It was the spring of 2006, and more than a month had passed since his high school team had lost in the state tournament quarterfinals. Russell Westbrook was a two-year starter at shooting guard who had earned third-team All-State honors and been selected third-team "Best in the West" by the local media—unspectacular but respectable recognition for a player whose goal was to play college basketball at the high major level.
On the recruiting trail, the senior from Leuzinger High School in Lawndale, Calif., was an under-the-radar prospect who had garnered mild interest from a handful of mid-major schools.
However, the spring recruitment period was underway, and Westbrook had three credentials that could attract the attention of high major programs: he played for a winning team (they went 25-4 his senior year); he could shoot from beyond the arc (he had connected on 57 three-pointers); and he could flat-out score (he averaged 25.1 points per game and scored 30 or more on eight occasions, including a career-high 51 points in one game).
Westbrook was a late bloomer with a high ceiling, the kind of prospect who is in demand during the crazed spring signing period, according to ESPN senior college basketball recruiting analyst Dave Telep. In February 2006, Telep ranked Westbrook as the third-best remaining prospect. Two months later, Westbrook signed with his hometown favorite UCLA Bruins. Now, he's among the elite class of NBA point guards. In Oklahoma City, he and Kevin Durant form one of the most talented young duos in the league. (Learn how KD trains to get bigger, stronger and better.)
In his ESPN Insider article, "Spring recruiting is about minimizing risk," Telep puts himself in the shoes of a high-major coach and offers his perspective on top priority prospects late in the recruiting game.
Find out how you stack up in the eyes of a coach or recruiting coordinator:
Type of prospects coaches avoid:
- Recycled de-commits—in other words, players who have rescinded a verbal commitment to a program and re-opened their recruitment
- Previous big-name prospects who haven't shown signs of improvement
- Bigs with no skill or feel
- Players with no history of winning
- Anyone with a history of bad behavior
- Multiple high school or prep transfers, meaning players who've switched schools more than once
Types of prospects coaches pursue:
- Seniors who are young for their current academic class
- Student-athletes whose basketball IQ trumps their athleticism
- Players whose high school stats steadily improved each year, culminating in big senior years
- Bigs who average more than 12 rebounds a game
- Guards who shoot 45 percent from three-point range
- Players who can score
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