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.
This week, I was able to sit down and talk college recruiting with Dale Wellman, head men’s basketball coach at Nebraska Wesleyan University. Sure, I could tell you to listen to what he has to say because his Prairie Wolves just won the NCAA Division III National Championship. Or I could tell you to listen to what the 2018 NABC Coach of the Year has to say because his philosophy of college recruiting is so logical, you’d be ridiculous not to. But the real reason I want you to pay attention to Coach Wellman is this: he’s a really good guy! And, if you’re a high school basketball player reading this article, Dale Wellman is the kind of coach you should want to play for at the next level.
From how a recruit can get his attention, to the role camps play in the college recruiting process, here is what Coach Wellman had to say.
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.
Q: How important is a high school/AAU coach’s opinion of a player?
A: Those opinions are a big part of the recruiting process, for any player. Obviously, the more you know a coach at one of those levels, the more you value their opinion. That’s not to say anything negative about a coach that maybe I just met. Certainly, we are going to listen to any coach that talks to us about a young man we’re evaluating. But, I think you have to establish some sort of trust in what they’re telling you is objective. Because here’s why: most coaches are going to say good things about their players, and naturally so.
What really stands out to me when I’m talking to a coach is if I hear anything negative. For example, if a coach is trying to sell us on a player and he says something like, “I think he’ll be a good defender in college, or he doesn’t go real hard in practice, but he’s a gamer.” Those are red flags. It’s not like those things are overly-negative, but those kinds of things can be telling to who that player really is. If you can’t defend in high school, or you don’t give 100% in practice, what makes you think you’ll change once you’re in college?
Q: Physical talent aside, what do you look for in a recruit?
A: I think if you would’ve watched our team warm up in any one of our NCAA games this year, you would’ve learned quickly that we were never the biggest team. We weren’t the most athletic team. Don’t get me wrong, we had physical talent but, we weren’t overly impressive from the outside looking in. The reason we won a National Championship this year is because our guys flat-out got after it. We had a bunch of guys that weren’t scared to compete. They pushed each other each day in practice and they weren’t afraid of being uncomfortable. So, when it comes to what we’re looking for in a recruit, that’s it!
“Body language screams” is something we say a lot around here. It screams whether you’re out there cheering on your teammates or slumping your shoulders. It screams whether you’re handing the ball to the official or rolling it the other way. Put it this way: are you someone that other people like being around? Because from October to March, I spend more time with my team than I do with my wife and kids. And, I want to make sure that I’m spending that time with guys I really enjoy being around. That has nothing to do with how good of a basketball player you are.