By Amauro Austin Sr
Chapter 1: AAs Introduction to the Recruiting Process..
It was April of 1999 and I was a student at Hampton University. Back in those days, Boo Williams would bring his Nike Sponsored tournament to our campus every year. At that time, I was already enamored with high school & college basketball and it’s process and I was happily picked to work the event. Yes, Nike had a Grassroots platform long before the inception of the EYBL in 2010. In those days, Nike had 3 Major Events for its affiliated grassroots programs and players: Boo Williams in April & both the Nike All-American Camp and Peach Jam in July.
The High School Class of 2001 had 3 legendary prospects and all 3 were on display that weekend. Two of them I’d only read about at that point in Centers: 7-foot Tyson Chandler (Compton, CA) & 6-10 Eddy Curry (Suburban Chicago) and the third I had seen live twice earlier that January while I was home on winter break in Camden, NJ super-guard prospect Dajuan Wagner, who was already a schoolboy legend on the entire East Coast known for dominating even the best of the best of his peers and even guys older than him. The Big Game Saturday morning on Center Court at the Hampton Convocation Center pitted Chandler vs Curry in a matchup of the long, athletic thin rim runner in Chandler against the wide body in Curry. At that time, they were 1 & 2 in the class. And right after they played, #3 Wagner took the court. Every Major college coach in America was in Hampton that weekend: Boeheim.. Huggs.. Coach K.. Lute Olson.. Coach Chaney, ect…
Seeing all this going on had me wide-eyed. It was my first time seeing all these legends I watched on TV in person. They were all in one place at the same time fraternizing. And I was asked to be a part of the hospitality/quality control team to make things run smoothly. One face I saw that looked familiar was then U.Mass assistant Geoff Arnold. I didn’t know him at the time but knew he was a Philly guy so I engaged him in conversation. I was a big fan of UMass big man Lari Ketner (Roman Catholic). Lari (RIP) was a neighborhood hero who I’d see on the train every morning on the way to school. I’d get on at 56th street and he’d get on at the next stop 52nd, head damn near touching the ceiling of the train car. The head coach at UMass back then was also a neighborhood hero in James “Bruiser” Flint. I was in heaven after this experience. That fateful weekend as a 19-20 year old changed the trajectory of my life for I had found a new passion.
Chapter 2: What Time has taught me about the Dos and Donts of the recruiting process..
Fast Forward almost 24 years since my initial encounter with recruiting and I’ve consistently acquired information through first hand experience during that time. Now as a man in his 40s, I can honestly say that I’m one of the handful of guys in this area that the guys handing out the scholarships candidly speak with. I’m also one of a smaller handful of guys who know how to properly assess a high school transcript while also finding creative ways to acquire eligibility for student athletes who haven’t been the best students throughout their prep careers. My focus has changed greatly through the years. Early on I was sky-high off the Euphoria that basketball and it’s recruiting process can bring.. However, I kicked that habit 10-12 years ago and my thinking changed to more so knowing I could do my part in the community by helping young men and women gain access to higher education & life experiences that will send them on their way into the “Real World” without college debt and just generally way ahead of the curb.
One of the most frustrating things about this process is trying to work for a kid/family pro bono while feeling like I’m doing a roof job or some cement work. That’s where we’ll get into the “Donts.” This is the toughest part when trying to advise families. Most kids and parents simply don’t have a proper/realistic assessment of their value on the open market. I get it mom, that’s “your” baby and he’s “your” superstar. I get it dad you’ve been training your son since he could walk and he’s your favorite playa.. But to those guys over there handing out the money he’s got a Low Major D1 prospect grade which means he ain’t TOO good for D2s to recruit so I’d suggest you listen before you get caught with your proverbial pants down. So please DON’T trick yourself out of position on some inflated ego tripping. At the end of the day you’re trying to get a large bill paid with OPM: other people’s money… DON’T big time/Hollywood/flea NOBODY. You never know who you’ll need on this journey so you always want to keep a good name out here… DON’T assume anything is real until you accept the scholarship. Again you are trying to get a large bill paid with OPM. Please understand what that all means in the grand design. And lastly, if you are a family with limited REAL options and have an advisor that’s telling you to wait on something better to come, DON’T listen unless said advisor got 150-200K to pay for your child’s college tuition…
And now we move on to the “DOs.“ First and foremost pick the right mix of high school & aau/travel program for your child.. This is where the most mistakes are made on a daily basis. Families seem to always try to stuff square pegs in round holes with respect to choosing the right program. Choosing the wrong situations is the most common way to trick yourself out of position.. Sneaker sponsored aau basketball is a phenomenon these days, a wave like no other but it ain’t for everybody. You can only be seen by those guys I spoke about above, you know the ones that are willing to pay your bills with OPM by actually playing on a team that you play a prominent role.. Translation: it’s better to be in top 3 on a quality non-sponsored program than being the 8th (in most cases), 9th or 10th (In all cases) man on a circuit team.. On most circuit teams, the top 7 will get D1 scholarships.. Choosing a high school is a much more delicate situation. Some families want to be on the largest of stages. Others want high end academic situations. And guys like myself enjoy a sense of community and believe in the education of the better Public Suburban school districts. None of these options are wrong but it has to be the best fit for you and your family… When it comes time to be recruited, please “DO” listen attentively to ALL interest.. Again you never know where this process will land you and you don’t wanna start eliminating options until the time comes to make a decision. And again we are trying to obtain OPM… Lastly, DO as much research as possible cause obtaining OPM ain’t easy and it ain’t suppose to be. If your child is a scholarship prospect, put yourself in the best position you can to be able to accept the proverbial bag. Most sports parents are just passing through for a season or two but go about this process moving off emotions. But I’m here to say there is no market for emotions. The open market is practical. Find out where you stand and what you could possibly qualify for…
Chapter 3: Good Guards are Good Guards..
Now we get to the fun part of the article. This is the part that’s second nature to me. I’ve seen college basketball games at every level and the one thing that I’ve learned is that Good guards are good guards. A 1st Team All-Conference junior guard at D3 Widener could more than likely hold his own a few hours down the road at D1 MAAC conference Mt St Mary’s in MD. A 1st team All-Conference Junior guard at D2 power East Stroudsburg could more than likely do well at LIU Brooklyn or St Francis NY. And yes, a 1st team all conference guard at D1 Binghamton can go to Big 10 Penn State and average double figures (we’ve seen this happen recently). Penn States current top player was once Siena’s top gun.. I say all this to say guards are good at every level. Guards are also a surplus. There are more guard prospects than any other positions, naturally… The D2 PSAC conference is known for Elite guard play.. The Mid Major D1 MAAC Conference which has schools in NY, CT, NJ & MD is also known for having Elite guard play.. So how should a family go about being recruited at the guard position? First and foremost be thankful cause again the market is highly competitive for guards so if you’re chosen, you’ve been blessed. Assess your situation properly. If the market says you’re a Mid Major D1 level guard or lower by the Spring of your Junior year, make an informed, yet quick decision. In that particular situation, that prospect should have picked his/her destination by August right before senior year begins, earlier if possible.. The longer a guard prospect waits, the shorter the option list gets. And the options get even slimmer for guards after early October when college basketball practice officially starts and the Transfer portal gets cooking. The Market in the Spring for Low Major graded guards is damn near barren due to the portal. Why take a high school kid when there are hundreds of college experienced guys to pick from in the portal. This is the reality we live in now days. Don’t try to fight this market, you’ll likely lose. Accept it and move accordingly…
Chapter 4: Who is Who?
A good question that any family can ask is, “How do you differentiate the levels of college basketball?” In layman’s terms, “Who is Who?” Well let’s start by using examples in our region. This region is rich at every level collegiately. In D3, we have some prime situations like Neumann, Cabrini, Widener, Alvernia, Albright, Del Val, Rowan & Arcadia. All decent schools with very good basketball. Then we also have the more high academic D3 programs that also have strong hoops traditions: The Swarthmores, Ursinus & Haverford collleges of the world… We also have SUPER high D2s from our PSAC in West Chester, East Stroudsburg, Kutztown & Shippensburg and also Jefferson formerly known as Philly U from the CACC.. The PSACs Millersville & Lock Haven have also trended in the direction of high D2 in recent years as has the CIAAs Lincoln University. Although I’d consider all three schools equivalent to A10 schools at the D2 level.. Schools like Mansfield & Bloomsburg (PSAC East) & Wilmington, Chestnut Hill, Holy Family & Georgian Court (All CACC) are solid mid level D2 programs… In D1, the conference you play in dictates the level you play at.. Regionally, the America East, Northeast Conference (NEC) & MEAC all are Low Major leagues. The MAAC & CAA are both solid Mid Major conferences. While the A10 is a higher end Mid Major league. The Big East, Big 10 & ACC all play at the highest levels.. Temple plays in the AAC, a league a little higher than the A10 but a little lower than the Big East. Some of the schools in the conference are high majors and some are High Mids.. Schools like West Chester and Kutztown are able to recruit the cream of the crop of D2 graded prospects because of their stature on the D2 landscape. These schools also get D1 transfers and often get prospects out of high school with Low Major D1 grades.. At the D1 level schools are always recruiting prospects graded higher than their respective levels. For instance schools like Rider, Siena & Iona of the MAAC Conference routinely recruit prospects with A10 grades. While schools in the A10 like VCU & Dayton routinely successfully recruit guys with Big East & ACC grades.. What does all of this say? Choose wisely!!! Why because if D2 power East Stroudsburg were to play the NECs LIU Brooklyn tomorrow. Guess who the favorite would be? You got it, ESU would be the favorite even slightly on the road.. Same goes for undefeated D3 DeSales traveling up the road to play against the winless D2 PSAC East Bloomsburg.. Oh and take a shot at who would be favored if perennial D2 power IUP were to drive 40 minutes down the road to play a quality NEC team in St Francis… Yes in a few cases High D2 is better than Low D1..
Chapter 5: Yo AA?! What makes these schools who they are?
Another great question for a family to ask is well what’s the difference in these levels? Well I’ll tell you. At the guard spot not much separates the pack but the bigs tell the tale. At the D3 level, most teams look like local high school teams from a size standpoint. The Centers are normally around 6-5.. At the D2 level, the average big man is 6-7 but most D2 schools will have a 6-8 or bigger guy on the roster. Same goes for the Low D1 level, most bigs are 6-7/6-8ish while higher level d1 transfers are likely on the roster. And so on as the levels go up.. Honestly it’s 2 things that separate say Robert Morris from Pitt. It’s the size of the bigs & wings and more importantly, the quality of the big men. And the ever-popular transfer portal has made it so that a player can out-play his level and move up to even as high as Blue Blood level.. What’s a Blue Blood? That’s the top .0000000001% of college basketball. These are schools that excel at basketball in a football world.. And over the years most of them just so happened the wear the color blue. Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas & UCLA will always be on this A-list of college hoops.. At varying times though schools like Arizona, Louisville, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, U.Conn & even our Villanova have been able to crack this code. But these schools ain’t for everybody. Blue Bloods are the best of the best high school recruits, the top 50 National guys…
Chapter 6: Thirty plus years of success stories of picking the right level..
Here I wanna give you some familiar names of local guys that chose the RIGHT school through the years.. Let’s start with the class of 1990. The St Joseph’s Hawks brought in what today would have been a top 20 National Class and arguably their best ever recruiting class with 3 Top 100 National recruits. Guards: Rap Curry & Bernard Blunt & Big Man Carlin Warley. Warley was sought after by high Major schools all across the country but ended up at SJU where he finished his career a 3-time All-A10 selection with the gaudy numbers of 1400+ points & 1100+ rebounds while starting each and every one of the 114 games played.. Curry was one of the finest point guards in America and rated in the National Top 50. If not for knee injury late in his Hawk career, most thought he was headed to the NBA. He finished his Hawk career with just under 1400 points, just under 600 assists & just under 200 steals starting 106 of the 107 career games played. And then there was Blunt, a powerfully built 6-4 guard from Syracuse, NY. He, too succumbed to a serious late career knee injury that kept him out of the NBA. Back in those days, a major knee injury was a 18 to 24 month thing whereas today it’s 6 to 9 months. Blunt finished a fabulous run with just under 2000 points, over 700 rebounds & 299 assists with 118 starts in 119 games. Blunt was also a 3-time All-A10 conference… The next guy is the biggest success story of them all from choosing the right school. In 1992, Overbrook high had an undersized unsigned Senior Center by the name of Malik Rose whose only D1 offer was from low Major D1 regional Philly school, Drexel of the North Atlantic Conference (Now known as the America East Conference). Malik went on to become the best player in school history when it was all said and done. 4-time all-NAC conference selection, 2-time conference POY, started all 120 career games played, 2000+ career points & 1500+ career rebounds. A Career record of 96 wins & 24 losses followed by a 13 season career in the NBA, 2 of which culminating to a NBA Title with the San Antonio Spurs.. Not bad Ehh.. In 1998 Roman Catholic had a top 30 National prospect & Parade All-American in 6-8 wing Rasual Butler (RIP). He decided to stay home and go to La Salle. 2125 points, 3 times all-Atlantic 10 conference & 14 NBA seasons later and we have another excellent School choice.. Fast forward to the class of 2004, John Bartram high had an unheralded guard named Tywain McKee. He caught the eye of Temple HOF coach John Chaney by chance and coach saw something immediately. However things didn’t work out for Ty and Temple so coach called his buddy 90 minutes down the road, Fang Mitchell at Coppin State in Baltimore. At Coppin, McKee became an All-Time great in school history making an immediate impact. He finished a dazzling career in 2009 as the MEAC conference POY while racking up 2158 points, more than 400 assists & 253 steals.. In 2010, Neumann-Goretti had a vastly underrated guard prospect in Tyreek Duren who chose La Salle over Temple. Why? Because he felt La Salle needed him more. And he was right after going All-A10 twice and finishing his career with over 1700 points, exactly 500 assists & 227 steals and a Sweet 16 appearance as a junior.. More recently in 2016 Archbishop Carroll product, point guard Josh Sharkey had signed to play at Samford University a low d1 school down in Birmingham, Alabama. Some scratched their heads and asked why Samford??? Well Sharkey knew best as he was a two-time all Southern Conference honoree finishing his career with just shy of 1600 points, a whopping 756 assists and just under 300 steals.. And finally in real time check out the distinguished careers of guys like Delaware’s Jameer Nelson jr, Penn’s Jordan Dingle & VCU to NBAs Bones Hyland..
Chapter 7: The net net of the equation..
In the end there is no exact science to recruiting. It’s fluid and has constant Ebs and flows. What I will say is this.. My advice to young prospects is to take level out of the equation. If you have more than one option, compare fit and need of said options. Choose where you are wanted and needed. The rest will take care of itself. Too many decisions these days are made based off of idol worship and becoming enamored with shiny shit, you know short term stuff that has little to nothing to do with basketball or life advancement. Having a good experience while obtaining OPM should be the primary goals of any decision. And please, no pretty please stop trying to go against the market. It’s a battle you’ll never ever win. I hope that this short story can help some people and hopefully it clears up who is who and what is what in the world of college basketball recruiting…
One response to “There are Levels to this!!! The Myths & the hidden truths about the levels of college Basketball..”
A – Can you please when you get some time please give me a call to discuss your recruting article. It would be my pleasure to talk with you. My name is Brian Townsend (BT) – My home number is (215) 946-5541. Hope to speak with you when you get a chance. Thanks. BT.