College Recruiting Process - Part 1
Episode 3: College Recruiting Process Part 1 - Clarifying the Confusion Surrounding the New NCAA Division 1 Recruiting Calendar Release date: 3/4/20 Welcome to the Goal Tending Podcast, a sports and lifestyle podcast, co-hosted by former pro hooper Donald Watts (Watts Basketball) and former pro scout Matt McKay (Pro Insight). We provide analysis, break down nuances, lean in to mindfulness, and of course talk plenty of basketball. We will turn each podcast episode into a blog post, essentially putting the audio onto paper, which we hope will take on the vibe of each show...which as you will soon find out, we keep things pretty informal here at GTP! If we ever reference something of note or special importance on the podcast, we will do our best to link that reference at the bottom of each blog post for the audience’s convenience...like a footnote, of sorts. In the next episode, we begin a three-part series on the College Recruiting Process. For part one, we aim to clarify some of the confusion surrounding the ever-changing NCAA recruiting calendar.
Donald: We are here and really excited to start this three-part series, focusing on college prospects, the recruiting process and for today's show what we want to talk about is some new rules regarding the recruiting calendar. And honestly, when I thought about doing this, I was really excited to have Matt on here with me because he's been going to a lot of these events watching players and just thought he would be a great voice. And in our private conversations, he informed me, that he doesn’t really know much about it, which he does (laughs). He's just been on the NBA side of things as opposed to the college side of things and really just looking at the players on the high end of the market and looking at them from the concern of a professional team rather than, with the concern of the college recruiting rules. Am I correct in that assessment? Is that what you told me, Matt?
Matt: No doubt. For six years, all I was worried about was what we (NBA teams) were able to go watch. Oblivious to, ‘how does this affect the college recruiting calendar?’ So then this past year I've been dipping my toe into those waters, and it's been more relevant and pertinent to me. But I'm still going to defer to you as the resident expert.
Donald: No, I think that'll be even better for the show cause obviously you know the game, you know the sport, you have an opinion on it from a professional level. I'm curious myself to hear how you feel about certain things. And with that, let's get into it.
NCAA Recruiting Calendar: Then and Now
Donald: One of the major changes that folks need to know about -- that parents of prospects need to know -- is the recruiting calendar. The evaluation period in particular...you have your live periods, you have your evaluation periods, you have your recruiting periods, you have quiet periods, dead periods, all that stuff.
The ‘live’ and ‘evaluation’ period for Division 1 and Division 2 coaches are essentially synonymous with each other. But in the past, the calendar, there were two weekends at the end of April, that were live recruiting weekends. And then in July, basically all of July, with the exception of a couple of days in between weeks were live evaluation weekends. And all of those evaluation periods were essentially with AAU programs. Recently when I came up the first weekend in July would be camps. It would be the ABCD camps. They would be elite camps that were invitation-only where they invited the top players in the country and college coaches could watch those. But then they kind of took that week out and gave it to all AAU programs, who took over all of those weeks. So now you're in tournaments with your AAU program. And I don't think a lot of families, and I don't think a lot of people realize the changes. They split those days up amongst two other entities.
So now there's three entities involved in the college recruiting calendar process: one is the high school federations -- and with the high school federations, you go to a tournament as a team and essentially they're like invitational type tournaments in different regions of the country and that fall was during the normal high school June/summer league period. And then the other week, they have showcases. So as a prospect, you can either go with your team, if your team gets invited into one of these tournaments, or you can be nominated to go to a showcase. Right? So that's one of those that's at the end of June. And then you have in July, you have a four-day period with your AAU programs. So that's the entity that has always been kind of involved. And then in April you have two weekends with your AAU program. So a total of, I think it's nine days that you can be viewed playing basketball with your AAU program.
And then, and this is where Matt, you can come in and give us some perspective because you attended it, is the NCAA Academy, where they invite prospects...they actually pay for their trip and invite prospects out. And I'm gonna tell you an interesting story about that as we get into this show. But they invite a prospect and a family member and then they have a camp that is hosted and sponsored by the NCAA and I want to talk about your experience with that toward the end, Matt. But overall, like having gone to some of this stuff, what do you feel like are the advantages and disadvantages of the changes to the recruiting calendar, and what, in your opinion, just hearing about it, what do you think a family should do different or should they do anything different, as it relates to AAU and how do you think a family with a prospect approach should change, if at all, based on the changes in the recruiting calendar?
Matt: Well, I don't think you can make a blanket statement to pertain to everybody. I think it's definitely case-by-case. With that said, I am an advocate and a proponent for the more environments you can put your kid in where it's an optimal environment with good competition and coaches and attendance, and it's being run the right way, I'm a proponent of that to a certain extent. So I think the fact that it's pretty cut and dry in April -- you're going with your AAU team wherever they're scheduled to go and participate. In terms of the Academy, I know that was a little bit of a buzz topic last year as they were rolling it out for the first time. We can talk more in depth about it later.
Donald: This would be a great time to talk about it since you mentioned it. You had your experience there. I know that at the academies there probably wasn't the highest level of competition that the best players anticipated and I know in that first year there was a nomination process that probably some players had no idea about. Can you talk to us about the type of players that were at the Academy.
Matt: It was a wide variety. I would say it's a little bit of a contrast compared with an event like an EYBL weekend where you've got such a more condensed, concentrated amount of talent there. That’s where the top guys usually are. So you have guys that have also played in the EYBL that were in attendance going there, doing their thing; but then there's also guys that probably wouldn't be necessarily getting many minutes on one of the shoe circuit teams. So it was just more of a variance. I think at the same time, in terms of guys going out and competing in that environment, it was a positive thing. I think anytime you have a gym lined with college coaches, that's going to typically more often than not bring out the best in a player. They're going to be locked in and they're going to be competing. So in this competitive environment, there weren't constantly 10 high major D1 kids on the court at the same time...
Donald: I guess that would be unfortunate and hopefully they’ll change that. Maybe having the academies is not necessarily to solely benefit the high major D1's. I know for one, those are the only places that college coaches can be watching players during that time period. For the most part, like every program in the country is going to be at those events at the end of July. I know one of the reasons for the rule change is to make it more convenient for coaches to see players, making it more of a one-stop shop. In the past, you have these guys that hosted tournaments in Las Vegas or wherever -- and they're exposure tournaments -- and they have thousands of teams literally show up to be in their tournament and they have gyms all over the city. Taking the distance between gyms and the time crunch into account, there's no chance that a college coach is going to see everyone.
So what you had in the AAU, you had a bunch of people making money off the idea that if they come to this event, they're going to be recruited. If they were good enough or they weren't, if they wrote a check, they could come. Now with this college prep academy, with the college camps at the end of June, you have to be nominated, you have to be invited, and you definitely, 1000% will be playing in front of coaches, since there's only four events across the country. So we can say you're basically guaranteed -- if you're at one of those events -- to play in front of 25% of the Division 1 and Division 2 universities in the country. Is that a fair assessment as far as the coaches and attendance?
Matt: I think generally speaking, historically, you just had more moving pieces on those weekends in July where it was kind of the wild wild west. The stars could align and you might be in the auxiliary gym and you might be found -- you hear stories about that -- but no, what the NCAA has done with the college basketball academies, I think this year they switched it around to have, they have the locations spaced apart. So they have Salt Lake -- the University of Utah has one. I think Winthrop, in South Carolina is hosting one this year, Wichita State and University of Connecticut - UCONN, which also hosted last year. I went to Champaign last year. The schools represented were not just from the Midwest -- it wasn't just the Big Ten last year when I was there, you had coaches from all over. I saw Pac 12 coaches, SEC coaches, and what have you. So I do think that the idea on paper, what they're doing with the college basketball academies, is making a great bang for buck situation. You know what I mean?
Donald: Yeah absolutely, and the key for a parent, if we’re going back to the parents, is to get on, figure out, get your coach, and figure out that process. And we will update our show notes (see very bottom of this blog post) with what the nomination process looks like, how to make sure that if you have a prospect that you're giving them the best chance to be a part of these things. But the most important thing, and while we're talking about this...is that folks, parents, coaches, they really need to know about these opportunities because it's not as straightforward as going to your local AAU team trying to make the best team. And then you get all the exposure. The NCAA has really taken back control over the recruiting process. And one of the reasons that they've done that was because of the corruption. Frankly, there were a lot of people involved in it as kind of the gatekeepers that in my opinion, were more about profit than the opportunity that they were creating for kids and there was a definitely a line that was blurred. So whether we like it, agree with it or don't agree with it, I think that it's important to understand the intention as they continue to work to perfect the process.
Matt: Absolutely. This is a little bit of a new frontier. I think an important thing to remember is that no solution is going to keep everybody happy. But I think the intention is in the right place. They're trying to make it better.
Donald: So that is the last and probably the most difficult thing to become a part of for a prospect. The other new addition is the high school federation-hosted showcases. And now I'm involved with the WIAA here in Washington and with the coaches association and with them getting involved in that game last year, I know it was something that was kind of last minute -- there were some ups and downs as far as trying to figure out how to really work it because it wasn't a game that the coaches association had been part of in the past. They hosted a showcase over at Bellevue, and that showcase was for representatives from California, Oregon, Arizona, Alaska. It was like the only one in the region and kids had to be nominated. They were working through the nomination process and all of that stuff, and having an opportunity to view that and be a part of it, personally, I don't know if you made it to any of those, but I thought it was a pretty cool deal.
When I was in high school, like I said, the showcase camps where college coaches could come see, were a part of the recruiting process that had been eliminated. But now when those showcase camps where it wasn't the high school coaches, there were camp entities that were running those showcase camps. Now they've re-instituted it and it's the high school federation, which is involved, which gives it a little bit more control. The high school federation in partnership with the NCAA. And the thing that I like about the showcase camp format is it really gives you the freedom -- you're not locked into a role. You're not locked in, it really gives you the opportunity independent of people who have coached you or might have judgments of you or might say, ‘hey, you do this,’ or whatever. It gives you the freedom to really go express yourself with a group of guys and really compete almost like at the playground. Now, the downside of the showcase is oftentimes you get players that really play selfishly there. My tip for anybody who's involved in that...cause sometimes you can get into a situation where you're playing with the guy who's over-dribbling, not passing, and not making basketball plays....and then you feel the need to get the ball and kind of do the same thing...Trust me, college coaches can see players who are playing the wrong way and you don't want to get into a competition that has you playing the wrong way. And one of the important things, it's not about the quantity of plays that you make, but it's about the quality of plays that you make. And folks like you, who is an NBA scout, and folks like myself and college coaches are really experts at seeing like, ‘oh man, that was a quality basketball play.’ And it's not how many plays you make. It's when you have an opportunity to make the play, do you make the right play?
That gets a coach's attention. But I love the showcase environment. Being a part of the recruiting process for that reason because it gives athletes a number of different formats for a coach to see them in different environments. You might get into a situation where you and your AAU program have an issue and they decide that they're not playing you; or there might be a guy on your AAU program that's not better than you, but fits their system/the AAU program’s system better. So they can run, jump and trap better than you can and you're more of a fundamentally sound, come off the screen shooter-type. Well, it gives you a format that you're not locked in to other people to show what you're capable of and you're going to play. What do you think about that? Did you have an opportunity to go to any of those? To the high school federation showcases?
Matt: I didn't, but I'm glad you can speak to it. I was at the academies, but not the federation stuff. But no, to be to the point, you hit the nail on the head. Having different environments outside of just your nine guys you normally play with on your high school team is really, really important -- not only for your own development, but just again, like you said, you might play in more of a certain box, on your high school team.
Donald: Or your AAU team for that matter.
Matt: Yeah I know, vice versa. But no, just generally speaking as an evaluator, it's not what you do, it's how you do it. Right?
Donald: Absolutely. Now I did not get a chance to see, but the other new piece within the high school environment, at least in our region, was the one Arizona hosted -- they hosted a high school tournament that had prospects in it that college coaches could go view during the federation period. Did you get an opportunity to go and see any of those weekends?
Matt: No cause there's other stuff going on, during those dates and I was spread around myself. I didn't go, but it was on my radar.
Donald: I didn't get a chance to do that either so we can't speak too much on that. But I will say this: I had spoken with college coaches that were pleasantly surprised, and some kids got offers that they had seen play on the AAU circuit with their AAU team and they didn't consider offering. But when they saw them play within the system, they saw a different value in the kid and gave them offers. And so here, once again, it's a different format of playing in general. When you play in high school, you typically play with a quality coach, quality program, you're going to have more organization than you're going to have in your AAU program. And while AAU is a great format for showcasing talent, the high school experience is still valuable within itself...kids often have to sacrifice and do things maybe they don't want to, like, I'm 6-6 and I don't want a play center, but I have to because I'm the biggest guy on my team. But I'm really a small forward. Well, a coach can see like, ‘oh man, he's 6-6, he has some post skills he's willing to do different things to help out. The way that he plays when there's structure is completely different than the way he plays in the AAU program.’ And ultimately, when you get to college, it's structure. right?
So it gives coaches an opportunity to see these kids, once again, in a variety of formats, and I'm excited I'm going to be working with my son's high school trying to figure out what it is we have to do to get our team to be a part of an event like that, as well as making sure he's involved in the high school federation showcase. You can't make sure they're involved in the college academy, but figuring out what we have to do to get them nominated to be a part of that college academy is something you can control.
Maximizing Exposure and “the right fit”
That April and June period, which for me as a parent of a prospect has now become the least of my concerns. And one of the things we want to wrap up with is tips for how to get maximum exposure for your kids under this new recruiting game and one of the things that I know is important to me for my son is which position he’s playing. Although he has an opportunity to be a prospect as a shooting guard and he is a prospect as a shooting guard, I really see a greater value for him at point guard.
And so when I'm thinking about it, I'm looking at these AAU programs and I want to know how you are going to play him...and not for a guarantee...I'm not saying ‘is he going to start,’ it's more like ‘what style of play are you going to play? And then ‘how do you see my son fitting into what you're doing’ and then ‘how do we see that fitting into his ultimate marketability as a prospect?’
Matt: Let me jump on that real quick. I'll just piggy back and you can pick it back up, but I think no matter what the level, from the NBA down to third grade CYO, for 90% of players, ultimate success is very contextual. Like you can toss out the LeBrons and KDs and guys like that, but for the majority of the players even in the NBA, their ceiling is contextual and that just trickles down. It’s what we're talking about at the high school level, right? Like, Isaiah and Jadyn (Donald’s kids) are talented in your specific case, but they're not going to absolutely thrive no matter the context. That's the point I want to make.
Donald: No, absolutely...and I was going to say ‘contextual’ means that there are situations that are optimal for them based on their size and ability, right? And the way that a team plays, what a coach values...those are all things that go into making the best decision that you can when you're putting your kid in a situation.
And for me, the high school situation is something that you make sacrifices for. Like your high school team, your high school program, you might have to play outside of your role, but when it comes to the showcase and the recruiting or whatever, I'm really not willing to make those same sacrifices because I'm not in it for the community. Right? It's obviously a team game, but I'm in it for a specific outcome. And in order for us to get that specific outcome, first we have to have the skill set, right? We have to have the skills, we have to have the skill set, we have to have the game. But then second, we have to have a format. We have to do our best to put him in a situation where they have a format to express the skills, the skillset, and the game, and when I put my kid as a part of an AAU program where I put him on a plane to go to a showcase event, there's a very clear means to an end in that role. That's why I didn't do it in third grade, fourth grade, fifth grade. My kids didn’t play AAU growing up. Now it's time to do it, but I want to make sure myself and other parents as well have a solid understanding.
We're going to talk about this in part two -- where your kids are at, what they need in order to grow, and then also how they need to be showcased and do what’s best to put them in a situation...it's not a perfect science. But we talk about mindfulness -- parents need to be mindful about attempting to put their kid in that best situation because even when you're mindful about it there's no guarantee that it's going to work out. But if you don't have an assessment, if you don't have an evaluation, and if you haven't thought about your roadmap, if you don't have a roadmap, then the percent-chance that it’s not going to work out, goes way, way, way up. So that's something I want people to really be cognizant of.
What other things can a parent do? Let's assume that the kid has skills, they have a skillset and they have game. What other things can they do to really maximize their exposure? What tips do you have for a kid who's under the radar, who has what it takes to make sure that they get maximum visibility from college coaches and in return get an opportunity to play at the next level?
Matt: Surround them with people that are going to provide honest feedback, putting them in situations where they'll actually get to play. Sometimes, it's logical, but just because there's a few tiers of AAU teams in your region, it doesn't mean that if they get an opportunity to play at the highest tier, that's necessarily the right spot. As much as it might be nice to put on your resume, ‘I played in the EYBL,’ well, if you played less than two minutes a game, I don't know how much that's helping you get exposure to college coaches, specifically. Seeking out situations that are going to be, again, just doing your due diligence to make sure that you're putting your child in a situation that they're going to be able to play. And then again, surrounding them in your basketball decision-making circle, with people that are going to be shooting you straight and not just kind of telling you what you want to hear, to get you on board with something. Just kind of general things, but I'd actually be curious to ask you, what's the best advice you've received or you've experienced first hand, in this realm? And then how would you turn around and relay that to other parents?
Donald: Well one of the things I would do, if I have a legitimate prospect: getting his game film together, getting an evaluation before you make a decision on where you're going to put them, where are you going to place them. And then, like you said, if you have somebody who's honest with you, ‘hey, where are we at? Where do you think we can play?’ Whatever, and take that and then decide if you're okay with that. If you want to change that trajectory and then figure out what are the things that you need to put in place in order to do so. So from there, get your film together, send it out, send it out with a schedule of where you're going to be, where you're going to be playing, where you’re going, and let a coach know that you have interest in their program. And then listen for the feedback, right? And if you don't get feedback from the level that you think you're at, then go down a level...and you want to get an email back that says, ‘hey, boom, we're going to come check you out, we'd love to schedule a phone call, we'd love to have you on campus.’ And then that's the other thing is go out there and visit some campuses, introduce yourself, shake some hands. See if the coaches at that level, at those schools, are happy and kind of laying out the red carpet that you've decided to come on campus or they're treating you like you're wasting their time...because all that is real feedback from the right people. Right? And if you're not afraid, if you're really serious about the goal, you can't be afraid of knowing where you're at, because then that can determine what you need to do next. And we're going to talk about that, we're going to talk more about this on part two of the college recruiting process...rules, changes and tips with our prospect checklist where we're going to go through about a dozen things that every prospect should do in our next episode. So I want you to make sure you tune into that.
Thank you to my co host, Matt McKay. I thought this was a great show. Leave us your comments and questions. Next show, we're going to be talking about the checklist. Then in part three, we're going to talk about how we develop and identify. I develop college prospects. Coach Matt McKay identifies prospects. How do you know you’re a prospect? How do you know you're not a prospect? If you want to be a prospect, what do you need to do? Then, what level are you -- what's your prospect status? You're going to find more about that in part three. And then part four, it will be driven by you, the listener. We're going to take part four and answer questions, so make sure you leave comments in the comment section. You can email us, too.
Donald: Any of your recruiting questions, and what we're going to do in part four is we're going to answer your questions. So continue to tune in, hit that subscribe button and share this with your friends. Thank you for listening to the show.
Matt: I'm going to add one more tidbit at the end. On the heels of all that, talking about context, I want to offer just a couple of little extra pearls of wisdom from my experience...as this is a very imperfect science. I read a tweet yesterday, and I'll paraphrase. It just stuck with me and I think you can kind of apply it to probably any part of this series. Again, I'll just paraphrase it, but someone had tweeted, ‘I know a former mid major D1 player that transferred to a D2 and averaged less than two points per game and is not in basketball anymore; I know an NAIA player that is now making five grand per month in Europe; I think he had one more example, but point being, success is very contextual...but at the same time, it's imperfect. So if you wind up at any level, if you're an aspiring college basketball player -- aside from potentially being an NBA all-star down the line -- it doesn't mean that if you're playing D3 ball that your ceiling is playing at the Pro-Am five years from now. There's plenty of players from every level that have gone on and made it a career.
Donald: That's beautiful. Thank you for adding that tidbit cause that is very important. Tune in to part two of the recruiting process, so you can get that checklist. We are out!
Show References + Links
Link to the NCAA Recruiting Calendar FAQ Page: here
More important Links: