Sunday, January 30, 2011

Fab Freshmen insight!

SA Express News writer Blake Hurtik wrote an interesting piece on local freshmen, Recee' Caldwell and McKenzie Calvert Friday. The article went on to detail the early commitment of Calvert to Baylor and the numerous offers for Caldwell, including Baylor. Here are some thoughts on some topics within the article:

Early Recruitment- This has been a hot topic as of late and the NCAA is considering legislation restricting the offering of kids scholarships before their junior years. My question is, why the need for the legislation and how would it be enforced?

If the NCAA enacted such policies then the conversation between a kid and a college coach would go from, "I am offering you a scholarship now" to " As soon as I am permitted to offer you a scholarship, you will have an offer". What is the difference between the two statements. If anything, it offers more protection for the school to back out of the commitment with no negative repercussions because no "official offer" was tended. Let's look at a recent case of an area kid.

Lindie Kimbro was a scoring machine for Buda Hays a few yeas ago. Lindie is now a junior at Texas Tech. Kimbro committed to Tech as a sophomore. She then unfortunately popped her ACL in her junior season and again in her senior season. Texas Tech was honorable enough to uphold her commitment. A verbal offer and commitment has no legal standing and Tech could have backed away from Kimbro. If Tech had chosen to back away from Kimbro during her injuries, this would have been a public relations disaster for Tech. Tech would have had to explain why they did not honor their offer to every kid that they were recruiting. Knowing parents would have put Tech on the carpet as to why they did not stand with this kid when she was down. Tech would have been slammed on message boards across the country. Instead, they look like a school that will stand through the tough times with a kid and that is music to the ears to any prospects parents. Here is the question that must be asked, what would have happened if Kimbro had not committed early?

The early commitment is the ONLY time that recruits have SOME form of leverage. Now that sentence just turned off many readers. Some believe that kids are not supposed to have leverage, not in amateur athletics. Let's stop being naive and pretending that amateur athletics plays nice. This is a business and some of the coaches make millions of dollars, as they should. However, the vast dollars consequently make recruiting THE MOST important aspect to earning and maintaining jobs for coaches. My favorite Geno Auriemma quote is " There are only two types of coaches, coaches who coach good players and ex-coaches." This need to secure the best kids mandate that kids know the "brand" of a college at an early age.

(click "Outside the Lines" link at bottom for business of recruiting piece. EYE OPENING!)

Let's look at two different cases and players. Current Baylor star Odyssey Sims committed to Baylor as a freshman in high school. She decommitted for a short time but soon recommitted. She is now being praised as arguably the best point guard in the Big 12, the toughest conference in the country. Now in turn let's look at local legend Meaghan Simmons. Simmons waited until the fall of her senior season to commit to Tennessee. Simmons is now arguably the best scoring guard in the SEC. Both Simmons and Sims are contending for All-American status nationally as freshman. These are two very different examples of recruitment pledges and yet they both have experienced success as a result of their different paths.

A growing sentiment is that all of the early commits have increased the transfer rates of student athletes. That is a great argument and seems plausible as to why so many kids are transferring. However, the early commitments of kids are only part of that growing trend.

In San Antonio terms, let's look at the 2010 class again. I know of three players that have already left their schools of choice as freshmen and ALL three of them committed to their respective schools as SENIORS. I know this is not a large sample pool but obviously the problem is not SOLELY early commitments when considering reducing transfer rates.

Pressure- Steele coach Kari Wallace spoke of "pressure" in the article. In the article, both Caldwell and Calvert's father went on to mention the "security" of early offers and commitments for the young players. Both players have performed on par with other players across the nation that have been tabbed as young elite prospects so any argument of pressure effecting play is baseless. Players like Cheyenne Butler and LaJahna Drummer of St Bernard in California are playing better than more publicized and signed teammates even though they too are class of 2014 and have been offered by many, including Rutgers and USC recently. 2014 Brianna Turner is the leading scorer on the #9 ranked team in the country and she has offers from almost EVERY SCHOOL that she wants an offer from. Houston's Brooke McCarty has offers from a couple of Top 25 teams nationally and she is averaging close to 20 points as a freshman. The story is repeated across the nation. Elite kids are elite for a reason. They have proved themselves versus elite older players and that has resulted in the early offers. The pressure argument is a minor one. ALL high school kids go through pressure. Basketball is a sanctuary for many of these young elite kids. They are comfortable and "at home" on the court. They tend to stay out of situations that truly pressure most high school kids. Teenage drinking, drugs and promiscuous behavior are not conducive to the elite kids agenda, so in a large part, they refrain from those "pressures".

UTSA- Both Calvert and Caldwell discussed that their first offers came from UTSA before high school. The reply to that information should be, OF COURSE! Tennessee offered Lauren Avant as an 8th grader and received a commitment last season from freshman Kaela Davis. Even the most old school coach in history, Bobby Knight offered an 8th grade Damon Bailey close to 20 years ago. How can UTSA have two of the best young players in the nation both living no more than 30 minutes from campus and NOT offer them? This is what UTSA has to start doing to become relevant on the local scene if they want to start to land some of the best players that the city has to offer.

"Branding" these kids at an early age is the only way to have a real chance of earning commitments from the cities best. With the elephant in the room one hour away via Highway 35, UTSA must start to brand early. Texas A&M, Baylor, Texas Tech are all Top 25 in the current AP polls. UT is a perennial Top 25 team. All this national prestige from Texas schools leave UTSA having a tough time recruiting San Antonio kids. Kids like Jessica Kuster are leading teams like Rice in major categories and could be doing the same for the Roadrunners. Numerous San Antonio kids are languishing on the bench of BCS conference schools across the country, feeling miserable with NOT playing. These kids could be playing major minutes for the Runners but were not "branded" with UTSA as a viable option. UTSA should not be the last to offer a kid that is being recruited by the top teams in the country, not if the Roadrunners want to make a trip to NCAA or NIT tournament a yearly occurrence.

(side note: Some of these kids received faulty advise from advisers with alternative agendas. The "higher" a school is considered on national scale, the more it builds resumes for high school coaches, club coaches and trainers. Never mind that most kids consider playing time while pursuing an education important. )

(side note on "Branding"/Business: McDonald's does the best job at branding young kids and lessons can be learned from their efforts. I find it hard to believe that the majority of mature taste buds prefer McDonald's over a places like In & Out, Smash, or Chester's. But we were branded young with marketing and availability, through easy access. The UT network will launch next season and will "brand" the future of Texas basketball players with non-stop UT happenings. All of this incredible coverage, advertising, will cost them how much? Nothing, in fact they will earn $300,000,000 to brand the next generation of ball players!!! But amateur athletics is not a business?)

Some reason that UTSA should not waste time going after kids that are being recruited by the best schools in the nation. Good thing the UNLV and Long Beach State staff of Jerry Tarkanian did not think that way. Or the staff of Butler that recruited a team that lost to the monster called Duke at the buzzer for the NCAA championship last season. Or the BYU team that's currently ranked Top 10 and features the sensational Jimmer(no last name needed!). San Diego State branded a young Kawhi Leonard as a young teen when he lived less than an hour from the school campus. Leonard passed up offers from virtually the entire Pac-10 and other BCS schools. He has now led the small San Diego St. to a Top 10 ranking and is projected as a lottery pick in the NBA draft this season. For UTSA to not try and compete with the big schools for SA's best players would be a defeatist recruiting plan.

-SA Express Article

-Stanford article on Branding

- Outside the Lines on Recruiting " Over the Limit"