- Paul Biancardi, Basketball Recruiting
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In today's day and age many players commit to college basketball programs earlier and earlier, so the home visit is just a formality in many cases. However, it still has its original purpose and that is to inform a prospect and his family about the basketball program and university, deliver a plan for that prospect's future, as well as try and secure a campus visit or on-the-spot commitment.
College coaches can make as many home visits with as many different prospects as they need during the Fall contact period. The great news is that the home visits come after the July recruiting period, so the coaches know the prospect has a sincere interest in their program.
This is pretty much the only time where the prospect has the upper hand because he is in his comfort zone surrounded by his parents, relatives and sometimes coaches. College coaches are always looking for more information on their potential pupil and this is a perfect time for them to see how he interacts with his family and what his personality is like off the basketball court.
Every coaching staff has a different philosophy and style regarding how to attack the home visit. First, the staff has to figure out who is going on the visit. The assistant coach who has been the point person and the head coach, just the head coach or in some cases the team approach with the head coach and two assistants? Once that is established, the coaching staff must do its homework and a have a plan regarding what to discuss during the visit.
The head coach must know where he saw the recruit play and how they performed. He must know the names with background information of all the people that will be in attendance. Where did the recruit's parents go to school? Where are they originally from? What's his girlfriend's name?
Some coaches are all business and come in with a highly-organized presentation, while others are more comfortable at being a storyteller. But both are trying build a trust factor and get everyone to feel comfortable with the idea of them coaching their son.
While the recruit usually wants to hear about the playing time and the program's style of play, the smart coaches will also focus on discussing academic majors, how academic support works for student-athletes, campus life and life after basketball. A coach can then discuss the influence and impact the recruit will potentially have in their system. However, the really good coaches/recruiters know the difference between praise and flattery and they also never promise a starting position. Every player must earn their way.
During the home visit, the head coach must be able to separate himself from his peers. Having the prospect and his family believe and trust in him is the most important part of the process because if people don't believe and trust him as the head coach, it doesn't matter what he's selling.
Importance of the official visit
Trends in the recruiting process over the last 20 years have changed, but regardless of when a student-athlete makes his decision, the official visit will always be a major factor.
After months, and sometimes years, of evaluating and recruiting a prospect, everything comes down to one 48-hour period to inform and impress a student athlete and his family. A lot of thought and time go into every detail of the visit. Who is going to host the player? Do they want to be his first visit? What weekend works best? Is the recruit anxious to commit? Bring him in for a football game? (If a school doesn't have a football team, a coach will have him stay Thursday and Friday) Parents or no parents? What kind of food does he like? Coaches want to know everything about the prospect, so they can make sure to roll out the red carpet.
If a program feels like its in good shape with a player, it may try to bring him in early and try to close the deal. This is also the case if it seems like the process is getting to the recruit and his family. However, if the prospect is adamant to take all of his visits then some programs like to be the recruit's final visit in hopes to leave a fresh, lasting impression.
Before the recruit steps on campus, the head coach and the staff meet the day before, or that morning, to make sure all the logistics are organized. Planning the itinerary is also key as staffs try to tailor the weekend to the prospect. Whether the schedule should be structured with a lot of meetings with key campus people (school president, athletic director, etc.) or loose to allow a lot of time to hang out with the current players and coaches, depends on the prospect's personality.
The final touch by the staff is to send out a short bio of the student-athlete and family to alert all campus personnel, athletic department staff and student body organizations that a recruiting visit is taking place. This is extremely helpful.
A typical official visit itinerary during early signing period would look something like this:
• Once the recruit arrives on campus, he meets with the head coach in his office or locker room. This is the first of many conversations between the head coach and prospect, but this is where the head coach can set the tone.
• Many coaches like to conduct an individual workout during the visit, so the player can see how he coaches and teaches the game.
• Lunch on campus where the recruit, staff and host will be seen.
• Tour basketball facilities and meet with strength coach, athletic trainer and sports information director.
• Visit with players in dorm or get a campus tour. The current players are the best endorsement a program could possibly have.
• Meet with academic personnel such as a dean of the major intended to study, professors and academic support.
• Play in open gym with the current team. Both the recruit and the coaches like this idea because it puts the prospect in an environment that he could be with his future teammates.
• Dinner with coaches, team, and support staff at head coach's house. It shows a personable side of the head coach, his family and a togetherness of the program.
• Go out with the team, which could be the single most important part of the visit. The players can support the program or scare a potential recruit away.
• Attend the football game and meet with athletic director at half time. (If this were after the early period, head coaches would have the recruit attend a basketball game)
• Go out to dinner with his host.
• Breakfast with the head coach one last meeting. This is when most coaches try to close the deal.
Although many prospects are told not to commit on the official visit, coaches want to create an atmosphere/environment that will lead to the player feeling a part of the program and hopefully feel comfortable enough to have the prospect considering that program is the best fit for them.
Paul Biancardi, who has been a head coach and assistant on NCAA tournament teams, is the national director of basketball recruiting. He is also one the voters for the McDonald's All-American Game and Gatorade Player of the Year. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter.
Coaches have to be on their toes during a home visit, but the official visit is most important, writes Paul Biancardi.