July Exposure: Arkansas & BU Take to the Road

With July upon us, we'll take a close look at two programs at different levels and how they go about recruiting in July. Check back later in the month for an in-depth look at what happens on the road and July and just how overwhelming it can be.

Whether you've got a private plane at your disposal like Arkansas head coach Stan Heath or you take the more traditional route and criss-cross the country on the Delta's and Continental's of the world as Boston University boss Dennis Wolff will do virtually this entire month, one word can sum up this summer's recruiting period: Chaotic.

Three shoe camps. Three tournaments simultaneously in Las Vegas towards the end of the month. Tons of other sanctioned events mixed in.

How can you possibly cover it all?

``You can't," said Wolff, a New York native coming off a 23-4 record in his 10th season at the helm. "There's an air of uncertainty about July because no one's gone through it before."

``This summer will be overwhelming," added Heath, who is trying to re-establish Arkansas as the national power it was back in the 1990s when they went to a trio of Final Fours and won a national title in 1994. "It just might be too much. No one really knows what to do. It's put everyone in a frenzy."

Wolff is a former assistant coach at Virginia and Wake Forest, so he knows the difference between recruiting at a big-time ACC program and trying to lure kids to come to BU. Heath has also been on both sides – after taking the job at Arkansas two years ago following a Sweet 16 appearance in his lone season at Kent State.

Colleges are allowed to have three coaches out an a particular time during July and that made things much easier when there was just the Nike All-American Camp in Indianapolis and the adidas ABCD Camp in New Jersey. One assistant coach could spend a couple days at Nike and then swap with someone on the staff who was at ABCD. The head coach could make the rounds to both camps without much difficulty.

However, now strategy comes into play because it's difficult to adequately cover all three camps within a five-day span.

Wolff will spend some time down at the new adidas camp in Suwanee, Ga., before heading up to Eastern Invitational, a camp that showcases a ton of mid-major type players who didn't get the invite to one of the three shoe-affiliated camps.

Heath will do what's worked thus far in his two-year stint with the Razorbacks. He'll attend the Nike Camp on Wednesday morning and afternoon before hopping into his private plane, which will jettison him to New Jersey in time for the night session at ABCD. Then, remarkably, he'll be back at Nike the next morning.

``He's a warrior," Arkansas assistant Rob Flaska said. "He's unbelievable when it comes to recruiting. He spends a lot of time and that's why he's had so much success at it when he was at assistant at Michigan State."

Both staffs have been preparing for July for the past few months, trying to make sure exactly where their targets will be for the entire month. It's far easier for Arkansas, which will go into the month with about 20 players on their radar, than BU, which assistant coach Orlando Vandross estimates has an ever-changing list that features more than 100 names.

``There will definitely be more kids that slip through the cracks this summer," said Terriers fifth-year assistant Jason Williford, who was a three-year starter at Virginia. ``With three guys and all the tournaments out there, you just can't see everything."

``We do more homework now than we've ever done in my eight years here," added Vandross. "You have to know where every kid is at and you need to see the kids you spoke to on the phone."

Heath admits that it's harder for the mid- and low-majors going into the summer, but he said battling to land kids from the traditional basketball powerhouses isn't easy.

``It's not that you don't work as hard at the mid-major level," Heath said. "But the intensity level of the recruiting process at the high-major level is different. If you just start recruiting a kid in July, you're too late. You have to be in their top three or four before July starts to have a chance."

``When you're at a small school, evaluation is so important," added Flaska, who has worked at Texas-Pan American, Detroit and Indiana State in the past. "At the big-time level, it's not really hard to evaluate who the best kids are. At our level, you've gotta always be there. That's the most important thing."

Another major difference between the two schools is that Heath & Co. can make last-minute travel changes without major financial concern while BU has to map out the majority of their month beforehand in an effort to conserve money.

Heath and his staff – which includes Flaska, former Georgetown assistant Ronny Thompson and Oronde Taliaferro, who played for Heath at Wayne State University, is looking for a trio of players this summer that will compliment his first two classes in Fayetteville – which included in-state stars Ronnie Brewer and Marcus Monk, Canadian high-flyer Olu Famutimi and small-town Missouri big man Steven Hill.

Boston University – whose staff also includes former player Mike Costello - is hoping to land another class of the caliber it did a year ago when the Terriers managed to sign local standouts Ben Coblyn, Tony Gaffney, Matt Wolff along with Bryan Geffen, Ibrahim Konate and Notre Dame transfer Omari Peterkin. While many SEC coaches with hefty budgets prefer to stay at the top of the line hotels, Heath again prefers to go by the motto of "if it ain't broke, why fix it" and puts his head down on the same Marriott hotel pillows he did while working his way up through the coaching ranks.

The hardest part for both coaching staffs may not be necessarily trying to secure a top target like Farnold Degand or Colin McIntosh, as in BU's case, but spending nearly an entire month away from their family. Wolff has three children, including his daughter Nicole, who will be returning home from UConn at about the same time he takes to the road.

Williford's wife's birthday falls on July 10, so this will be the fourth straight year he'll be sending flowers from the road. "We try to do something before I leave," he said.

Heath is married with two sons, 9 and 12, and he estimates that the only time he'll really get a chance to see them are during the four "dead" days in the middle of the month.

``It's hard, but they want me and the program to be successful," Heath said. "It's difficult."

It certainly is.


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