- UCLA Bruins - December 3, 2015 - 9:00 PM EST - Pauley Pavilion, Los Angeles - ESPN
Around this time every year, I like to look back at what I call the myths of recruiting.
As we all know, we are about to enter a busy recruiting season for young student-athletes across the country. It’s an understandably difficult time for them to filter through everything that is being thrown at them. They’re young and impressionable, and for some of them, this is the first time they’ve received this kind of attention. It’s hard to wade through everything that’s being said when it’s nothing but sunshine and rainbows. There are statements thrown out there and fabrications manufactured to sway these kids into believing what is ultimately best for that program and that coach, not what’s necessarily best for them.
Today, instead of revisiting those same myths – which you can still read here – I want to expand on those, discuss our changes in recruiting and talk about what I believe a player should really be looking at when he’s making his college decision.
I talk all the time about our core values, which is all based on players-first. Our offense may change year to year and our defense may change year to year, but the staples of playing harder than the other team, of playing more for your teammates than yourself, of playing to your strengths and being the team that’s having the most fun, that never changes. We want to be a great defensive team that blocks a lot of shots, and we want to be a team that plays really fast and efficiently, but how we do that is what changes from season to season based on the strengths of our personnel.
Recruiting is similar. Our core philosophy of helping players reach their dreams never changes, but how we piece that together changes because of who we’re recruiting and what their needs are. If anybody is looking at us and saying, “Here’s their blueprint, this is what they’re doing,” they’re chasing windmills. Truth be told, it’s not an exact science. Every year is different because every team is different, every player is different and our needs from season to season are different.
There are some years where the kids recruit each other because they know each other and they’re talking to each other. There are other years that the kids are from all over the country and don’t necessarily know each other. If players want to play together, that’s OK, but it must benefit ALL the players. If not, it’s a huge mistake for one or more of those guys.
Ultimately, what I think a kid should be thinking about is what’s in the best interest of his individual career.
When a student-athlete is making a decision where he wants to play college basketball, he should decide who can prepare him the best and who can put him in the best position to reach his dreams. Those should be the overriding factors. The player has to understand to truly reach his potential, he must: 1.) Be on a team that wins and has a chance to win a national championship, 2.) Work beyond his comfort level, and 3.) Be willing to make sacrifices for his team.
Those have to be the overriding factors because if it’s solely about who he’s going to play with or what region of the country he wants to be in, that kid may find himself in a position where his individual career is in jeopardy because of secondary desires. Everything else is just an add-on.
Otherwise, what if the person you want to play with gets hurt? Or what if three players leave after one year before you even get to campus and leave you there by yourself? How about this: If the Miami Heat drafts you, you aren’t going to go because you want to stay in the Northeast?
It comes back to, is this the place that can prepare me the best to reach my dreams and have they done it with players like me? Has there been an environment that has brought players together where all the players have benefited? Who can help me grow as a person and as a player? Who can put me in the best position? Where can we win and play at the highest level? Who has coached players like me? Have they helped build a foundation for their future success?
If a program tells you that you’re so good that it doesn’t matter where you go to school, that’s the first school I’m marking off my list. History tells us that it’s just not true. It does matter where you go. I’m not saying that Kentucky is the only place that can make your dreams come true, because this isn’t for everybody, but for anybody to say that it doesn’t matter where you go – without trying to embarrass any players – we know that’s not true.
The overriding factors should be who best can prepare me to reach my dreams and help me grow as a person and as a student. To me, those are the questions that must be answered during the recruiting process. Everything else is secondary.
Best of luck to Kyle Wiltjer