Season's Over So What's Next?

College basketball's "second season" is about to get underway. Once a team is eliminated from the post-season, it's time to get back on the horse and hit the recruiting trail! See what the next two months are like for college coaches.

Don't think that for a second once the season ends with a loss in conference or post-season tournament that the college basketball coach at your alma mater heads to the islands. In fact, that couldn't be further from the truth.

In many cases, what takes place is a sort of wrap-up to a long year. A head coach may hold a series of "exit" interviews with his seniors and current roster players. He may sit down and take inventory of where his program is and where he'd like it go. In short, he's already busy laying the groundwork for next season. In between meetings, he could squeeze a round of golf or more family time but there is work to be done and we haven't even talked about recruiting.

"When you get back some people may take a day or two or longer and just completely get away from things," N.C. State assistant coach Mark Phelps said. "Most don't take that luxury and immediately get into a few different things. They'll get with their seniors and be a resource to them – how can I help you deal with a plan for the future?

"You get with the returning players and have some season-ending meetings, let them know what the future holds and what's in store in the spring. You'll tell them your vision of them for the spring, summer and fall and for next year as a player.

"Then, since you're no longer in the tournament you'll take full advantage of the next few days recruiting wise. Obviously you're going to start reflecting on your season and you'll start the evaluation process."

Ah, recruiting. The animal that drives you mad but puts food on your plate if you're a head coach. From the time your season ends until the one week dead period known as the Final Four, you're getting after it. Maybe the player you're recruiting is still alive in his state playoffs or maybe you've got a cross country trip to see a late bloomer. Either way, there is work to be as the spring signing period approaches.

Speaking of the spring period, April is just around the corner and that means the beginning of the AAU season. What exactly does that mean for a Division I head coach? Well, it means travel, evaluation and identification of new prospects. How does it work? Let us explain.

The weekend of April 13 signifies the start of traveling team events around the nation as events that have been certified by the NCAA swing into high gear.

"The spring is vital because it gives you a jump start to the summer," Kansas assistant Joe Dooley said. "It's a chance to get ahead for the summer. A lot of the head coaches have not seen some of the guys and it's important for head coaches to see guys and be seen. I think right about now a lot of kids start thinking about the nitty gritty of recruiting."

A Saturday and Sunday event amounts to tons of work for assistant coaches as they're out identifying and evaluating prospects. In most cases, the staff will already have earmarked a few "key recruits" for the head coach to spend time watching while the assistant look under every rock for new players.

If an assistant winds up liking a player on Saturday of an event, there's a good chance the assistants will dispatch the head coach to see the player sometime during the weekend. Then, if the head coach signs off on him, they'll try to see that player at his high school.

Now, evaluations at high schools can be tricky since the NCAA says you cannot have face-to-face contact with underclassmen during the spring unless it's at an AAU event. Translation: if you want to watch a junior prospect workout, a senior needs to be present in the gym. Semantics but it's an NCAA rule.

"You're once again taking full advantage of the opportunity to recruit in April," Phelps said. "You're out everyday – some combination of the four coaches. The head coach is hitting all the priority guys."

In short, April is a vital recruiting month for college basketball staffs. There is no significant down time. Once "One Shining Moment" fades to black, recruiting takes over. Since college coaches can't be on the road during May, the 5th month of the year is you're best bet to get away. If you're the traveling sort, island paradises await you and your family.

By the way, cell phone reception is excellent in the Caribbean and you never know when a recruit is going to dial you up!


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