Basketball Recruiting Heats Up Next Week

While football recruiting always grabs the headlines, especially during this time of year, and especially at a school like Clemson, it is an important time for the basketball program as well.

Starting Wednesday, basketball coaches are allowed to start hitting the recruiting trail, where they can make contact with a recruit's coach. The recruiting period then ends July 15, before picking up again July 22 and lasting through July 31.

In other words, these upcoming 18 days can determine how well a school does on signing day.

"At this level, you're not going to get a very quality kid unless you develop a relationship with him, his high school coach or his AAU coach," said Clemson basketball assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Kevin Nickelberry.

"The first thing you want to do is find the highest ranked guys you can find and then you can weed them out based on the ones you think you have a chance to get because of the natural recruiting areas and natural contacts.

"Then you have to look grades. And once you?ve done all that, you've weeded that list."

During this particular time, coaches aren't allowed to make contact with the players, which is why high school and AAU coaches are visited.

Also, unlike football, basketball recruiting starts a earlier.

When Nickelberry hits the road during those 18 days, he's not going after rising seniors, he's actually trying to secure and establish contacts with those involved with juniors, sophomores and freshmen.

"In this day and age, you've got to start recruiting a kid as soon as he becomes eligible," said Nickelberry, who has been routinely regarded and named as one of the top 20 recruiters in the nation.

"You've got to start when he's in the ninth grade. You've got to let his high school coach know that you're interested and make his AAU coach aware that you're interested. By the time they're juniors and seniors, it's usually too late if you're not already involved."

On the dry-erase board in Nickelberry's office are the names and grades of players that he's targeting. Even though some not scheduled to graduate high school until 2008, written down are their names.

"If your first contact with a young man who is going into his junior year and he's unaware that you're interested in him though his high school coach or AAU coach, then you're behind," Nickelberry said. "If that's when you make your first contact and he doesn't already know about you, you've got a lot of problems."

Given the first two recruiting classes under head coach Oliver Purnell, it's easy to see Nickelberry fully knows what it is he's doing.

Need proof?

His first class at Clemson was ranked among the top 25 classes in the country and featured four key freshmen who helped propel the Tigers to their first postseason tournament in six years, and his second class has been judged by some scouts as even better.

And with another strong class coming in this year, it's easy to see why Clemson hoops fans have so much to look forward to in the coming years.

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