Recruiting for collegiate sports is a strategic process that can set the tone for a program’s season and even its future.
Some universities thrive on their program’s past success or their coach’s reputation to bring in prospective athletes.
This technique can be difficult to implement at Division II schools that aren’t as widely known as Division I schools.
At Slippery Rock University, for example, the men’s and women’s basketball programs have been looking for recruitment techniques that will produce a successful season and build the teams’ futures.
The Green and White are led by head coaches Kevin Reynolds and Tanya Longo.
Despite having similar recruitment techniques, the men’s and women’s teams have had mixed results under the supervision of Reynolds and Longo.
The men’s team has had a winning record in all five of Reynolds’ seasons as head coach, while the women’s team has had a losing record in all three of Longo’s seasons as head coach.
Before Longo took over, however, the women’s team still had not had a winning record since the 2001-2002 season.
After finishing their 2012-2013 season 23-9, with a 16-6 record in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, the men’s team was picked to finish third in the PSAC-West.
The women’s team ended last season with a record of 4-22, with a 3-19 PSAC record Preseason polls predicted them the finish ninth in the PSAC-West.
“I am disappointed by the preseason ranking,” Longo said. “However, I am more concerned with what the end of season ranking will be.”
Since becoming head coach in 2010, Longo said her four recruiting classes have consisted of more transfer students than freshman overall.
This season, her roster consists of three transfer students and 11 non-transfer students. There are also four freshmen on the team.
“There are benefits to going with veteran players and transfers, but there are also drawbacks,” Longo said. “Freshmen lack college-level experience, but a program reaps the benefits of having third and fourth year players in the long run because they can understand and execute offensive and defensive schemes.”
Longo said she gets her recruitment classes from all over the country.
“I have many connections coast-to-coast at the high school, junior college, Division I, and Division II levels,” Longo said. “From those contacts, we get a plethora of young ladies to evaluate and consider for our program.”
She went on to say that each year her recruitment class changes.
“Each recruiting class looks different based on our needs, the athletes available, and our scholarship resources available,” Longo said.
Freshman guard and recruit Kara Houppert said that she started to get recruited by SRU after her junior year in high school after the coaches saw her play in summer basketball tournaments.
“It started with a letter and a questionnaire for me to fill out to show interest,” Houppert said. “After that, I started to get emails and more letters, and then phone calls.”
Since taking over the men’s program in 2008, Reynolds has leaned towards the recruitment of transfer students more than the recruitment of freshmen.
Reynolds agreed with Longo and feels the rankings aren’t a major concern.
“We are more worried about the final standings in the PSAC-West Division and the NCAA Atlantic Regional rankings,” Reynolds said. “We don’t put much stock in preseason predictions.”
“We know we recruit unconventionally, but it is a necessity here,” Reynolds said. “We are proud that almost all of our student-athletes, that have finished their eligibility with us, have graduated.”
Over half of each of Reynolds’ rosters has been filled with transfer students.
The team has 11 transfer students and five non-transfer students on the roster this season.
Reynolds said that he, like Longo, has people from different schools in Division I, II and high schools who give him recommendations regarding who to target for his next recruiting class.
“We really appreciate the help we get from our friends and coaches in D1, D2, the NCAA and high schools,” Reynolds said.
Last season, the men’s team fell in the PSAC Championship game to Indiana University of Pa. and ended their season with another loss to IUP in the second round of the NCAA Division II tournament.
Slippery Rock was picked to finish below both IUP and Gannon University in the preseason polls.
“Our daily expectation is to get better every day,” Reynolds said. “We do not put much stock in preseason predictions.”
Despite coming off of a losing season, Longo has faith in her team and is pleased with the work they put in.
“I expect that my team will continue to work each and every day so that we improve and compete to win games in the PSAC-West,” Longo said.
Both Longo and Reynolds are focused on their team’s records and rankings at the end of the season.They both said that their starting lineups aren’t set in stone and are subject to change.
“We do not put a lot of emphasis on our starting lineup; we are going to play nine-to-ten players per game,” Reynolds said. “We have many talented players, and we will use them in the best manner to make SRU basketball successful.”
Longo, like Reynolds, said that her lineups will be based off of several factors.
“We’ll put the team on the court that will be the best match for the opponents and who will give us the best opportunity to win,” Longo said.
Longo’s current roster isn’t loaded with a lot of height, as 6’1’’ junior forward Danielle Garroutte is the tallest member of the team.
Longo said that she is less concerned with the team’s height and more concerned with their work ethic and talent level.
“Having size on a roster is nice, but I’m more concerned with our skill level and ability to compete in our league,” Longo said.
Longo expects members of the front court to step up in big ways this season.
“Jazmyne Frost has the potential to be a very impactful center for us this season,” Longo said. “I expect contributions from Danielle Garroutte and Kaylee Bush off the bench at that position as well.”
Reynolds also said that he expects a lot of success from his frontcourt this season.
The men’s team will rely on the height and efforts of junior forward Erik Raleigh, senior forward Tabari Perry, and senior center Maurice Lewis-Briggs. Raleigh, Perry and Lewis-Briggs top the Rock’s roster in height with all three players being 6’8”.
“We feel we have depth upfront, and we are counting on Maurice, Tabari, Kelvin, Jordan, and Erik to be good players,” Reynolds said. “They are all going to be impactful in some fashion throughout the season.”
Reynolds and his team will look to make another run at the PSAC Championship title while Longo and her team will fight for their first winning season in 10 years.