football

Have Cinderella runs helped in recruiting

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Teamrankings:Classof2013|Classof2012
WhenHampton(Ga.)Lovejoy'sJustinTuoyoupdatedfriendsandclassmatesabouthisrecruitmentlastyearandmentionedtheschoolhefavored,the6-foot-8forwardoftenheardthesameresponse.
Who'sVCU?
Tuoyoisn'thearingthatnearlyasoftenanymore.
VCU'sstunningmarchtotheFinalFourlastyearassuredthatevencasualbasketballfansafewstatesawayfromcampuswerefamiliarwiththisColonialAthleticAssociationprogram.There'snotevenanyneedtorefertotheschoolasVirginiaCommonwealthanymore.Justtheinitialswilldo.
"Noweverybodyknowsaboutthem,"Tuoyosaid.
Tuoyo,whosignedwithVCUinNovember,hadtheRamsatophislistlongbeforetheymadenationalheadlineslastMarch.HebelievestheFinalFourrunwillhelpwinoversomerecruitswhoweren'tevenfamiliarwithVCUbeforehand.
ButhowmuchdoesadeepNCAAtournamentrunbenefitamid-majorprogram'srecruiting?Theansweriscomplicated.
"I'mnotgoingtosaythatbecauseoflastyear,allofasuddenourrecruitingprofilehaschangedorthelevelatwhichwe'rerecruiting,"VCUcoachShakaSmartsaid."It'snotlikewe'regoingoutthereagainsttheFloridasandKentuckysandpeoplelikethatandbeatingthemforkids."
Thedifferenceinsteadismuchmoresubtle,thoughasuccessfulpostseasondoesindeedmakeatleastsomeimpact.PerhapsthebestwaytomeasurethechangeistolookattherecentrecruitingclassesofButler,whichreachedtheNCAAchampionshipgameoutoftheHorizonLeagueeachofthelasttwoyears.
Butler'smostheralded2011recruitwasO'Fallon(Ill.)forwardRooseveltJones,thenation'sNo.129prospect.Butler's2012classincludesthenation'sNo.141recruitinPendleton(Ind.)HeightsguardKellenDunham.TheBulldogs'2010classfeaturedtwoRivals150recruitsinPembrokePines(Fla.)FlanaganforwardKhyleMarshall(No.118)andIndianapolis(Ind.)HerronguardChrishawnHopkins(No.124),thoughbothcommittedbeforetheBulldogsmadetheirfirstmagicalpostseasonrun.
Beforethisthree-yearstretch,ButlerhadsignedjusttwoRivals150prospectssinceRivalsstartedcoveringcollegebasketballrecruitingin2002:NickBrooks(No.124)in2003andMattHoward(No.91)in2007.
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"WefindourselvesmoreandmorerecruitingagainstBCSschools,"ButlerassistantcoachMatthewGravessaid."Fourorfiveyearsago,you'dseedifferentMACschoolsanddifferenttypesofMissouriValleyschools.Nowwhenwe'rerecruitingkids,you'relookingatkidsthatmightlistNorthwestern,Virginia,Michigan,BostonCollege.Soyou'reseeingadifferentmixofschoolsthatyou'rerecruitingagainstthanyouwerethreeorfouryearsago."
VCUoftenhadrecruitedagainstmajor-conferenceprogramsevenbeforethisFinalFourrun.NowtheRamshopetowinmoreofthosecontests.VCUrecruitingcoordinatorWillWadediscussedthepossiblechangeinfortunebymentioningascenarioinwhichtheschooltargetsfiveareaplayerswhofittheRams'profilebutalsoarereceivingfeelersfrommajor-conferenceprograms.
"Maybeinthepast,wecouldgetoneofthosefive,"Wadesaid."Nowmaybewecangettwoorthreeofthosefive.Itincreasestheodds,withourprofilebeingraised."
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Butitisn'tasiftheseschoolsarenowcompetingregularlyfortop-50recruits.
Butler'sclosestcallwithaneliteprospectcamewhenitpursuedWashington(Ind.)forwardCodyZeller,theNo.15overallprospectinthe2011class.Butlerwasoneofthreefinalistsforthefive-starprospectalongwithIndianaandNorthCarolina,butZellerchosetheHoosiersandwasnamedtheBigTen'sco-freshmanoftheyearthisyear.
TheBulldogshadnoregretsaboutgoingafterZeller.Theybelievedtheyhadalegitimateshotathim.Becausehelivednearby,recruitinghimheavilydidn'tcomeatamajorexpense.
"Withhisrecruitment,youweren'toutalotoftimeandenergybecauseyouweren'tspendingalotofmoneyflyingalloverthecountry,"Gravessaid."Hewasakidwhowasinourownstate.Itwasoneofthosecalculatedrisksthatjustdidn'tworkout.Certainlyyouhavetotryandgoaftersomeofthosetypesofrecruitsbecausehefitthecorrectprofileofthetypeofstudent-athletewewanthereatButler.We'dbesellingourselvesandouruniversityshortifwedidn'tattempttogoafterkidsthatfitourprofile.
"It'sacalculatedrisk.Youtakethesamekid,andlet'ssayhe'sinCalifornia,whereyoucan'tgettoseehimasmuch.You'reprobablynotgoingtospendasmuchtimeandresourcesifyou'reinanuphillbattlewithfourorfivehigh-majortypeschools.Butforalocalkidinthearea,itcertainlywasworththerisk.''
TheattempttolandZellerdidn'tsignalapermanentchangeinButler'srecruitingstrategy.AsmuchasButlerwouldliketopursuetop-50prospectsonaregularbasis,theBulldogsaremoreintentonmakingsuretheyfindguyswhowillworkwellwithintheirsystem.
Forexample,Butler's2008recruitingclassdidn'tincludeasingleRivals150player,yetitproducedanNBAlotterypick(GordonHayward),asecond-rounddraftchoice(ShelvinMack)andafour-yearstarter(RonaldNored).Allthreewerestartersonthe2010NCAArunners-up,whileMackandNoredplayedmajorrolesonthe2011team.
Butler'scoacheswilltalktoaprospect'shighschoolcoach,hisschoolcounselorandevensomeopposingcoachestogetthebestsenseofwhetheraplayerisworthpursuing.Nomatterwhereaguyisranked,Butler'scoacheswanttomakesurehe'saproperfit.
"We'reverybigonwatchingkidsduringtimeouts,theirinteractioninhuddlesandonthebenchwhenthey'renotplaying,"Gravessaid."Whenthey'reinagameandthey'reup20,howdotheyact?Andwhatifthey'redown20andthingsaren'tgoingwell?We'rejusttakingintoaccountallthosethingsandcomingupwiththebestanalysisthatwecan.There'snoperfectformula,butIthinkwecanmakeanargumentthatwe'vedoneaprettygoodjobsofar."
Dunhamrepresentsoneofthelatestexamples.
Thethree-starprospectlivesabout30milesfromIndianapolisandwasconsideringButlerevenbeforetheBulldogsbeganeitheroftheirFinalFourruns.HecommittedtoButlerthesummerbeforehisjunioryearofhighschool.Henowhasboostedhisstockwithaspectacularseniorseasoninwhichhehasaveragednearly30pointspergamewhilemaking94percentofhisfreethrowsandnearlyhalfhis3-pointattempts.
"Hewasalreadylookingatthemasoneofhisstrongcontenders,"PendletonHeightscoachBrianHahnsaid."Thetournamentsuccessjustpusheditoverthetopandmadeittheobviouschoice."
TheFinalFourrunsalsocouldenableButlerandVCUtobroadentheirgeographicreach,thoughbothschoolscontinuetofocusprimarilyonrecruitswithintheirownarea.
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ClickHeretoviewthisLink.ButlerhadlandedMarshalloutofsouthFloridabeforeitsfirstFinalFourrun,buttheBulldogsreturnedtoFloridathisyeartogetacommitmentfromtwo-starguardDevonteMorganClickHeretoviewthisLink.ofTampaPrep.VCUalsonowshouldhavemorenamerecognitionoutsidetheEastCoast.
"Itcertainlyraisedourvisibility,"Smartsaid."There'smuchmorerecognitionwhenwecallrecruits.Wegetmorecallsback.Probablythebestthingaboutitisthey'veallseenusplay,sowhereaseveryoneinrecruitingtypicallysays,'Hey,weplayfast,wepressandyougettoshootalotofthreesandgettoplayyourgame,'somepeoplebackthatupandsomepeopledon't.Wedon'tevenhavetosaythat.They'veseenthat.They'veseenitonthebiggeststage.
"That'sprobablythebestpartofwhathappenedlastyearasitrelatestorecruiting."
YetSmartremainsunsureabouthowmuchonehugeNCAAtournamentruncanaffectateam'srecruitingfortunes.Hewondersiftop-levelrecruitswanttoseealongerperiodofexcellence.
HecitedGonzagaasanexample.Gonzagahassignedsixtop-100recruits-including2007five-starprospectAustinDaye-overthelastsevenyearstoprettymuchsheditsformerstatusasamid-majorprogram.Butthatflurrydidn'tcomeuntilseveralyearsafterGonzagaburstontothenationalscenewithaCinderellaruntoaregionalfinalin1999.
Ontheotherhand,GeorgeMasonoftheCAAhasexperiencedamodestupgradeinrecruitingbuthassignedonlyonetop-150player(ErikCopesin2011)sincereachingthe2006FinalFour.GeorgeMasonhasearnedtwoNCAAbids(in2008and2011)andhaswononlyasingletournamentgamesincethatFinalFourappearance.CopeswassignedbynewGeorgeMasoncoachPaulHewittafterJimLarranaga-thecoachwhohadledthePatriotstotheFinalFour-leftforMiami.
"Idon'tknowifoneyeardefinitelymakesadirectimpactwhereyou'renowgettingsignificantlybetterplayers,"Smartsaid."Ithinkasustainedrunofexcellence-ifyoulookatwhatGonzagahasdonethelast10-15years-thatobviouslyhasaneffect.Ithinkaprogramlikethatisnowabletorecruitsignificantlybetterplayersthantheywerebefore.''
ThatmakestheupcomingNCAAtournamentparticularlynoteworthyforVCU.JustasButlercementeditsstatusasanationalprogramlastyearbyprovingitsruntothe2010championshipgamewasnofluke,VCUwouldlovetoshowitcanwreakhavoconabracketinback-to-backseasons.VCUalsomusttryhangingontoSmart,whoisconsideredaprimecandidateforIllinois'coachingvacancy.
OnetriptotheFinalFouralreadyhelpedVCUraiseitsprofileamongrecruits.Asecondstraightproductivepostseasoncouldhaveanevengreaterimpact.
SteveMegargeeisthenationalcollegecolumnistforRivals.com.Hecanbereachedatsmegargee@rivals.com,andyoucanclickheretofollowhimonTwitter.
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