University of Illinois assistant basketball coach Jay Price knows how to find future hoops standouts. Before coaching at Illinois, Price coordinated recruiting for 10 years at Purdue. With the rest of the Fighting Illini staff, he built the current team, which is ranked first in the nation heading into the 2006 season.
Price shared his expertise to help you understand the complex recruiting process.
TEAM PLAYERS PREVAIL
Although recruiters focus on individuals, Price likes to know if a player fits in with his team and thrives in that environment. "First and foremost," he says,, "we look to see how a player interacts with his coaches and teammates—whether he has the ability to make people around him better. That is really important, because you have to build a team. You can’t just throw people together and call it a team."
Both recruiters and athletes are responsible for gathering information. "Just as we do our research and work to find recruits, players need to do the same amount of work to re-search us," Price says. "They need to know who will be there with them—who their teammates and coaches will be. If they don’t do their homework, they might get into a situation where they aren’t happy."
Attending an on-campus summer camp helps a player get a feel for a school’s basketball program. Camps give recruiters the chance to see players in action and players the opportunity to learn, play with a team and understand the program.
Because recruiting is a whirlwind process, it can lead to snap judgments and uninformed choices. "I think that sometimes kids make decisions too quickly," Price says. "A kid will commit and then later de-commit." Be patient and enjoy the recruitment process. The fact you are being recruited is an honor.
When it comes to picking a school, blaze your own trail. Don’t follow a friend to a school, because his/her ideal basketball program may not match yours. "Deciding to go to a school because a friend is going there can be a major mistake. You have to pick a situation that is best for you," says Price.
HEAD OF THE CLASS
Luther Head is an example of a good recruit. In high school, Head worked to catch the eye of Illinois recruiters by displaying his talents at the Adidas ABCD Camp in New Jersey. Price says, "We were able to go out and find him even though he wasn’t that highly recruited."
A 6’3" guard from Manley High School in Chicago, Head obviously found the right fit at Illinois. As a senior, he led the team to the national championship game in 2005, averaging 15.9 points per game and being named second team All-American by the Associated Press. "Now he is a first-round NBA draft pick," Price says. "That is as successful as you can get."