Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Williams' new approach to recruiting

In a story in the Raleigh News & Observer Roy Williams talks about how the sudden influx of high school talent choosing to go straight to the NBA has caused him to rethink his recruiting strategy.
"Right now, if a youngster is in the top 10 [of his recruiting class], and if I have to look up at him at all, I'm probably going to make the decision not to recruit him unless I have a special in, or I've known him so long or recruited him so long...Guys I can look eyeball-to-eyeball with, those guys don't leave early."
Williams, who is shorter than 6 feet, is probably overstating it a bit, but you get the point.

Earlier in the year UNC had one of the best recruiting classes in the nation and have since lost JamesOn Curry on drug charges and J.R. Smith to the NBA draft. Now, with their class reduced by 50 percent, they'll be relying on forward Marvin Williams and guard Quentin Thomas to contribute to a team that will be stocked with veterans.

And that may be the problem (and the reason Williams had amended how he drafts high school kids) -- drafting players that inevitably choose to go straight into the NBA draft leaves college rosters bare sooner rather than later. For example, the Tarheels will have three seniors and six juniors returning to a team that finished 19-11 in Williams' first season. However, the 2005-2006 season could potentially be a rebuilding season because there's a good chance that Ray Felton, Rashad McCants, Sean May and even Marvin Williams will leave early.
UNC already has received one commitment from Chicago guard Bobby Frasor, who will be a freshman in the fall of 2005, and is waiting to hear from Missouri big man Tyler Hansbrough and Richard Hendrix of Alabama.
So it's clear that Williams understands the problem. And he goes into detail when explaining how he recruits players:
"I look for talent first, then character immediately afterward, and then I look at academics," Williams said, referring to how he rates recruits. "... Once you get past that, we are recruiting for need."
Williams also goes on to explain why recruiting can be so fickle.
"Two weeks before the high school all-star games ... J.R. Smith was not going to be on that screen for the NBA...Then those two weeks changed his whole plan, changed his whole life."
Of course that raises another issue -- namely, how can NBA scouts decide in a few all-star games, lacking any form of defense, that a high school player is draft-worthy? Nonetheless, this is what keeps Williams up at night, but it sounds like he already has a plan for dealing the ever-evolving high school player:
"A youngster, if I really believe there's a great chance he's going to go right to the NBA, then I'm going to try my best to make a decision and not waste my time there"
It sounds good on paper, I just hope it works out for the 2005-06 season.