Recruiting 101, part II

It’s July – the biggest high school recruiting month of the year, and college coaches are scouring club ball tournaments around the country looking for good fits for their programs.

With so much talent on display, how do coaches know whom and what to look for? I asked a few coaches to break it down for us, and today Cal assistant Coach Kai Felton weighs in. She is known for her recruiting skills.

I’ve been asked before, “What is it that you do during the July evaluation period?” It’s a great question and lots of people who aren’t in our profession really don’t understand that it takes a ton of pre-July planning and organizing…all to sit in a gym ALL DAY. Yep, you heard me right; we often watch 12-plus hours a day of basketball.

The planning and organizing is key for each women’s basketball program. We all have the same goal: to watch and support our top recruits throughout the month. There are hundreds of tournaments to choose from, but you’ll see us where we hope our future Bears are playing. It’s important to discuss who sees what team/recruit and we always want our head coach in the stands wearing the blue and gold.

We wish all of our recruits played at the same tournaments…that’d make our jobs easy. Yet, that’s never the case, so you’ll see us split up across the country. And more often than not, more than one coach will be recruiting at an event on different days so that we can effectively see as many players and games as possible. For example, in Oregon, three of us recruited that tournament and all on different days. We didn’t miss a game. There are days, where we can work a tournament together. We LOVE these days because we get to spend time with one another, and there is more Bear Territory in the gym!

When coaches are in the gym recruiting, each has their own style. Some are in jeans and their school polo, some are in basketball shorts and T-shirts, some wear skirts and heels (yea, I know…not me!), some love loud shoes (me!) and most are in khaki’s and their school colors. Personally, my outfits scream where I’m from and I’m comfortable with it because I love where I’m working and I’m proud of where we are going. I want our future Bears to know that you won’t catch me in anything else. Yesterday I wore a T-shirt with Bear Territory on the front and Cal on the back, and an older gentleman at the airport said to me, “Golden Bear Territory?” I told him yes, and he walked away with a smile and said, “Go Bears.”

Sitting in a gym for 12-plus hours is no easy task! I’ve learned that packing healthy snacks is the way to go and taking breaks when you have them. Even if that means walking outside for 10 minutes to breathe in some fresh, sometimes hot and humid air. Working out during the month is key. I can’t say I’m always great about waking up early to do so, but when I do, I always feel better! Coach Lindsay Gottlieb is the master at waking up at 4 a.m., working out, jumping on a plane and then recruiting!

Breakfast is also key because I might not eat again until dinnertime depending on how the games go and where the breaks are, if there are any. So far, this July, I’ve seen coaches with: mixed nuts & dried cranberries, Fruit Snacks, fresh raspberries, bananas, apples…others who are less worried about their diet have chips, candy, and cookies. There is usually a concession stand where we can buy food, but I tend to go there only as a last resort. If you can get out of the gym to head to Panera Bread or Subway, do it! It’s healthy to change it up and see the sun, even for a little bit. My unhealthy-guilty pleasure is coffee and Diet Coke – I won’t go a day without it! Oh, and thanks to (associate head coach) Charmin Smith, I’ve got my SIGG canteen filled with water so wherever I go, I stay hydrated!

When watching games, we want to be present, so we put our iPhones away and we watch closely. We want to learn our recruits’ tendencies and remember moments in the game that we can later share with them. The Bears love to play fast, put big numbers on the board, press and get after it defensively, so we are looking for players who emulate that style. At the same time, we are very specific in what we need and what we are looking for in each class. Each of our recruits brings talents to the table that we need in our system. Anytime we see a new player that we’ve not evaluated before, we take down notes and let each other know so we can continue to watch them play. If they are younger, we put them into our system so we can follow their development and growth.

At the end of each evaluation period, we will meet as a staff and talk about who we saw and what we liked. It’s a great time to talk about new players who caught our eye and where they will fit in as a Bear! We are always trying to stay one step ahead. We’ve got a talented Golden Bear team now and we are going to add more skill, speed, athleticism and fun personalities in the years to come.