- Mark Lewis, Women's College Basketball Recruiting
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What an athlete needs to do in July in front of the college recruiters is actually pretty simple: Play your game, play hard and offer only your best every time out. There's no guarantee that formula will produce the results and scholarship offers that a prospect is looking for, but it puts them in the best position to let coaches know what they can do on the floor.
There are also several things an athlete should avoid doing; things that will quickly dampen the enthusiasm any recruiter might have had. "Thou shall not" might be a little heavy handed for recruiting advice. But consider the Ten Commandments. Seven of them have the word "not" in them. So we offer the following advice:
• Don't play outside of your game. We see it time and again. When college coaches are in the gym, point guards suddenly aren't giving it up; forwards and posts think they're ball handlers and wander around on the wings; while the shooting guards completely forget any definition whatsoever of "good shot selection." Probably the quickest way to lose the attention of any coach is to try and impress them. So forget they're there and do what you do and do it well. They know what they're looking for; they certainly don't need you to go out of your way to try and prove something.
• Don't coast or quit. Probably nothing ever stunned me more than to see athletes who take plays off or roll over when the score has gotten out of hand. Actually, one thing has opened my eyes more and it's that there are athletes who are actually willing to shift into cruise control while there are college recruiters watching. First off, if you really want to be the best player you can be and get the most from your potential and hard work, you play one way. Sure, you get tired and often the games get frustrating. But never forget that recruiters are looking to see how you handle that situation and if you're the kind of player who they can count on when the going gets tough. The best players only know how to go all out and they don't understand any other way. Up 20 or down 20, third game of the day or even final day of your fifth tournament in July; play as if it's the most important game of your life. Depending on who's watching, it just may be.
• Don't fail Communication 101. Whether it's with teammates, coaches, the officials or even opponents, your communication skills are going to say something to college coaches about you.
No matter how the game is going and regardless of what happened on the last play, you have a responsibility to make the next possession your sole focus.
If you're not respectful to those around you now, how is a recruiter supposed to know what they would be dealing with if you were to put on their uniform? Don't ignore your teammates on the floor or leave the game and go to the end of the bench and pout. A vow of silence has no place on the bench. Always give your coach eye contact and your full attention no matter what's going on out on the floor or how you happen to be playing. Only complain to the officials when you've made every shot you've taken and made zero mistakes. When you're perfect only then do you have the right to expect them to be. Never forget that your body language says a lot to those watching, as well as your words. You may think trash talking your opponent is a part of the game but in reality it's taking the focus away from something you could be doing better. With opponents, the best means of communication is to speak with your play, not your mouth.
• Don't put yourself before your team. One thing you have to remember about every recruiter is that first and foremost, they're basketball coaches. And there isn't a coach in America who is impressed by or enjoys watching a player whose sole focus is on herself. The athlete who thinks the game revolves around their play or the one who ignores what their teammates or coaches need from them is the one who's going to be disappointed by how that approach is interpreted in the recruiting world. Forcing or taking bad shot after bad shot, failing to execute within an offense, making no effort to get on the boards so you can get out early on the break or simply standing when you don't have the ball in your hands are all examples of overvaluing yourself and it all makes a bad statement about you.
• Don't be difficult to coach. It's often easy to forget that, at times, everybody in the gym knows what a coach is asking of you. Basketball does have its nuances and coaches love to throw a curve ball here and there but there are times when it's pretty simple and hardly brain surgery. Watching a player ignore the obvious and do their own thing (and it's not always shot selection) could raise some doubts about basketball IQ and coachability. Even on the bench there are occasions when it's obvious the instruction a player received from their coach has gone in one ear and out the other. This doesn't necessarily imply the player is selfish or looking out for herself but it can be cause for concern about an athlete's willingness to accept, understand or commit to their role with a team.
• Don't let your play affect your play. Everybody has those games where the shots aren't falling, or maybe you're racking up more turnovers than assists and some days your teammates start calling you "Highway" because you're getting driven on so much. There are two mistakes you can make at this point: You can go into the tank and leave college coaches thinking you're a one trick pony with nothing else to offer. Or, you can overcompensate and fire at will; force passes and implement the bump and run on the defensive end. No matter how the game is going and regardless of what happened on the last play, you have a responsibility to make the next possession your sole focus. It's important that your game not have highs and lows dictated by what's going well for you and what is not. And don't try to "turn it up" in another aspect of your game. If you can, it only means you weren't giving it your best to start with.
While these thoughts are neither Biblical nor did they come from a burning net atop Mt. Recruitment, they are considerations that could lead a college coach to follow up and see you play again or mark you off their list and move on. See the bigger picture this summer. Pay heed, go forth, and sin no more.
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Mark Lewis is the national recruiting coordinator for ESPN HoopGurlz. Twice ranked as one of the top 25 assistant coaches in the game by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association, he has more than 20 years of college coaching experience at Memphis State, Cincinnati, Arizona State, Western Kentucky and, most recently, Washington State. He can be reached at email@example.com.