A Guide to Recruiting

Maybe this picture will recruit you to read this article. - Jamie Squire/Getty Images

With FSU doing so well in recruiting under Leonard Hamilton's staff, perhaps now is a good time to discuss recruiting more broadly. A more general recruiting discussion could serve as a platform not only to investigate reasons why Florida State's recruiting has improved so drastically but it can also help us predict whether the trend will continue. Recently, our own Michael Rogner wrote a very insightful piece focusing on FSU's recruiting. This article details more of my thoughts on recruiting in general and from a Seminole perspective. This piece was motivated by FSU's recent basketball recruiting success but most of the principles apply to all sports.

Before we begin a few caveats are in order. First, recruiting is a very idiosyncratic business. Recruits are different, therefore different factors will motivate them to pick different schools. This article is meant to serve as a general guide to different factors that often matter to recruits. Not all of these factors will matter to all recruits and there are some factors not listed that will matter to some recruits a great deal. This guide is not meant to be exhaustive. Secondly, degrees matter. In other words, if one school has a huge advantage in a category that particularly matters to a certain recruit then he may pick that school even if a rival school has the edge in more of the other categories. Third, I'm assuming that recruiters are abiding by NCAA rules (I'm naïve) therefore no discussion of bag men. Finally, luck matters. Sometimes the stars simply align for a particular school.

Recruiting Categories

I have broken down the recruiting factors into three general categories; Personal, Sport, and University. These are very general categories and some of the examples could probably fit in more than one category. Let's discuss each category in more detail.


This category deals with factors that are personal to each recruit. Examples include legacy, geography, and personal relationships.

If a recruit is a legacy it means that he had a relative that went to the school or currently goes to the school. If the recruit was a huge fan of the school as a kid I include that in this category as well. As we saw in the case of Andrew Wiggins, having a legacy relationship with a recruit is by no means the whole battle, however as we saw with Xavier Rathan-Mayes it does usually help.

Geography is simply concerned with how close the school is to the recruit's home. This can be a positive or a negative depending on whether the recruit wants to stay close to home or get away. However, it is usually seen as a positive for a school to be located closer to a recruit's home.

Personal relationships are the relationships that a recruit forms or has formed with the coaching staff, the players currently on the roster and the players that have already committed to the school in the current class. Obviously, the stronger these relationships are at a certain school, the more likely that school is to land the recruit.


This category deals with factors that are specific to what the school offers to the recruit in the specific sport. In other words, what will the team look like on the field or the court if the recruit chooses to go there? Examples include style of play, level of coaching, and level of talent on the team.

Style of play is concerned principally with the system that the coach prefers. For instance, if you don't want to play zone it's probably not a good idea to go to Syracuse. If a recruit feels that the coach's system doesn't match her strengths then that coach will be at a real disadvantage if she tries to recruit that player.

Level of coaching basically involves the recruit's evaluation of the competence of the coaching at the schools that are recruiting him. This evaluation (especially in football) extends to the entire staff. Style of coaching is important as well. Basically recruits are interested in determining whether they would be a good fit at a particular school under a particular coach and most importantly whether that coach can develop their skills so as to maximize their chances of getting to and succeeding at the next level.

Level of talent refers to the amount of talent that will likely be on the team when the recruit joins it. There is a bit of a Goldilocks phenomenon at play here. A program can have too little talent, too much talent or just the right amount of talent. Basically a recruit wants there to be enough talent around him that he feels confident that the team can compete and win but not too much talent that his playing time could be affected. This is why Kentucky's John Calipari made such a big deal of publicizing his decision to scrap the platoon system the Wildcats employed last year. He kept hearing concerns from recruits and their families that such a system would negatively impact their playing time. This is also the reason that recruits pay so much attention to depth charts in football recruiting. Gone are the days where Bobby Bowden could sign 4 5* linebackers in the same class. With the advent of the internet recruits are much more informed than 20 years ago.


This category deals with factors that are specific to what the university or program itself can offer a recruit. Examples include prestige, academics, conference affiliation, and facilities.

Prestige concerns the status that a recruit gets from being recruited by a big time program. Remember, we are dealing with teenagers here. It's much easier to get a kid's attention if you are a football coach from FSU or Alabama or a basketball coach from Duke or Kentucky.

Academics are actually important to many recruits. Most recruits do expect to graduate from the university and are at least somewhat concerned about the value of their degree. Also some recruits want to major in a particular subject and if a certain school doesn't offer their major that can be a problem for them.

Conference affiliation can be important. Our own Bud Elliott has repeatedly stressed how hard FSU coaches must battle against the anti-ACC prejudice they face when recruiting some players from states like Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia. On the flipside, FSU basketball coaches can sell the chance to play in the ACC against blueblood programs like Duke, UNC, Syracuse and Louisville in marquee games.

Another type of affiliation can be important and that is the relationship between the school and the shoe companies. FSU is a Nike school. Who cares? It matters in basketball because AAU teams are sponsored by shoe companies and AAU coaches are paid by shoe companies. This can cause some of these coaches to steer star players to schools that share affiliation with the AAU teams that they coach.

Facilities are critical. Players can't (legally) be paid so one of the ways schools can provide them perks is by having top notch facilities. One way to get a kid's attention is by having things like posh locker rooms and expansive weight rooms and practice facilities. The best way to look like a second rate program is to have rundown or antiquated facilities. Remember, recruits take multiple visits and they will compare facilities. It's like when you are trying to sell a house. The presentation matters.

Florida State Perspective

If FSU's recent recruiting success is examined in light of the preceding factors it becomes easier to ascertain why the Seminoles are experiencing improved results on the recruiting trail.

Recruiting is very much a team sport. Both Leonard Hamilton and Jimbo Fisher are having great success with recent classes and both coaches will tell you that it wouldn't be possible without hard work from their assistants and robust support from the administration. There are many factors why FSU basketball recruiting has improved so much lately but the increased buy in from the administration is probably the biggest single reason for the dramatic upswing. The administration can provide better facilities but it can also provide more money in the recruiting budget which makes it easier for coaches to travel to kids' games and "show the love". The administration can also increase the coaching budget which makes it easier to hire better assistants and maybe more importantly retain them.

This increased support from the administration has allowed Hamilton to more effectively deal with Florida State's weaknesses in recruiting and accentuate the Noles' strengths. For instance, subpar facilities (compared to the rest of the ACC) have long been a millstone around the neck of FSU basketball coaches when it comes to recruiting. Now that this problem is in the process of being corrected the positives of FSU's pitch to recruits look a lot better. Now that they know that they will be better taken care of from a facilities standpoint a guy like Dwayne Bacon can better notice Hamilton's ability to coach defense and how that coaching acumen will help him get to the NBA. Similarly, it's easier for a guy like Jon Isaac to notice how "loyal" FSU coaches have been to him throughout the recruiting process.

Going forward the Seminoles really have a chance to reel in a killer class in 2016. Before we discuss that possibility it's important to note that if all of the commitments stick (and they probably will), the 2016 class compares almost exactly with the top 10 class the Noles landed in 2015 (keep in mind that the 2016 rankings are subject to change):

2015: Dwayne Bacon (#14 ESPN) 2016: Jonathan Isaac (#12 ESPN)

2015: Malik Beasley (#28 ESPN) 2016: Trent Forrest (#38 ESPN)

2015: Terance Mann (#86 ESPN) 2016: C.J. Walker (#82 ESPN)

The kicker is that they landed that 2016 class by the first week in July. Last year FSU didn't get their first commitment until August 20 (Mann). Bacon and Beasley committed on September 5. Getting those extra weeks could be a massive help in recruiting other top ranked players. The effort is already beginning. How can the extra time help? Look at the six players mentioned above. What do they all have in common? They are all Noles and they are all awesome (sorry, I couldn't resist). The answer that I was looking for is that they are all 4 and 5 star perimeter players. I know that Isaac is 6'10 but he plays on the perimeter. Who does Coach Ham have left on his 5* wish list? 6'10 C Udoka Azubuike and 6'10 PF Dewan Huell. Do you think that either of those guys would be interested in playing with the talented backcourt that will be in Tallahassee? Remember the level of talent factor; a player ideally wants to join a team that has a lot of talent but isn't stacked at his position. Azubuike and Huell can look at the Noles and see a perfect fit from a talent standpoint and because FSU has these commitments so early, guys like Forrest (Azubuike's AAU teammate) and Isaac (Huell's partner on his official visit) have more time to convince Azubuike and Huell to join them in Tally.

To be sure, none of this means that FSU is destined to end up with Huell or Azubuike or any of the other top guys they are pursuing. FSU is competing with bluebloods like Kentucky, Duke, Kansas and Louisville for these guys. It just means that as of July 10, FSU is well positioned to have a class that could very easily end up in the top 5 of the national rankings. When have we been able to say that in basketball?

I didn't talk about the effect of Billy Donovan leaving Florida because I don't believe that his departure has had a great effect on FSU's recruiting efforts to this point (although it will probably have a significant effect on their future recruiting success). We can discuss this more fully in the comments.

This piece is mainly meant to be a conversation starter. Let me know in the comments what I left out or got wrong.

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