College Recruiting Process - Part 2
Updated: May 21
Episode 4: College Recruiting Process, Part 2 - 13-Step Customizable College Prospect Checklist
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 latest episode, College Recruiting Process Part 2, we lay out a roadmap for any aspiring college basketball player, as Donald and Matt explain each of the 13 steps of our customizable college prospect checklist.
Donald: This is part two of our series for college prospects and their families...so that kids can give themselves the best opportunity to take full advantage of their talent and earn educational opportunities. I'm Donald Watts, with my good friend Matt McKay, Jr., and in part two we are going to go over the College Prospect Checklist that we developed some time ago. We're going to release that so it'll be in the show notes (check the very bottom of this blog post). I’m always a proponent of writing things down, anyway, just because if you put pen to paper, it kind of puts it in your spirit and your memory more than just listening.
But before we get into that, if you haven't checked out part one, well, we talked about the recruiting calendar and the changes to the recruiting calendar and some tips on how to maximize your recruiting. Make sure you go back and check that out. Man, I'm super excited about that show. Just because I think there are things that you and I talk about all the time, but I feel like it's a real value and really helpful to those who are interested in the recruiting process and for those that will be going through it. So just a big kudos to you for inspiring me to do this as a friend and being a motivation and being each other's checks and balances. I've been wanting to do this for years, but when you agreed to do it with me and we came up with a name...it became real...and having you as a friend and as a partner on this project has forced me to push through some challenges that if I was doing it on my own, I honestly probably would have been delayed another year or two. So I appreciate you man. And after doing that show, it really opened my spirit up and I'm just excited about this project, brother.
Matt: Hey, I echo that man and as a segue, I'll say everybody out there can use a catalyst from time to time, that's what elements of this show are going to be.
Donald: Absolutely. So with that being said, let's get into our checklist man, our 13 things. Let's dive in. And the first thing, obviously as we go through this, certain things are very straightforward. They won't take a lot of talking about and then other things are nuances that parents and people really need to think about. Those things may require some help and an expert. And before we get into that, I'll say that you have two experts right here on the line. So if you're confused about anything or you just realize that you need help with some of this stuff, don't hesitate to email us at email@example.com.
13-Step Checklist Overview
So now, what I'll do is I'll go through the 13 things and then we'll go back and go through it and break it down. Okay, first thing, and this is what we call a ‘non-negotiable’:
Review your transcript
Get registered with the NCAA Eligibility Center and 2point3.org is where you go to do that
Register for your college entrance exam, whether that's your SAT or ACT
Do a social media audit. Google yourself. See what that says
Put together a bio, a player bio, student bio, a personal bio
Measure your skills and abilities
Create a recruiting film
Get your game film together
Identify next-level role models
Review the recruiting calendar -- and this was something that we went over in-depth in part one of this series
Make a schools list
Evaluate your situation: where are you at? How do you need to improve?
Kick off your proactive recruiting program -- and we will talk more about that
Step 1: Transcripts
So let's get back to number-one. It's pretty straight forward. Review your transcript. And here's the thing is where a lot of kids get confused -- they look at their cumulative GPA and they don't look at their core GPA...and that core GPA is the sixteen core courses that are required for your NCAA eligibility and your grade point average that a school is concerned with in the admittance process as a student athlete is those sixteen core course GPA...your PEs, your art classes, those do not count. You can't pad your GPA with -- and much respect to all teachers, all educators -- but with the fluffier classes. It's the language arts, it's the history, it's the math, it's the sciences. It's those classes -- those core GPA -- you have to get sixteen and you have to have ten complete going into your senior year. So those are the key elements regarding your transcripts. You can go to the NCAA and review that in-depth. Keep a copy of this checklist and you can check these items off one-by-one.
Step 2: NCAA Eligibility Center
The next thing is to go to 2point3.org. If your child is a sophomore, that's the time to get them registered with the NCAA as a prospective student athlete -- you're gonna register there. You're going to upload your transcript. That's a great practice for a kid who wants to be a prospect to understand early that the grades matter. When you do that, don't wait until you're getting recruited. Don't wait until a college coach calls, all of that stuff. You want to have these ducks in a row. I'll say this, if there's two student athletes that are being looked at and all things are equal and one student-athlete is already cleared with the NCAA Eligibility Center and the other student-athlete isn't...they might be a 4.0 student, but if they haven't gone through that process, and I already know that the one is a qualifier because they’re cleared through the NCAA eligibility city, who Matt, are you going to recruit first?
Matt: In a vacuum, the person who's cleared.
Donald: I said, all things being equal.
Matt: The one who's cleared.
Step 3: College Entrance Exams
Donald: Yeah, absolutely. And then the second part of that clearance is pretty straightforward: get registered for your college exam. My recommendation on this is to take it early. I know a lot of people are so focused on the basketball side of things...the AAU, the year-round basketball, sometimes they see this part as an afterthought. When you're at, say, halfway through your sophomore year -- definitely by the end of your sophomore season -- take it. So you know where you're at, so that if you need to take an SAT prep course in the summer or in the fall, whatever it is, you can make sure that you're doing that.
Like we said, these are the non-negotiables and you gotta make sure you have your non-negotiables intact. And if they're not, if there's weakness, identify that area of weakness -- get some extra math work, whatever it is...getting an SAT prep class might be your number-one priority as opposed to hiring somebody like myself as a trainer if it's not all together.
Matt: From a 10,000 foot view, there's so many things you can't control. This is something you can, so handle everything you can control.
Donald: Absolutely. I've had student-athletes who I've been working with, I've assumed because they went to certain schools, private schools or whatever, that they had it all clear, all set up. Only to call coaches and, I've even had athletes tell me their GPA is this or that. They come from solid families. I just trusted it was good, and then all of a sudden I'm calling coaches, they're getting interest...and then when they pull the transcript and SAT, it doesn't align. So they're on to the next player, they are to the next guy. They're trying to find a guy who they know they can get in. So make sure you get that stuff handled. So those are the non-negotiables.
Step 4: Social Media
Now we get into the next portion of our checklist, and this is all controllable, as well. But kids and parents have to be mindful. Being a prospect is not like being a high school basketball player. It's not like being a regular student. You're investing a lot of time, a lot of energy, a lot of money in a lot of situations into a goal or a dream that very few people get to do in the state of Washington. 1% of high school basketball players go on to play Division 1 basketball. So it's a super heartbreaking thing to see a kid invest all that time, even get the grades and stuff, but to have negative things on their social media platforms...being cool, being confrontational with other people, having language stuff. Make sure that your social media platform are targeted towards your goals and your dreams and at the minimum, make sure that you're not doing things that are going to harm you because Matt...you're evaluating...you see a kid that you haven't seen before. What's one of the first things that you do? You're in a tournament, a guy catches a lob dunk, blocks a shot, comes down to court and really does something eye-catching...what's the one of the first things you do to figure out more about that player?
Matt: Look up their social during the next timeout. Do some due diligence and see what their footprint looks like on Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, obviously just a Google search, just get a feel.
Donald: You wrote an article and I want everybody to go check it out on intel as an NBA scout. In that article, you describe the investment that a team makes, you have a draft pick and you only usually get two of them...you get a first round draft pick...you have to hit on that draft pick and once you see and identify a talent that you like...well you can speak more on it on that article…then it's figuring out ‘where's the potential danger...what is the character of that individual like?’ And the first step is just what are they putting out there on themselves and who's connected to them? What are his friends that he's connected to putting out?
And that's all out there for people to see. So can you talk a little bit about that process and how important it is? Not only, okay, that's on the pro level, but colleges have a limited number of scholarships, so it's very important for them to know. They're giving that scholarship too...and you don't want to do anything to misrepresent yourself on social. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Matt: Yeah. Coaches care about what they're signing up for -- some more than others -- but at the end of the day, something as simple as social media and what you're clicking, what you're typing or posting before clicking ‘submit.’ Whether it's an accurate reflection of you as a person, or not, it doesn’t matter. Perception is reality. It's going to be a reflection and it's definitely going to be associated with you and your personal brand. I don't think enough importance is kind of given to that. What does your personal brand look like? Donald referenced the article, and in my time in the NBA that was kind of a little bit of my niche -- doing the due diligence on all the prospects we were looking at seriously -- and I think that's a big reason why I had a job in the NBA for six years. And I think you can trickle down and apply that to other levels too. I think that the title of the article, it was actually called The NBA's Hottest Commodity: Intel -- and I think it opened up some eyes to people that may not have been privy to that.
Donald: We'll include that article in the show notes so you can get a take a look at that. But think about this if you have a prospect...think about your child. Think about their platform, and think about the fact that if they do get some interest from a school or a university, that they're thinking about the same things. Maybe not on the exact same level, but best believe before they send you a National Letter of Intent that they're going through all of that.
Matt: Now this might be a little bit extreme, but this would be my advice: every time you're getting ready to post something, retweet something and like something, sending it out to the universe...number one, even if you delete it five minutes later you've got to always assume that it's out there. It can be screenshot, it can be saved, it can be captured...that’s number one. Number two, you have to assume that who's recruiting you, who you might care about not wanting to see that, they're going to see it. So listen, all 300+ D1 schools aren't literally all looking at all of your tweets...but they can if they want...so you’ve got to kind of put that filter through and know that...I mean I'm not a prospect, sometimes I'll want to tweet something, but I'll kind of take a second and sometimes I'll even text you, Donald, like, ‘hey, I want to tweet this right now, I'm just going to text you, instead.’ So you might want to just know that it can be absolutely associated with you and it truly at least appears to be a reflection of your character and it can speak to your mental makeup. So again, that's such a controllable thing -- just control what you're putting out there.
Donald: And this is the Goal Tending Podcast and one of the things that we really talk about is being mindful. And that's what we're saying...being mindful about, hey, if you really feel a certain way, and if you're willing for that to be your stamp, then hey, go for it. But be mindful about what you're putting out there because things that you put out there can have an effect on you for a long, long time. You want it to be accurate and you want it to be something that you're proud of or willing to make the sacrifice for at the end of the day.
Matt: It's (social media) a public forum, so if you're tweeting it, instagramming it, even Snapchat -- not quite as public, but still, you see stuff pop up. So if you're putting it out there, you've got to assume it's in ink and it could maybe catch up to you down the line.
Donald: And then at the end of the day, also your followers and your friends -- you can't control what other people do, but you want to try to make sure that you know who you're connecting with and engaging with on social because those people are also a reflection of you.
Who was the guy in football? On the day of the NFL draft someone posted a video of him taking a marijuana rip from a facemask and the player slipped to the end of the draft, literally cost him twenty million dollars. Just like that. And so not only on your social media, but when you're hanging out with people and I know the selfie thing is a big thing...it might not be on your phone, but somebody else’s phone, and they can come back to use that to harm you at the end of the day. So let's make sure that we're mindful and cognizant of what's going on around us, what we're putting on social media. But also what's going on with the cameras and the phones and the snapping and all that stuff because oftentimes, like I said, 1% of y’all are going to get a chance to play Division 1 college basketball. And so you have the other 99% that want to and sometimes when they see those dreams going down hill and you guys were once buddies, jealousy can come into play and they might have something on you and put it out there and that can end up costing you quite a bit. These aren't scare tactics but we just want all of the prospective student athletes, all the kids that have the talent, all the kids that have the ability, to put themselves in the best position to do so. Especially in our listening audience and our supporters. Like remember, and you guys are going to hear me repeat this over and over again -- it's a global competition, it's not who's in your school or who's in your backyard -- you're competing with people from all over the world for scholarship opportunities, for contracts and things like that. So be mindful of your social media habits.
Matt: Yup. Control the controllables and just be cognizant, be aware of your personal brand and how that looks. And I know as a fifteen, sixteen, seventeen year old, I know I definitely wasn't always as aware of that as I shouldn't have been. But again, I'll say I was a D3 prospect, it was a little bit different.
Donald: And it's changed, the world has changed for the athletes of this generation, aspiring athletes of this generation. I didn't have to deal with this stuff, honestly, and I'm glad I didn't have to. So anyway, the social media audit. Google yourself, get that done.
Step 5: Bio
Okay, number five. Matt, I want you to really kind of hone in on this. This step is putting together your bio and what a player should include in that bio. That bio is a package and nowadays, it's more digital than anything else -- something that you can send out to a college coach where you really control the branding and you introduce yourself to a coach and let them know who you are...what kinds of things should an athlete include, and more importantly -- exclude -- from their bio? You’ve come to the right spot.
Matt: I think there's different ways to approach this. I think when evaluating, in kind of a binary way of looking at it, it's kind of breaking it down between tangible and intangible. There are some tangible things that are going to be helpful in terms of a surface level evaluation --
Donald: Like you told me the other day: ‘hey, take a look at this kid. He's 7-2, he's a plus-athlete...they say he's a generational talent.’ Like that's a snapshot of a bio. I'm looking at that video.
Matt: Yeah, that stuff is helpful, if a coach can have accurate measurements on you, especially as we get further down the list in terms of watching film. And again, like, and I say accurate in italics, because if you're 6-3.5, and you're putting 6-6 on your bio, that's going to catch up to you, eventually. So part of your bio is just kind of laying the groundwork: ‘here's my measurables, here's my height, my weight.’ If you can be even more specific -- especially if it's a positive thing -- your body fat, wingspan, etc. If you're at an event, and this is something I know we want to try to implement with some of the collaborations we're going to be doing, but I kind of like that combine testing. So your standing reach, for one -- I dealt with it in the NBA and it doesn't make it any less relevant at lower levels, but we're looking at other things, too, like a guy's hand size, it’s width as well as the height of their hand...so all that stuff. Anything that can tangibly be measured. In terms of how you stack up against your competition. Including that stuff is important. I think your stats, if you have that available, and again, not inflated, but if you have access to your stats, AAU in high school -- include that. You want to provide a snapshot. It doesn't need to be a six page novel.
Donald: Actually needs not to be a six page novel (laughs).
Matt: I think one thing I always find curious is lineage. Meaning, what siblings or parents or grandparents or immediate or extended family has played -- what's their background? When we did the packet for the PT40 in the fall, Pro Insight put together the post-event coverage for it. There were forty or fifty players, and I remember doing Isaiah's (Donald’s son) --
Donald: And that's something we could also include in the bio, like, that's public. We can include that so they can get an idea of the bios that you created on players. We can put my sons out there for sure. So people can just get a general feel of what that should look like.
Matt: So, here’s a case study. I won't get specific with this example, but just for an example, as we're putting the information together on one of the players prior to the event or me ever seeing him, his recruitment wasn't really existent...we did this event, I was really impressed by this certain player, and went back and looked at his bio. Saw that he wasn’t really getting recruited too heavily, but he really held his own and had some instances throughout the event where he was one of the best players on the court amongst a bunch of D1 players. Anyway, he had a family member that had played at Weber State. So, shoot, at the very least, just doing due diligence, trying to help this player out, I reached out to Weber and at least put the kid on their radar. Just said “hey, a son of an alum of your program really performed well in this environment and at least wanted to put him on the radar if he wasn't already.’ Just because learning about lineage kind of connects the dots, at times. If that's not part of your bio line, how would anyone ever know that? So lineage is something that's definitely relevant -- having the right genes doesn't hurt.
Donald: I'm gonna add a little tidbit here that we actually don't have on our list, but when you're talking about measurables, you're talking about height, weight, percentages, and this is where lineage kind of comes into play too. There's a percentage of mature body mass, like where's their physical maturity. Like, my son is in a situation where he's 6-2, super long, like 140 pounds. He’s not going to be impressive to anybody unless you understand that he has a wingspan, he's long, his dad is 6-5, his mom is 6-0. He doesn't have any hair under his arms...so his physical maturity, like his measurables, on paper, don't represent what he's going to be...and if he goes and performs at a high level without physical maturity, like take Zach LaVine, for instance...Zach was a late-bloomer, but he was a baller as a little kid...like he was the smallest dude on the court and he was still getting buckets. All of a sudden, he's 6-6 and he's jumping out the gym. And so those are the little nuances that you can add to your bio that will pique the interest of coaches. Like, you can't be afraid to send a bio because your son is 6-0 and they haven't hit their growth spurt, yet.
Matt: Right, you can even add a line of context: ‘Uncle's 6-6, dad's 6-3, mom’s 5-11, older brother's 6-5.’ That's indicative of -- if I'm 5-11 right now at fifteen -- I’m probably still growing.
Step 6: Measuring Your Skillset
Donald: Absolutely. Alright, so moving from number five to number six and this a really important part of this process. And I think it’s something that people look over. I ask my players this: ‘do you want to play AAU or do you want to play college?’ Just because you can play for a top AAU team or just because you play like you play, doesn’t indicate that you’re on the right track. You can even play successfully at a certain level without having the proper baseline skillset. But what you can't do is move on to the next level and truly maximize your potential without having that baseline skill set. And so what you want to do is measure where you're at with things. And for me, you always want to have a scorecard. Like, okay, am I in shape? What is ‘in shape?’ You have to create a rubric. One of the things I do is a mile test -- ‘what do I run in the mile?’ is something you need to constantly be keeping a pulse on.
I had a kid who I was training, he was a guard. He was small, but he was really quick. He was playing on one of the top AAU programs in the area, the top AAU program in the city. Because he wore that jersey and because he was getting retweeted and had that clout, he was feeling really good about himself. He wanted to play at the next level and I asked him when he told me he wanted me to help him with his jumper, ‘hey, I think you want to be a college basketball player.’ And he was like ‘yeah.’ I said, ‘well, that's not the same as helping you with your handles and your jump shot.’ He was like, ‘what do you mean?’ I said, ‘well, come on, come talk to me, I'll help you understand what I mean.’ And so he comes and we sit outside. I told him to go run a mile for me and that when he got home, to call me and tell me what he got, and later he was like, ‘man, I ran a 7:50 mile.’ Well, let me tell you...there's no skills, there's no point guard that is 5-8 that is going to play college basketball at any significant level running a 7:50 mile. You can play for your AAU program, you can sub, you can run, you play ten minutes of AAU basketball at a high level like that, but you can't do it sustainably. I can't give you the skills to do anything sustainably when that's your level of conditioning...and he had no idea that he was not in shape to truly perform and impact a basketball game the way he was going to have to in order to go on to the next level. That was the baseline that we started with from working through that baseline, he developed the right work habits. We had a mile goal and eventually he ended up being a D1 starting point guard. But without that evaluation, without measuring, he never would've had that opportunity and he would've gone throughout the whole process without anybody telling him because he was good enough to help them win a t-shirt or a trophy on the weekend, and so it's very important to have your own standard of excellence.
And if you need help identifying what those standards are based on the level that you want to play on, that's something that we are working on in collaboration. Developing those standards, ‘we’ being and you and I, Matt...developing those standards so an athlete can know, ‘here are the physical requirements based on what my goals are. Here's where I am now, here's where I got to get to.’ And so you can make sure that you're making the time, taking the time to improve yourself individually in the ways that you need to have those baseline standards. But really, you want to be exceptional in certain areas: mile tests, bench press, vertical jump, shooting percentages on different drills. I'm going to be creating something, like a little at home test by position that you can do. So make sure we get your email so that when it comes out we can get that right to your inbox. We want to help kids. We want to help players really understand what it takes to accomplish their goals and their dreams. What do you have on the measuring of the skills and abilities, Matt?
Matt: I think there's not much more that needs to be said. This is what we’ve been saying -- almost every single thing we've talked about so far is controllable...in terms of measuring this stuff and making a concerted effort to cut down your mile time, get your bench press where it needs to be, get your vert at the maximum level you can physically get to with your physical limitations. Making strides and making sure you're at a point where you're shooting in the mid-eighties one-on-zero in a workout at game speed. That takes discipline. None of this stuff takes care of itself. You might naturally get out of bed and jump twenty eight inches, but like, it takes discipline to figure out --
Donald: You need to get to thirty five. How do you get to thirty five? How do you get to forty?
Matt: You might roll out of bed and bench 205, but with a concerted effort and discipline you can get that up substantially.
Donald: We're going to talk about this more in part three. But there is a saying, ‘if you can play, they'll find you’ and this is about making sure you have the foundational physicality skills in order to play. And on the other side of that, ‘if you can't, they're not looking for you.’ They didn't say that on the thing...but I think it's important to say now, you can go to the tournament, you can get exposure, you can do all of that stuff, but if you can't play, they're not interested. And here's something that I'm going to touch on more in part three, but it's important when you go to a showcase, when you go to a tournament, there's danger in going if you're not ready…Matt, you were at that NCAA Academy in Champaign...if I told you, ‘hey man, I got this kid who's tremendous, really good, 6-10, this, this and this...and oh, guess what? He was at that deal you were at in Champaign, Illinois, or whatever,’ and you say, ‘really? I don't recognize him.’ Automatically, you're now disinterested in this prospect because you were in the same building with him and he didn't get your attention because he was there and he wasn't ready. So being in these places and not jumping off the page makes it so that, like when you send your email and you send your game and you say, ‘hey, I did this and I got this,’ and whatever to a coach, you say, ‘yeah, I was in Vegas and we played against so and so.’ And the coach says, ‘oh man, I was at that game, I didn't recognize you.’ They're not even going to look. So people, players, families, it's harmful to put your kid in a showcase or in a tournament under the guise of getting exposure if they're not prepared.
Step 7: Recruiting Film
This next section is really your expertise. It's something that you have a lot of experience in and you can even help players come up with, create and do it the right way...and that's creating a recruiting film. Can you talk to us a little bit about what a recruiting film is and particularly what the difference between a recruiting film and a highlight tape or mixtape is? Because I don't think people understand, and I think a lot of times people are sending out stuff that doesn't reflect well on him.
Matt: I can look like a really good player on a highlight tape, so, there’s definitely a difference. I think it goes back a little bit to something we were talking about earlier and it's not what you're doing, it's how you're doing it. There's no full replication for watching a player in person and evaluating them. But with a well-done recruiting tape, it's showing both sides of the ball. I want to see as holistic of a feel as I can for a player and you're not getting that in a highlight tape, ‘cause obviously a highlight tape is only showing overly positive clips. I want to see how players move, how natural that movement is, what their gait is like, what their stride length is like, how they're getting up and down the court, how they're moving north-south, east-west. You're going to get a lot of lateral movement examples on the defensive end, like guarding in space. How are you guarding in space? It's always going to depend a little bit positionally but in a game that's becoming more and more positionless, I want to see -- especially anybody that has a little bit of size -- like specifically we're talking about a big guy, how are they protecting the rim? With what level of effectiveness? And then how are they guarding in space? How are they guarding pick and roll? Like, if I'm watching a recruiting film on a big guy and I'm not getting a feel for their rim protection ability or their ability to defend pick and roll, or in space, there’s a glaring omission. And again, it's like I said, it's going to depend on your positional traits a little bit. Again, using a big as an example, their rim-running ability, and their movement without the ball and then what they're doing once they have the ball...are they someone that needs to be on a one dribble limit? For a wing, what's your iso scoring ability? How's your footwork on the perimeter? How well and how effectively do you create space? Just little things like that. Whether you make the shot or not.
Donald: How many dribbles does it take you score?
Matt: Yeah, how efficient are you no matter what?
Donald: How long do you have the ball in your hand to get a bucket.
Matt: Also, how quickly are you getting the ball off? Do you have a major dip in your shooting mechanics? And then what's the competition level? Like, what league are they playing in? What type of height and athleticism and speed are they facing? So, there's definitely some overlapping stuff...like on a recruiting film you want to show shots that you're making, but, if you've got a great jab-and-go move that you ended up missing, but you created four feet of space on the play...or if there's a play where due to your ability to read a screen, you cause like three people to be out of position on defense, even if you missed the shot...I still want to see that as an evaluator because I know that that’s relevant...
Donald: Well, that’s where your stats come in a little bit. If you're a 50% shooter, if you shoot this much from three, ‘the truth is in your proof’ is one of the things that I say. If you're a 45% three-point shooter and you have a film and it shows you creating space and you knocked some down, you miss one of them, we know that you can hit that. We can see that by the way your stroke is coming off or whatever. And like showing a variety of things that you can do...as opposed to some of these cautionary tales. One example: a kid sends me a tape that he's apparently been sending to colleges and play number-two is him on a fast break, going under the leg, throwing the ball off the backboard for somebody to catch a lob dunk. I explained to the kid that I don't want to see that at my level if I'm a college coach. So you just showed me you have the wrong idea about how you're going to help me keep my job if you send me that film. Like, your homeboys might like that but I'm about to give you a scholarship that's worth anywhere from $50,000 to well over $100,000. That highlight stuff, trying to get things trending on twitter...is different than trying to get a scholarship. If you're trying to get a scholarship, you want to show the way you move, the way you effect plays that are going to help me keep my job and win the game at the end of the day.
Matt: We can talk for an hour, just on the nuances of a recruiting film.
Donald: Well, let's do that in another episode. Let's do that. Seriously, let's get into that because I think it would be really helpful and as we talk about this and I'm listening to you, this definitely deserves a deeper dive because it's something, it's a make-or-break type situation. College coaches get tapes, they get bios all the time that are trash, and then you put something quality in front of them, then guess what? You just gave yourself an opportunity. So the more that you can understand what people are looking for, the better opportunity you're going to give yourself. And let's write that down and make sure we dedicate a show really to this and the next thing -- which is your game film -- because once you give them your recruiting tape, your ninety seconds of your best actions and a coach sees that, ‘okay, this is the kind of athlete that has positional size, he has good movement, he has good ability, he might be able to fit into our system based on the snapshots.’
Step 8: Game Film
Now, as a coach, I want to see the game film. So when a kid goes and looks back on their season, what kind of game film do they want to get? And I'll just say, you probably don't want to get the film where you killed the worst team in the league, doing a bunch of things that wouldn't work at the next level. What are the keys to game film?
Matt: It's almost impossible to hide if you're watching enough of it in your straight game film. One rule we like to abide by at a bare minimum -- and this is pertaining to players we were looking at drafting, but earlier in the year, as we were getting our feel for the players and crafting our target list in the NBA -- we'd like to watch their best game, their worst game, and then if you average 16, 5 and 5, a game where you got about 16, 5 and 5. So I want to see that 3-for-14 game where you have six turnovers. I want to see that 32-point game where you hit eight threes and then I want to see a game where you kind of got your averages. And I think that just at a bare minimum provides a really nice sample size...one thing I’m watching closely: how are you reacting when things aren't going your way?
Donald: Hold on, cause I want you to say that again, cause I think this is something that kids don't realize that college coaches are interested in...how are you reacting when things aren't going your way? Once you know that you're interested in the player, you want to see how they perform at their worst.
Matt: And then how they respond.
Donald: Yeah, cause that's what you're looking for when you're watching them perform at their worst. The character piece.
Matt: And your body language. And ‘is this someone I want to be in the trenches with?’ is going through your head.
Donald: How are you reacting to your teammates? How are you reacting to coaching? How are you trying to pull yourself out of this? Are you piling on or are you still contributing? Are you 2-for-15 from the field, but still rebounding and guarding? Or are you letting that affect everything...meaning your attitude, your approach, everything.
Matt: A big thing: good game, bad game, a mediocre game, your interactions with your teammates, refs and coaches...very important. One guy, shoot, this is a little bit of a recent example, but I think it was in December, watching Kaden Perry from Battle Ground. He signed with Gonzaga. And that guy...man...you can take it from here.
Donald: You can take it. You can tell him that I was the first guy who was on him (laughs).
Matt: We're talking about the examples we've cited so far and using Kaden as an example. Regardless of the situation, Kaden stays in his lane and does his thing. He doesn't take many shots that he shouldn't be shooting, he's an extremely effective, efficient player on offense because he just keeps things so simple. His biggest issue currently is that he gets in foul trouble sometimes as a byproduct of playing so hard...and he's so much more athletic and stronger than his opponents at the high school level, it’s not easy for refs to officiate him. So you could look at a box score and see, ‘oh. he only played 18 minutes and fouled out,’ like that was a terrible game. But you watch it and in actuality and it's like, ‘man, I don't know if the ref was used to someone that strong, with such a motor, that’s so quick off the ground, and that athletic.’ But you look at Kaden and if he gets two fouls in the first quarter and has to head to the bench, he’s the first person jumping up, holding up three fingers when his teammate makes a shot and he's the first person running out to half court at the quarter break or at a time out. He's the biggest cheerleader out there. And that's one extreme example, but yeah. I don't know if you have anything to add to that.
Donald: Specifically talking about the kid, he has an incredible enthusiasm for the game and in that example, we were at that game together -- they played against Olympia -- he got in foul trouble, ended up fouling out. And in that, you saw something that solidified something that you love about the player. What it suggested, his attitude and approach was that he gave everything he could to his team, but that the game was not all about him. And not one moment, for one second, did he make the game about him and that is like a true, ultimate, rare competitor as far as I'm concerned. He's giving the game everything that he has and when it doesn't work out, he's not ‘woe is me, I was treated unfairly.’ He's still trying to juice his guys up to get a win.
Matt: That's someone you want to be in the trenches with.
Donald: Absolutely and I told you that before you knew it. Yeah, I'm going to take a check for that one. So that's your game film. And just know, the important thing to know is if you send your recruiting film and the coach likes it, he's going to ask you for game film.
Step 9: Role Models
This next one, when I present it to kids that want to be prospects, is something I say was a major part of my development and that's next level role models. Identify next level role models. Who are the top-five players in college basketball in your position? I've asked thousands of kids that were at college exposure camps and they had no idea, which drives me absolutely nuts. Who are the top-five college players in the country in your position? A big part of my recruiting process was looking at Jimmy Jackson at Ohio State, Michael Finley at Wisconsin, Allan Houston at Tennessee...when we did home visits from schools that I had offers from, they mentioned guys that they were successful with, that were moving on to the NBA that I reminded them of and that's why I was receiving an offer. And the important part about that is that that was intentional. That was mindful on my part. I knew I wanted to play college basketball. I knew I wanted to play it at a high level, so I was watching the guys that were doing it at the highest level that had similar measurables to me. I just kind of took the measurables part for granted...but when we talked about this, you helped me understand that if they're successful and they have similar measurables to you, that should be guiding how you're working out, the skills that you're trying to attain to show a college coach...because those skills are what the coach values. He values the guy that's playing for him that's helping him be successful. So the skills that you want to work on aren't the stuff you see on Instagram. It's not whatever your trainer chooses when you show up at the gym, it's developing that baseline skillset that will make you recognizable and identifiable by a college coach. Like all the stuff we talked about, that's my little college basketball hack. You go work every day trying to be the top-five players, trying to have the exact same skill sets as the top five players in the country in your position, and that will almost guarantee you a scholarship if you can do it.
Matt: It sounds so simple, but it's a rarity. Obviously you have to have some prerequisites to pull it off. But in terms of the guys I've been around at the NBA level and then with Pro Insight working with the top prospects in the country, or at least focusing on them -- I'll give one other example: even back to my NBA days, I've talked to a lot of players and asked the question, just to get a feel for where the players at, ‘who do you compare your game to? Who are some guys you model your game after? Who are top-five players in your position?’ Those types of questions come out all the time and it's rare, even as a player is getting ready to be drafted, when a player has a rational feel. We're talking to a player that's projected in the second round, and we'll ask them who should be the number one pick of the draft...and they say them. So it's good to have confidence, but to be at least somewhat rational. Man, it's so endearing to me when I have a conversation with a player and it's just evident. I think Kobe was one of the best all-time in this -- obviously extremely confident, but coming out of high school, that that dude definitely knew the top players probably in every position. That wasn't my example, but, I'll actually highlight another local guy, Paolo Banchero. So he was one of our first Q&As last year and I remember something that really stood out...I always ask ‘college or pro, current or former player, do you like to model your game after anyone?’ Most players say, ‘LeBron,’ ‘Giannis,’ ‘KD,’ and leave it at that. Paolo mentioned Marcus Morris, Tobias Harris and Al Horford. I already liked Paolo as a prospect, but man, that's like extra endearing. Because first of all, he's a legit NBA prospect, so he's naming NBA players and that's great. But I think a lot of players do gravitate more towards the NBA than college, which is again, something that I think is important for us to shed light on. If you're going to be a player that's going from high school to college, it’s good to have a feel for guys at that level too. But for a guy like Paolo, if everything goes as planned, he won't be at the college level for long and the fact that he's identifying players like that, as kind of a modern big, that's just a very rational, refreshing approach.
Donald: It shows that he's a student -- he's not just eating who’s being fed by the media. He's actually looking at the game. I mean his body is better than Morris' already, but similar. Like coming from a similar place build-wise. So that's tremendous. I hadn't heard that story before. I had read that article, but I didn't make the connection. That's really cool and I think that's something that, like I said, that's my college basketball hack. That was everything to me. When those guys were on TV, I was sitting down watching, I was watching and taking notes like I was Matt McKay -- like I was an NBA scout. Seriously, I was looking at their weaknesses or looking at their strengths. I was imagining the things they did on a daily basis in order to acquire their strengths and I wanted to be...basically a combination of all of those guys, all wrapped in one. That was like what I was dreaming to do as a kid and so when the coaches came to my home and said, ‘hey, we'd love to have you and it's for these reasons,’ it was because I had really worked on those reasons for the last five years...that was so validating...that was everything to me.
Step 10: Recruiting Calendar
So let's move on to the next one -- reviewing and understanding the recruiting calendar. There's a boys calendar, there's a girls calendar, we talked about the boys calendar in part one, because there were changes to it. We'll put links to the both the boys and girls recruiting calendar (check the show notes at the bottom of this blog).
There's live periods, there's dead periods, there's evaluation periods, there's quiet periods. Get an understanding and a definition of all of those things and the most important thing for me is that there are two ways to engage in this process: you can wait for the colleges to contact you, or you can develop a list of colleges that you're interested in and start contacting them and getting feedback to know if you're shooting too high or if they're interested. And I always say this too: just because you want to play somewhere doesn't mean they have the room, doesn't mean it's the right place for you and just because you don't play somewhere doesn't mean you couldn't play somewhere. There's so much timing to this...you could be a dynamic point guard out of the state of Washington, but if the Player of the Year that was a point guard went there last year, then they're not currently actively recruiting point guards. That's not a knock on you...that's just the fact of the matter...you can't fill a team with 12 point guards. So even though you want to play somewhere, it's important to understand that there has to be a need for you, as well. There has to be a need for the person that you have made yourself to be at the time when it’s your recruiting cycle at the end of the day. You have anything to add on that?
Matt: No, I think that's on point.
Donald: Alright, so just get in there and familiarize yourself. Links in the show notes, once again -- understand the recruiting calendar and the other thing about the recruitment calendar is you can't always be ‘on.’ If you're always on, then you start to go down. You want to peak at a certain time as a team, as an individual -- and so understanding that with the recruiting calendar it means that you understand when you need to peak. April and July in terms of evaluation and so those times in between need to be growth periods and that’s where you're addressing issues, where you're working on strength, when you're working on skills, where you're working on your academics, etc., because you've identified what it is that you need to work on. This is something that I did, too -- every single evaluation period I wanted to show college coaches more. I was very intentional about from when I was a freshman to when I signed...cause they're (April and July) three months apart, then six months apart. Every time a college coach saw me, they saw that I had been working on some specific things and so now they started like, ‘oh, this kid is growing. This kid is developing.’ Even if you didn't think that you were interested in me coming to your school, you enjoyed watching the progression -- ‘oh, he's getting better, oh, he's getting better, oh man he's good, give him an offer.’ I think that's something that's underestimated. It's a marathon, not a sprint and worrying about who's looking or not looking when you're a freshman and being worried about every tournament, how you perform, constantly being in a performance mindset does not allow for the growth that you need in order to secure the scholarship at the end of the day.
So it’s important to understand that recruiting calendar so you can understand your development cycles -- so you can show progress as you go to these events and things. I think that's an important reason to understand and also to know when you should be expecting a call if you're a prospect/if you're a recruit, I think there's a lot of people who don't know how to determine if they're a prospect/if they're a recruit, when the phone should be ringing in from a college coach or when it shouldn't. So they're in the dark...they're being told that some so and so is interested and all this, but if they haven't called you and you're a junior, are they really interested? We’ll talk more about that in the next show. How do you know that you're a prospect?
Step 11: Schools List
Number eleven, moving on -- make lists. Make a list of your schools. You want to expand on that?
Matt: Yeah I think we've actually touched on some of this already, just the context surrounding it. Make a list: add your dream schools, add schools you also feel are in that next tier, like realistic schools. Just to have a little bit of a gamut, there. And then furthermore, do your homework on that. Pull up their rosters… what do they already have? Who are they graduating? Are you a shooting guard and do they already have seven guards on the roster that are freshmen and sophomores? That’s relevant. I think this is even more nuanced, but again, implementing this is a very mature outlook. What style of play? Are they running and are they uptempo or they slowing it down and playing more in the half court? If you're one of the best athletes on the west coast, you might not want to go to a program that’s in the bottom-five of slowest tempos in the country. Just stylistically. Is that style of play going to help you maximize your talent ability? So it has to mesh, ideally. It doesn't always, but what the programs are valuing, how they're using their players. Like, if you're a small forward, how they're using their current small forwards? What’s the precedent that's been set under that coaching staff? Just do a little bit of due diligence. More so than just simply seeking out --
Donald: The top schools, the best programs. So that's great information.
Step 12: Prospect Status
Then number 12 is to evaluate your situation and so this is taking all the information that we just talked about and then looking at your prospect status...are you ‘hopeful?’ Do you have interest, are you getting interest? Are you being recruited? Do you have offers? And then from what level? So that was several gauges/qualifiers, but then at each level. So let’s break those levels down: so you have your junior colleges -- are you receiving junior college interest? Do you have offers from a junior college? You have your Division 3. You have your NAIA level, you have Division 2, you have Division 1. Within Division 1, you have low major, mid-major, high major. So for example, you could be a Division 2 recruit that's receiving some low major Division 1 interest. And then once you figure out where you're at on that scale, ask yourself...are you satisfied with that or what's your plan for changing that? And why is it that you're at where you're at? Is it because you have poor exposure? Because you lack athletic development? You lack skill development? Physical conditioning? Mental approach? Body language? All of those things...you want to figure out which is holding you back. So from there, you can identify it, address it, remove it, and then when you do that, it'll change your prospect status. And really what I'm trying to do and what we're trying to do is, and this is a long show and it's a long list, but what we're really trying to do is to simplify the process for you and make it so you can really have an accurate picture of where you're at, number one -- and then two, how to change it. So evaluate your situation, understand where it is, what it is, and where you want to go. Matt, do you have anything to add to that?
Matt: thought you'd never ask. A have a few thoughts. So one thing that came to mind as we've been talking is a quote that’s come up over the years...I think it was maybe Einstein, I'm about to quote Einstein right now (laughs), but ‘the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.’ So once you take that look in the mirror and reflect, see where you're at -- maybe you identify, ‘man, it's my body language’ as you watch yourself on film, as an example. If you keep on doing the same thing and continue to perpetuate that, you're insane by definition, if you expect different results from doing the same thing.
Donald: Yeah, absolutely. And then do you want to handle the last step?
Matt: Start us off man.
Step 13: Proactive Recruiting Program
Donald: Kicking off your proactive recruiting program. And that's taking this package and getting it out to coaches, setting up unofficial visits, showing up, meeting people, controlling everything you can control. Matt -- you, yourself are a master networker. So what tips do you have as far as a proactive recruiting program?
Matt: Not to toot our own horn, but if you've followed steps 1-12 you're probably already in a pretty good situation. You've differentiated yourself in terms of how organized and methodical and authentic you're treating this process. And look, maybe for the bluest of blue bloods, they're not in a position to need to get recruited, themselves. They may not be as receptive...but I think most programs will look at how you're going about it...if you've got all your ducks in a row, you've got your game film, you've got your bio, everything's lined up, you're in a good place...and if you're sending an email to the director of basketball ops or an assistant coach that oversees recruiting and they're receiving that, that's going to stand out...because just being that organized and on top of it is a differentiator. And if you have the talent to back it up, then you’re really going to jump off the page.
Donald: Absolutely. If you're a prospect at the end of the day, take it serious -- download this checklist, go through it, really get a good picture of where you're at. The last thing we say is don't wait for them to contact you. When you're ready and you have everything in a row, you start getting out there shaking hands, meeting people. So now when the coaches are on the circuit and they see you, they're recruiting a person, not a player. At the end of the day, coaches should be looking for people that they want to spend four to five years of their life with and have relationships with for the rest of their life. And players should be looking for programs where they want to spend four to five years at, which will be the foundation for the rest of their life. So we don't look at the college recruiting experience as an opportunity to go to school. It's a lifelong opportunity when you're a college basketball player, when you're a college athlete -- that is an experience that will benefit you for the rest of your life and so I tell kids that a lot. I'm like, man...you're asking somebody for $50,000 a year minimum if you're asking for a full ride you have to handle that as a professional. You need to be thoughtful about that. Kids go to college for four years, graduate and hope to make $50,000 a year. We're asking for that. We're trying to attract that from a university for our services. So being thoughtful, being mindful, being professional about that process, understanding the opportunity that it is will really, really, really give you a leg up on the competition and we're going to talk in part three about how to identify if you are a prospect and how to develop yourself into a prospect.
Matt: Hope you guys enjoyed part two -- the college prep checklist.
Donald: Yep. Hope you enjoyed part two and we're gonna be on part three, soon. This show has been brought to you by Watts Basketball and Pro Insight. You can check out Watts Basketball on our site -- we have college prep camps, clinics. We've got clinics for kids...kindergarten all the way through to the pros. Check us out -- Gamchangers. For life. and tell them about Pro Insight.
Matt: Pro Insight...on the front facing portion of the site, we have a few dozen Q&As that are pretty illuminating. I'm biased, but I think they're pretty cool. If you want to learn about some of the up-and-coming high school-level players, check us out.
And lastly, another little plug for our email, if you want to ask a question or have any sort of clarification you need on what we're talking about or just in general, that's firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks a lot guys.
Donald: And remember, part four will be all about you. Thank you.
Show References + Links
Article about “Intel,” written by Matt. Read it here
What do Division 1 coaches want to see in a highlight tape? Click here
13-Step Customizable College Prospect Checklist
REVIEW YOUR TRANSCRIPT:
to determine core credit GPA
requirements needed within the NCAA academic calendar
REGISTER WITH THE NCAA ELIGIBILITY CENTER:
Registration Checklist: http://fs.ncaa.org/Docs/eligibility_center/Student_Resources/Registration_Checklist.pdf
Registration Center: https://web3.ncaa.org/ecwr3/
REGISTER FOR COLLEGE ENTRANCE EXAM:
SAT registration: https://www.collegeboard.org
ACT registration: http://www.act.org
SOCIAL MEDIA AUDIT/GOOGLE YOURSELF:
Scrub your social media of anything questionable. If it’s questionable, delete it
Make sure all messaging aligns with your big goals. Ensure that friends with questionable social media habits are not able to tag, comment or associate you with content in any way
PUT TOGETHER YOUR BIO:
Interests, stats, lineage, academics, honors/awards, etc.
Measurables (height w/o shoes, weight, BF%, wingspan, standing reach, hand size, etc.).
MEASURE YOUR SKILLS AND ABILITIES:
Spot-up and off-the-dribble threes
Spot-up and off-the-dribble midrange
CREATE A RECRUITING FILM: 90 seconds of a variety of skills/plays that would translate to the next level - NOT a highlight tape
Clean music in background
Showing things that have to do with a skillset that is translatable to the college game
Playing strategy shown translates to what position you’ll play in college
If scoring is your thing, show scoring at all three levels
If a PG, show facilitating, running offense, handling pressure, knocking down open shots, and leadership
Have several of your games ready to distribute
IDENTIFY “NEXT LEVEL ROLE MODELS”
Make a list of the top five college players in the country at your position
Cheat sheet - top-20 players by position: http://www.hoophallawards.com/
Identify two players at the college level with similar measurables who have been successful playing at the level you want to reach
REVIEW THE NCAA RECRUITING CALENDAR: there are two ways to engage the recruiting process: wait for them to identify and contact you, or you start the process yourself by getting your info out, calling coaches, showing up for unofficial visits and gauging their response.
UNDERSTAND WHEN AND HOW COACHES EVALUATE: Make your schedule around when the live evaluation period is. For boys, the NCAA has significantly reduced the number of evaluation days with AAU programs, splitting them up amongst high school federation sponsored events and NCAA-hosted events. Making it more important that you're in the right program and doing the right things on those days
UNDERSTAND WHEN AND HOW COACHES RECRUIT: being evaluated is when they’re seeing you play and recruiting is when they make contact with you and build a relationship.
MAKE A SCHOOLS LIST:
Of the top five DREAM schools, and next five REALISTIC schools you would consider
Do intel on what those schools need, if they will have a need at your position, their style of play, and what they value at your position!
EVALUATE YOUR SITUATION: what are the possible reasons that you do not have the recruitment that you want?
KICK OFF YOUR “PROACTIVE RECRUITING PROGRAM”:
Mail coaches to schedule unofficial visits with schools of realistic interest
Visit a campus and watch a practice
Contact the coaches on your visits to meet with them
Send them your bio and recruiting film with your upcoming schedule, specifically where you will be playing during the live evaluation windows
Shoot us an e-mail with any comments, questions, ideas, or feedback: email@example.com