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Sunday, September 19, 2021

Gunrock wants you for the UC Davis Basketball Team

Head Coach Jim Les' commanding presence has been an attractive factor for the UC Davis men's basketball team. (BRIAN LANDRY / AGGIE)
Head Coach Jim Les’ commanding presence has been an attractive factor for the UC Davis men’s basketball team. (BRIAN LANDRY / AGGIE)

According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association, there are approximately 541,054 players in high school men’s basketball. Only 3.41 percent of these players continue on to play at the collegiate level. UC Davis is home to 15 such individuals, six of whom joined the team this year as freshmen.

College basketball has three time periods for official open recruitment. The first is from Sept. 9 to Nov. 8 and is followed by a few days of break before the second period takes place from Nov. 13 to March 20, excluding several days from the Christmas holiday. The final period goes from April 7 through April 20, with six days subtracted out for Easter.

These times pose an interesting challenge for college basketball. The official season starts on Nov. 13, the same day that the second open recruiting period begins. High school basketball is on a similar schedule and plays during the winter months. Therefore, many students make use of the early signing period in November to commit to their universities.

“Unofficially, you’re recruiting all the time,” said men’s basketball head coach Jim Les in a phone interview. “It’s the lifeblood of our program.”

Yet, because one of the major recruiting times is during active play, many programs follow UC Davis and have adjusted their schedules accordingly. Furthermore, basketball has changed the manner in which college programs gather information on potential recruits.

One of the major trends has been a shift away from recruitment camps held by the respective universities, with staff traveling to and getting

BRIAN LANDRY / AGGIE
BRIAN LANDRY / AGGIE

information from Amateur Athletic Union tournaments instead.

“We can go watch, sometimes there are three to four hundred teams in a tournament, so we can go in one venue and over the course of a weekend see numerous potential recruits, and see them multiple times,” Les said. “A lot of the times [we can just] get the recruiting process started.”

These tournaments have given college programs better access to players throughout the athlete’s high school careers. This in turn has changed the recruiting window for prospective student-athletes. Now coaches are able to look at players as early as their sophomore year.

But what exactly are coaches looking for in these tournaments? Are they trying to find the best players possible? Are they looking for someone they can mold into a role they need filled, or are they recruiting a type of player that would fit well with the school and team they represent?

It’s all of the above.

“Each recruiting class is a little bit different, based on the size and based on your needs for the year,” Les said. “There may be specific needs or a specific position that we are targeting in a given recruiting year, and obviously that’s ever changing.”

That being said, UC Davis is a major institution and has to compete at certain levels. The staff on the men’s basketball team has to make sure that they are not wasting their time and money.

“We want to make sure that the basketball players we’re going to watch have a Division I skill,” Les said.

Equally important for these potential recruits are robust academic profiles and genuinely good character. The culture that surrounds the UC Davis men’s basketball program is one that couples outstanding achievement on the court with achievement in the classroom. It’s a program that focuses on molding these individuals into the best they can be.

“Everybody progresses at their own rate, once they get into a program,” Les said. “What I’m very pleased about is some of the things that we evaluated […] that put these young players on the fore-front of being recruitable to UC Davis. Those traits have held true.”

The timetables may all be a little bit different, but the main thing is that both parties understand exactly what is necessary and make sure that the fit would be good for everyone involved.

The entire recruiting process boils down to how the program and the recruits build their relationships. Throughout the process, members of a university’s staff will get in contact with players, sometimes visiting the them or having the players visit the school. Each party will do their research on the other and develop a working rapport.

“We all get a really good feel for that person, and also that person gets a really good feel for our staff,” Les said. “They are going to interact with our staff for the next four or five years on a daily basis. So it is important that they know not just one person or just the head coach, but that they know everybody.”

 

Written by Aaron Sellers – sports@theaggie.org

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