruiting with Dave Slifer (Central Missouri, NCAA D II women’s basketball), Andy Bronkema (Ferris State, NCAA D II men’s basketball) and Dale Wellman (Nebraska Wesleyan, NCAA D III men’s basketball). Their insight and perspective on the college recruiting process are as good as it gets!
From understanding the different levels of college basketball, to what you need to do to get their attention, here is what these National Champions had to say.
Dave Slifer, Central Missouri
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 an 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 are 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.
Andy Bronkema, Ferris State
Q: Physical talent aside, what are you looking for in a recruit?
A: Body language. Mannerisms. Those are non-negotiables for our program. The way a young man carries himself on the court is what separates who we make offers to, and who we don’t. Obviously, your physical talent can get you attention from any coach or any program. But, it’s the body language that will determine the details. When you foul out, are you ripping your jersey out of your shorts and making a scene? Or how about when you’re subbed out. Are you able to be coached in moments of stress? Do you still care about your team, or is it all about you? How do you look at the flag when the National Anthem is played? Every detail matters in the evaluation process and how you handle yourself on the court, regardless of the situation, will determine what school you end up playing for.
Q: What is your take on recruiting multi-sport athletes?
A: We have a multi-sport athlete in our program right now, who also plays football. I love it and I love recruiting the guys that are multi-sport athletes in high school. Here’s the deal about multi-sport athletes: they’re not boring! We play whiffle ball with our guys every year and you’d be amazed, half of them can’t even hit the ball! What are you going to do at the family reunion when you can’t hit the ball? I mean come on, let’s be more than just good basketball players, here! All jokes aside, each sport has something else to offer. Winning looks different in every sport. And, you have to figure out different ways to get it done. Figure out how to win and how to compete. When you can recruit guys that know how to win, across the board, there’s a good chance that winning will translate into our program. I know everyone feels differently about specializing in a sport, but for me, I’ll take the guys playing all the different sports, every day.
Dale Wellman, Nebraska Wesleyan
Q: What does a recruit need to do to get your attention?
A: I think the most important piece of any recruit getting our attention is making sure that we’ve got your schedule. We want to see you on the court, in those game settings. So, let us know where you’re playing and when you’re playing. We’re very strategic about how we spend our time evaluating guys and we make every effort to be efficient, in seeing as many players as we possibly can, in one setting.
Additionally, you need to make yourself very accessible. As a staff, we aren’t going to inundate you with phone calls, emails or text messages. But, we will be very straightforward with our communications and expectations. And, we expect the same from you. I’m not saying you need to respond within an hour of something we send, but you certainly should display a level of urgency in responding that signals to us you’re truly interested in NWU.
Q: What role do camps serve in the college recruiting process?
A: Attending a prospect camp, at a school you’re interested in, is probably the best way to get a feel for that program. It’s an amazing opportunity to make the recruiting process much more personal, or much more real. I think every recruit should experience what a day in the life of being a student-athlete at a prospective school looks like. Get on campus, see the facilities and tour the campus. Have a good understanding of what it feels like to be a student. And during the camp, you’ll be able to work with the coaches and maybe some of the players. Get to know them and try to get a feel for what the next four years would look like. The sooner you can see the value in getting to camps at the schools you’re interested in, the closer you’ll be to understanding what makes the most sense for your situation. Camps are a great way to find your college home.