Recruiting is a year-round job anymore; the days of a college coach working just during his/her off-season are over. Illinois coaches Ron Zook and Bruce Weber are tireless workers at the game but often times you throw your best pitch and come up empty. Does that mean you failed as a recruiter? No, and it could be the next player may be just as important.
Most successful programs have coaches that are very aggressive when it comes to recruiting. Most notably - high school senior Isiah Williams, a 6-foot-2, 220-pound quarterback from Chicago (Vocational) said in a recent interview that his aggressiveness was what he liked about Zook. "Coach Zook works very hard and does all the right things when it comes to approaching a potential athlete. When players see how much effort he puts into that part of it, you know what kind of coach you're getting," said Williams.
Zook is known as a tireless and relentless recruiter that will not be worked. "Sleep is overrated; can you imagine how much work you could get done if you were working?" Zook stated.
Weber has done a tremendous job to this point with the men's basketball program. He's signed three top 50 recruits since he's been at Illinois: Shaun Pruitt, Richard Semrau and 2006 senior-to-be Brian Carlwell. This summer Semrau's stock has dropped a bit, but other big name programs like Kentucky and Ohio State were schools that he was interested in.
Weber and his staff have been to all the major summer recruiting events. This past summer I attended the Nike All-American camp in Indianapolis, Indiana where Weber and assistant coach Tracy Webster were courtside to watch point guard Sherron Collins of Chicago Crane High School. Collins has a nice list of schools (in no particular order): Illinois, Iowa, Kansas and Indiana. Collins is a key recruit for Weber not only because of his talent, but also to let other big name programs know that you will have to out-work the Illinois staff to get the best kids from the state of Illinois.
One of the keys for most kids I talk with is how early a coach shows interest in them and how much they can sell what they can do for them once school is over. One player I spoke with last night (who asked to remain anonymous) gave me this quote, "We're not stupid. We know coaches lie and will tell us everything we want to hear. The best way for us as athletes is to talk to the other players on campus, and that's what I've done."
Past tradition sells a lot of schools, but for those schools that don't have a strong positive tradition the life of an assistant coach becomes very hectic. These coaches stay up late researching kids, make phone calls, send out letters, and build relationships with high school coaches.
For the football and basketball programs to succeed at Illinois, they will need to bring in great student athletes and do the most important thing to fans – WIN!
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