WHAT COLLEGES REALLY LOOK FOR
“What College Coaches REALLY Look For” By Matt Logie Head Mens’ Coach Whitworth University
After going through the recruiting process as a student-athlete, Division-I assistant coach, and now as the head coach of a college basketball program at Whitworth University, there is one question that is frequently asked by parents, coaches, and student-athletes alike: “What are you looking for?” Determining what is important to each program varies from coach to coach, university to university, playing style to playing style, and year to year. However, there are a few ways in which you can separate yourself from the pack in the eyes of the coaching staffs evaluating you.
When I set out to recruit the high-school Class of 2009 as an assistant coach for Lehigh University in the spring of 2008 we were looking for someone that could make an impact as a freshman. Our team returning the following year would be filled with upperclassmen and we needed a jolt from whatever freshman recruit we signed, not only for that team but so we had someone that could carry the torch for our program moving forward. Needless to say, this was a critical recruiting class in the evolution of our program at Lehigh, and we had to get it right.
There were a few things that stood out about one of the young men we set our sights on that I think can be very valuable lessons to any prospect preparing for college and trying to find the best opportunity for themselves to be a student-athlete. Here are some of the things we took note of as we recruited this young man that ultimately joined our program:
• Passion: We wanted someone that was very passionate about the game of basketball and had big dreams. Very rarely are people highly successful in an area in which they are only moderately passionate. Often times, passion is what drives work ethic. It was clear from Day 1 that this young man had a yearning passion for the game of basketball.
• Winning Habits: When talking on the phone with recruits in 2008, I began to notice that this young man was usually leaving the gym, going to the gym, or talking to me about what he did at the gym that day. This made an impression on me as an assistant coach because he was living out his passion for the game. I knew he cared about reaching his potential. Other recruits were talking about the movies, video games, school dances or TV shows – which are all normal activities, but also gave an indication of priorities as well.
• Confidence: As a coach, we can only instill so much confidence in our players. There must be a level of self-confidence and self-assurance which allows you to compete at a high level under pressure. As I spoke with this recruit in 2008, I heard a very confident young man who believed in himself because of the habits and passion referenced above.
• Good Academics: Being consistent in the classroom and achieving high marks not only opens more doors for recruits, but it is also a window into the character and maturity of the young person. Coaches want mature student-athletes that understand the value of education and how they can maximize their experiences as a student-athlete to prepare for success in life. That was something that really impressed me about this prospect, we were the highest-rated academic school recruiting him, and he referenced that frequently when stating his interest in us. That showed me that he cared about academics.
• Fit: Here is where recruiting can be tricky, both for coaching staffs and for student-athletes and their families. What appears to be a great fit for one party is not equally as great a fit by the other party. This can happen for a variety of reasons. Sometimes coaches are looking for a specific position and you just don’t fit their class’ needs. Other times, players are looking for an instant opportunity but the program already has multiple players in that position. There are a variety of variables that go into finding “the right fit”, but a combination of academic fit, talent / preparation to succeed at that level, relationship with coaches and current student-athletes, as well as opportunity to contribute (timelines for this can vary) are some of the main factors that both sides must consider and see a match. All of these variables matched for both parties during this recruitment in 2008-2009.
Ultimately, it was a combination of the five factors above which led to us pursuing and ultimately landing a young, unheralded recruit in the Class of 2009 from Canton, Ohio. The combination of these factors played a large role in him earning a starting spot as a freshman, leading all of Division I freshman in scoring in 2009-2010, and being named the Patriot League Player of the Year as a freshman. That young man’s name: C.J. McCollum. He would go onto lead Lehigh past Duke in the 2012 NCAA Tournament and be drafted 10th overall in the 2013 NBA Draft by the Portland Trailblazers. Obviously, not everyone has the same potential that C.J. was able to capitalize on but as college coaches we are looking for factors that will lead to potential being reached. We are looking for achievers in every sense of the word and my experience evaluating, recruiting, and coaching a player like C.J. has cemented in my mind the importance of these factors when evaluating prospects.
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