College basketball coaches take different approaches to recruiting in July

Northwestern head coach Joe McKeown reacts from the sidelines during the second half of a NCAA basketball game Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014 in State College, Pa. Penn State won 82-73. (AP Photo/Ralph Wilson)

For college basketball coaches, the search to find new talent intensifies during the in-person recruiting period that takes place the last three weeks of July.

Pioneer Press contacted Chicago area college coaches at different levels — high-major Division I, mid-major Division I and NAIA — to learn how they decide what tournaments to attend, how they distribute their assistant coaches on the recruiting trail and what they look for when they’re recruiting.

McKeown desires more changes to recruiting rules

Northwestern women’s basketball coach Joe McKeown and his colleagues will crisscross the country in the last three weeks of the month attending AAU tournaments while looking for new players from the Class of 2015.

A new NCAA rule allows McKeown, a Glencoe resident, and his three assistant coaches — Carrie Banks, Allison Guth and Sam Dixon — to head out on the recruiting trail at the same time. Previously, there were restrictions on how many assistants could attend AAU tournaments at a given time. Guth, who led Buffalo Grove to its 2000 Class AA state basketball championship and played at Illinois, serves as McKeown’s recruiting coordinator.

“[The AAU tournaments we attend] are based on who we are recruiting and where,” McKeown said. “We have a list [of players] to follow, but will also look for new players we haven’t seen before.”

McKeown, given that he has a large recruiting budget, would like to expand the in-person recruiting period for AAU beyond the July evaluation period.

“I think it would help if women’s basketball coaches could attend state qualifiers or other AAU events in May or June,” McKeown said.

Ramblers building homegrown team

Naperville native and former Benet star Porter Moser is entering his fourth season as Loyola of Chicago men’s basketball coach and he had four Chicago area players on his roster during the 2013-14 season.

“We definitely want to attract local kids and keep them at home,” Moser said. “When I took this job, I said that I wanted a greater Chicago presence, since we had just one local kid on the roster at that point. We will have five on the roster this season, including Milton Doyle [from Marshall], who was the Missouri Valley Newcomer and Freshman of the year last year.”

Moser added incoming freshmen Donte Ingram (Simeon) during the early signing period in November and 6-foot-8 Marlon Jones (Orr) during the late signing period in the spring. They will join returnees Doyle, London Dokubo from Conant and Cal Kennedy from Brother Rice.

Three of Moser’s staff members also graduated from Chicago area schools and have connections around Chicagoland: assistants Emanuel Dildy (King graduate) and Matt Gordon (St. Rita) and director of basketball operations Bryan Mullins (Downers South).

Local tournaments benefit Trinity coaches

Trinity International in Deerfield recruits nationally just like Division I schools such as Northwestern and Loyola of Chicago, but as an NAIA school it is not held to NCAA restrictions during the AAU period. Unlike NCAA programs, NAIA teams also can send out graduate assistant coaches to recruit at tournaments.

Trinity International women’s basketball coach Laurel Wartluft has only one assistant coach on her staff, Daniel Metzelfeld, and the two of them will be attending AAU tournaments this month.

“The benefit of the July AAU process is that you get to see a lot of players in a very condensed, short time,” Wartluft said. “I’m able to see players from all over the country when they come to Chicago, or nearby. I would not be able to see players from Texas during their high school season, because of our budget. It gives you a limited perspective, but is something to eyeball in person.”

Chicago played host to the Nike National Invitational from July 9-12 at McCormick Place with 466 girls teams in age divisions ranging from 14U-18U.

Boomer Roberts was hired as Trinity International’s men’s basketball coach a few months ago and was still living in California earlier this month.

“There are positives and negatives to the club circuit, but one thing I really like is the ability to evaluate so many athletes in one gym,” Roberts said. “As a staff, we have the freedom to talk to parents, coaches and athletes at any time, which is crucial to help build relationships early in the recruiting process.”

Contacts in the AAU coaching ranks help Wartluft, who just completed her first season at Trinity International, have a focused approach on the recruiting trail.

“Most of the time AAU coaches or individual players will send us info that they’re interested in TIU, then we make a list of players we want to see at different venues across the country,” said Wartluft, who previously was the head women’s basketball coach at Kent State, Moody Bible Institute and Walsh University (Ohio). “It really has to do with the players, coaches and the network we’re already associated with. You have networks of AAU coaches that are already in your system from the past. We have regular communication with them to find players.”

To read more about this topic, read the other stories in this series:
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