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Posted at 05:24 PM ET, 10/18/2011

Navigating the recruiting process: “Get a clue, control your career”


I was at Georgetown’s Midnight Madness this past Friday and met some men’s and women’s basketball recruits enjoying the festivities of the evening. Ah, the love affair of the recruiting process, I remember it fondly. Once I got to Georgetown, I was known for saying, “The love affair [recruiting process] is over; I’m ready for the divorce [graduation].” So before you get swept away by it all, future college athletes, let’s get real.

The recruiting process is a whirlwind of dream-selling that is nothing like what you’ll experience during your freshman year. The NCAA offers 23 different sports, with teams and coaches all vying for the best kids. Naturally, they will tell you what you want to hear. But as a coach once told me, you are only in the driver’s seat for a limited amount of time.

You should always be proactive, even academically. Not all of us are highly touted recruits with our dream schools chasing us down. Maintaining your grades could be pivotal in the process. The worlds of high school athletics, AAU, travel or club teams are already extremely competitive. Programs ultimately only have a certain number of scholarships they can offer and sometimes the player with the better grades has the advantage over a player of equal talent.

Know the rules. Yes, the video “Don’t Bet On It” at every tournament is redundant, but it is a very powerful message. Know the rules of amateurism and eligibility.

The NCAA makes available all the information you need on its “Eligibility Center”, which you can find on NCAA.com (at the bottom of the home page) or NCAA.org (on the right side of the page). There you can find “The Guide for the College-Bound Student-Athlete,” a recruiting calendar, eligibility requirements, and assess whether you are academically on track.

Show your interest. You have nothing to lose by calling a program where you think you might fit in as an athlete and letting the coaching staff know that you are interested. Send tapes of your best moments, even visit if you can.

This is also where you and your support network must begin to understand the business of it all. There are three levels of NCAA competition: Division I, Division II, and Division III (the “Eligibility Center” explains all this). You and your network must determine at which level you are capable of achieving success.

Ask yourself, “Will I fit in and have the opportunity to play at this program?” As you begin to make phone calls, ask coaches if you are on their radar. Some may politely tell you, “We aren’t recruiting your position in this class;” others may not call you back which speaks for itself; and some may be excited to know that you are interested.

In 2006, when I was a junior in high school (a big year in the recruiting process), the University of Maryland women’s basketball team won an NCAA title and returned to prominence. While I received one or two letters and even a phone call from the Terps, my dad and I knew that I would be behind All-American Marissa Coleman for two years. That wasn’t something that I wanted to do. We objectively evaluated the situation and decided against Maryland.

Georgetown, on the other hand, was a program in desperate need of revival. The coach recruiting me told me everything that a high school recruit would want to hear. In my case, as we tried our best to objectively listen, he was telling me things that could and ultimately would come to pass and not just selling “smoke.”

I was fortunate, but I also worked very hard. Most of the important things that I was told during the recruiting process came true, even though the coach recruiting me left before the start of my freshman year.

As soon as your recruitment process begins, you are a part of the business. Get a clue, control your career. Coaches will want you, but if the team is stacked at your position already, maybe that isn’t the best fit for you.

There is never a 100% satisfaction guarantee in college sports. But you don’t want to look back after you have made a decision and are dealing with the hassles of transferring only to admit you didn’t think your decision through and were too naive for your own good.

Coming next week: More on the recruiting process

Monica McNutt was an All-Met basketball player at Holy Cross Academy who went on to star for the Georgetown women’s team. She will be offering advice to high school athletes who are looking to make the leap to college sports.

Got a question for Monica, or an idea she can use for a future post? Leave it here in the comments, or email her at hss@washpost.com. Follow her on Twitter at @__MCM__.

Previously:

Secrets to success: Food and rest (Oct. 11, 2011)

Introducing “Transition Game” (Oct. 4, 2011)

By Monica McNutt  |  05:24 PM ET, 10/18/2011

 
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