We chatted a little bit with Kansas assistant coach Norm Roberts on recruiting. This is Roberts first year back at Kansas.
Before taking the head coaching job at St. John's in 2004, Roberts was an assistant under Bill Self at Oral Roberts, Tulsa, Illinois, and Kansas during Self's first year in Lawrence. He is widely considered one of the top recruiters in college basketball.
At Kansas, how do the coaches decide which assistant goes after a recruit? Is it based somewhat on geography?
What we do is it's based off of comfort level. There might be a kid in Chicago that I could go and recruit but if Kurtis [Townsend] has a lot of contacts in Chicago, and if the contacts favor him, then he should take it over. If it it's in New York and they favor me then maybe I should take it. If it's in New Jersey or Maryland then maybe Joe Dooley should take it.
I would say Kurtis does a lot out west because he was at USC and different places so he has a lot of contacts with west kids. I have contacts in the East Coast and Midwest because of where I have been so I can recruit pretty much anywhere. Joe and me probably have similar contacts. Joe would probably know Minnesota a little better than me because of recruiting guys like Cole Aldrich. A lot of times we will trade off.
Since this is your first year back at Kansas how many guys are you recruiting right now and will that number increase for the 2014 recruiting class?
I would say that for 2013 I am involved with four or five guys. For 2014 I am probably involved with about 20 guys that we like a lot. A lot of it depends on how many scholarships we have. Joe and Kurtis are also involved with about 15-20 guys. What we will do is we will break that down more as it goes on.
How much time on an average day during the season do you spend on recruiting?
You're recruiting everyday but how much time you spend on it a day depends on scouting and if you are assigned to scout one of the games coming up. If you have four or five days before a game comes up you are breaking down game film, writing down sets and personnel. You don't have a ton of time to be doing recruiting. You can still be doing phone calls or contact with your main guys to keep that going.
Now if you're off from scouting, like right now I am off for about a week and a half so I got some time right now so I could be out on the road or I could be in house doing a lot of stuff on the phone and texting. Stuff like talking with a bunch of coaches asking how certain kids are playing. So it's probably three to four hours a day. You can probably get a lot more of your work done recruiting after 5:00 or 6:00 because people are home and out of school. We don't text kids while they are in school and you don't want to text coaches while they are in school because they are working. A lot of your work is done later on in the evening.
You have worked under Bill Self as an assistant coach before. Now that you are back on his staff is there anything in the process he does differently than the last time you worked under him in 2004?
I think it's pretty similar to the way it was. He does some things a little different than what he did and that's because of technology. One of the things we used to do differently from a scouting standpoint is when we would go on the road we would go in one room and watch a ton of tape. We don't do that as much because we got Ipads and all that stuff so we have a lot more opportunities to watch film of guys we are recruiting.
Some recruiting rules have changed that coaches can have a lot more access with freshmen and sophomores now. How is that going to change the future of recruiting?
I think it has changed for the good for the most part, but that's a heck of a lot more work for us. A lot of guys who are excited now - I don't know if they are going to feel that way later on. For example, let's say you are recruiting a senior class hard and you plan on signing a big class like five or six guys. So you start off with 20 or 25 guys you are targeting. You are not only talking to the kids, but also to mom and dad and they might not be in the same household. Also you are talking to the AAU coach, the high school coach and whoever else. So for one guy that might be eight more contacts. When you talk about 25 guys that's a lot of phone calls and texts. Now factor in freshmen and sophomores. Your list goes from 25 guys to 45 guys. That's a lot of guys plus the six or seven contacts for each one. That's a heck of a lot of work for assistants to stay in contact.
Which schools are going to have an advantage with this new rule?
If a school has a small recruiting class and they are only going after two kids, now there is an advantage because they don't have to waste their time on a lot of guys and they can recruit those young guys which is good. What ends up happening is those young guys who are sophomores and freshmen they are going to want to be recruited like seniors. Already, juniors want to be recruited like they are seniors even though they are two years away from coming to your program. They are feeling like you should be on the phone with them every night like you are on the phone with the seniors.
Now you are going to have sophomore and freshmen feeling that way. You can't talk to everybody. I don't know if assistant coaches realize how much more work is going to happen. Now you have to be more organized and get people situated on what you are doing. In the future you might have one assistant who recruits the freshmen and sophomore class and two other assistants who are going to recruit the junior and senior class. It makes it a lot tougher.
Could grad assistants play more of a role in the recruiting process?
It also depends on if the NCAA allows that to happen. Are they going to give the basketball operations guy more access to recruit? If that happens that will help a ton. When you are a head coach you don't have time. You are worried about coaching your guys here and getting to the next game. You don't have enough time to be calling guys all the time. I think it's going to bring a whole lot more work for assistants. You are going to have to be a lot more disciplined and organized because if you are unorganized you got no chance. You are going to have sophomores come out with a list and cut people off. They are three years away from going to college! So many things can happen in that time period. Now college coaches have to be careful because it's hard to offer a freshman because you don't know what is going to happen in three years in their development much less the next twelve months. People are going to wonder if you are going to offer, and if you say no then they are going to say you are out and go with the other ten schools because they are offering. It's a lot more work and you better be organized.
Is Facebook still big in recruiting?
Facebook is old news now. I was doing it early on but kids aren't on it now as much. They told me that you could do it if you want but they may not get back to you in four or five days. It doesn't make as much sense to do it as much anymore. Twitter is big. Instagram is big. Now with Twitter, once you open yourself up to kids you are also opening yourself up to other people. How much do you want to deal with all that especially if you are a head coach.
Also with phone calls, kids hate talking on the phone. They would much rather you text them. With a phone call there comes a point when a kid doesn't want to talk anymore but he don't want to end the call because he feel like it's rude. With a text you can just end a conversation a lot easier. Kids would much rather you hit them with a text than anything else.
How does getting all this extra attention affect a kid who is just 14 or 15 years old?
You have to look at personalities. A lot of times for young kids it's bad for them. They get so much early notoriety and early hype that it goes to their head and they are treated in a different way. They get a little bit of a prima donna attitude. When that happens do they improve? Instead of someone pushing them to do be better and to be humble and hungry, now the kid thinks he made it and you see some kids start to slip. That guy behind them and wasn't getting the shine and excitement, you see them get bigger, stronger, faster, quicker and hungrier. All of a sudden you are saying that original guy isn't the man, the guy behind him is. That happens a lot. Sometimes it's not their fault. They get people around them that think they are their meal ticket and it doesn't happen.
Any examples of someone at KU who maybe wasn't originally a highly touted recruit who exceeded expectations?
We have a ton of them. I think Ben McLemore is a main one. McLemore played on the same team as Bradley Beal and some of those good players. Bradley Beal is a great player and I coached him at Florida so I love him, but people probably didn't think that Ben would be where he is now at this stage. He's got a long way to go but guaranteed Ben was one of those kids in the gym that didn't have all the access that some of these other kids had. He didn't have as much notoriety but he was that slender colt that was running and people noticed he was getting better. He stayed hungry and humble and good things are starting to happen.