September 7, 2007

Meyer's Mailbag: Method to visit madness?

Jerry Meyer is the national basketball recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. He tackles your questions in his weekly mailbag feature.
Previous mailbags
Aug 30: Coach K gets more exposure
Aug 24: Clues in the visit schedule?
Do you bring all your top targets in on the same recruiting visit, or is it better to spread them out a bit?

Is Michigan going to look like West Virginia 1.5 under Coach John Beilein?

What type of system best fitsTyreke Evans?

These questions and more are addressed by National Basketball Recruiting Analyst Jerry Meyer in this week's mailbag.

Jerry's Mailbag
Planning visits

Should programs try to use the same visitation dates for each of their big-time recruits, or spread them out? I ask because I've noticed that Tennessee has Elliot Williams, Chris Singleton and Renaldo Woolridge visiting during the same week. Can you really give a big-time recruit the love he's looking for with other big-timers on campus?

-- Mark from Decatur
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Personally, I like the strategy of bringing in the top targets on the same visit. It takes a cohesive unit to win championships, and an official visit with the core of what you hope will be your team is a great initial bonding opportunity. If guys don't want to play together, do you really want them anyway?

Sometimes it is easy for those of us immersed in recruiting to forget recruiting is a means to an end and not an end in and of itself. Actually, I think a lot of assistant coaches lose site of this - and even entire staffs. Recruiting analysts might keep score on recruiting, but that score might or might not translate to the scoreboard during the season.

When the proper pieces are put together in a cohesive unit, then a recruiting class' prowess does translate to the scoreboard.

With the situation you bring up with Tennessee, the coaching staff is thinking that if they are recruiting the right type of players, the players develop a desire to compete together in a Tennessee uniform. And if a player doesn't get the "love" he is looking for, then the program probably is better off without him.

In addition, it allows the staff to focus all their energy that weekend into the visit instead of spreading them thin throughout the fall.

Another way to look at the situation is that the coaching staff also might be trying to create a sense of urgency to commit, especially between players who play the same position. This points out the dilemma that all coaches face in developing a program: How do you cultivate competition but also develop cohesion?

A staff with a grip on how to balance that and also use them to enhance each other is able to infuse their philosophy and strategies into their recruiting as well as their work on the court. The great programs over time, such as John Wooden's UCLA program, are the ones who have this type of holistic approach.

Beilein's plan

When Coach John Beilein took the job at the University of Michigan, he said he would go after the big-name recruits (ones he couldn't recruit at West Virginia). How come Michigan's next class is looking like it is going to be worse than Tommy Amaker's last class? It seems as if he is recruiting three stars (Tanner Smith, Kyle Kuric and Klay Thompson) harder than four stars (Devoe Joseph and Lance Goulbourne). Will Beilein be able to get the four stars, or will Michigan fans have to settle for the no-namers?

-- Sane from Ann Arbor
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I'm not exactly sure what Beilein said about his recruiting approach when he took the Michigan job, but I do expect Michigan basketball to look a lot more like West Virginia basketball under Beilein than anything else. Beilein was offered the Michigan job because of his success as a coach, and he was successful because of his unique and complex system and his ability to recruit the right type of players for that system.

I understand the desire to see your program recruit more "big-name" prospects, but I wouldn't consider the three prospects you mention as "no-namers." Tanner Smith is also being pursued by Auburn, Clemson, Georgia and Vanderbilt. Kuric is being recruited by Louisville and Duke. Thompson is being recruited by Minnesota, Notre Dame, Vanderbilt, Washington State and Nevada.

Now granted, these prospects aren't "sexy," ranked players, but Beilein was hired first and foremost to win on the court. If Beilein does win, I'd assume that the fans will learn to cheer for the players wearing Michigan uniforms. If he doesn't win, then your administration can take a different approach after they fire him.

Any style

Which team is best suited for Tyreke Evans? I think that Villanova is best-suited because it plays a style in which the guards have the ball most of the time. That's where Evans is best with the ball in his hands. Evans should be a Villanova Wildcat.

-- Sean from Augusta
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Without a doubt Tyreke Evans is well-suited for Villanova's guard-oriented, spread attack. Evans is a terror off the dribble and really could showcase his one-on-one prowess in Jay Wright's system.

There was a time before this summer when I felt Evans needed to be in a Villanova-type system. For instance, North Carolina's pass-oriented motion offense didn't seem like a good fit for Evans. But I have changed my mind a bit. After watching Evans' game mature this summer seeing him streamline his game and take out much of the over-dribbling and poor shot selection I think he can excel in any system.

Now, some systems such as Villanova's might be the better fit. However, Evans - like all elite players - can excel anywhere. I'm sure Rick Pitino at Louisville can find a way to tap into Evans' abilities. Pitino has always been known for adapting his style of play to the talents of his players. Freshman Edgar Sosa thrived with the ball in his hands last year for Louisville, and I'd expect the same from Evans if he were to become a Cardinal.

Defense for Duke

Jerry, I am a huge Duke fan. What is your take on Duke not recruiting the more athletic players? We have a bunch of slow-footed players who can't guard anyone. Doesn't Coach K realize his best teams had athleticism as well as intelligence Grant Hill, Jay Williams, Chris Carawell, Nate James, Dahntay Jones, etc. Shooters are great, but if we can't guard anyone, who cares?

-- Dave from Houston
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You make a great point about the need to guard people. All the great teams defend, and I think Duke's inability to guard athletic, one-on-one players often is a problem. The Blue Devils struggled with Eric Maynor of Virginia Commonwealth in the NCAA Tournament, and teams such as Virginia Tech and Florida State have given them trouble by spreading them out and taking them off the dribble.

Duke plays great team man-to-man defense, but sometimes all the helping and rotating is just not enough to make up for an inability to guard the ball. Often, a program's greatest strength can also be its greatest weakness. Duke's adherence to extended pressure man-to-man defense is a staple of its identity, but it also has been Duke's undoing at times.

So my thought on your question is that if Duke gets Elliot Williams and Greg Monroe, it is getting a couple of players who will improve its pressure defense. If Duke winds up with a lower-caliber athlete, it might require a tweaking of the system in order to compete at a national-championship level.

Top five class?

Now that Memphis has gotten Angel Garcia, which guard will the Tigers get, Tyreke Evans or Elliot Williams? With the Morris twins, Garcia and one of the guards, where would this class rank?

-- Joe from Memphis
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Assuming Angel Garcia qualifies and Memphis gets one of the guards you mention to go along with the Morris twins, Memphis would have a top five-class as they stand right now.

I like UCLA at the top, then Wake Forest, followed by the hypothetical Memphis class, Ohio State and Arizona.

Jerry Meyer is a national basketball recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. Click here to send him a question or comment for his Mailbag.



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