Coaches must plan for the best
Posted: July 27, 2007
How does a program recruit the next Ty Lawson or Chris Douglas-Roberts when the old one still is around?
Yeah, put that question on the Coaching Principles and Strategies of Basketball exam at Georgia and see if any of the academic snobs laugh then.
The new conundrum for any program that lands an elite player is that no one knows how long he will be on campus -- not the player, not the gentleman coaching him and certainly not the prospects wondering whether there will be room in the rotation if they decide to join up.
"It's a hard problem, and it's one I think Roy Williams is not intelligent enough to solve." Who said that? Roy Williams? He was joking. Sort of.
This probably is a better deal than before the NBA installed an age minimum. Back then, you never knew whether a player would even enroll. But this is trickier.
UCLA was able to replenish its backcourt with Southern Californians Jrue Holiday, Jerime Anderson and Malcolm Lee because of the vacancy Arron Afflalo created by departing in April and the near certainty that point guard Darren Collison will go pro after his junior year.
But until Mechanicsville, Va., power forward Ed Davis committed last week, North Carolina was having the darnedest time adding frontcourt players. There's no telling whether Tyler Hansbrough and Deon Thompson will have had enough college basketball after this season, and their presence helped scare off two elite recruits who no doubt would prefer Thaddeus Young's college course (starting as a freshman and entering the draft) to Daequan Cook's (subbing on a loaded team but off to the NBA, anyway).
"The other schools can say, 'This guy's not leaving.Why should you go there?' "Williams says. "But you're trying to protect yourself and say, 'Well, he could leave.' There are variables you don't have an answer for."
Coaches recognize it's essential they manage this process by considering which players might blossom prematurely into lottery prospects and what repercussions those developments will have.
The day after Memphis lost to Ohio State in the NCAA South Region final, coach John Calipari had a team barbecue at his house. He met in his study with Douglas-Roberts, guard Antonio Anderson and forward Robert Dozier and told all three, "I want this coming year to be your last year." Calipari believes the only way this will occur is if Memphis excels as a team.
He contends programs that consistently develop pro prospects will attract other pro prospects, even if there are occasional traffic jams. He points out three Tigers starters left for the NBA in 2006 - firstround picks Rodney Carney and Shawne Williams and undrafted Darius Washington -- and the team still reached the same stage in the NCAAs in 2007.
But Calipari has faced an instance or two in which a recruit questioned him about the Tigers' wealth of talent at a particular position and whether there would be room for everyone in the rotation.
"I said, 'I must be in the wrong home. I thought you could play,' " Calipari says. "A good player will never worry about who else is in the program."