Rupp Opening Doors Overseas

Hoosier Associate Head Coach Kerry Rupp was in Australia last month and has his eye on three to four other Australian players. Rupp talked to HoosierNation.com about his success recruiting overseas, and how he's been able to develop the ties to lure players like Andrew Bogut, Luke Nevill and Ben Allen.

When Australian-born Andrew Bogut was drafted out of Utah as the number one pick in the 2005 NBA Draft two things happened – Australian basketball players and Kerry Rupp gained a lot of exposure.

Rupp, the Associate Head Coach for the Indiana Hoosiers, has only been a college basketball coach for five seasons, but he has already made himself into a big-time overseas recruiter after bringing Bogut from Australia to Utah where he blossomed into National Player of the Year. Rupp hopes for repeated success with his latest recruit, Ben Allen, who is also from the Australia Institute Of Sport.

Rupp's recruiting success, though, has tipped off other programs about the wealth and depth of talent that is overseas, including in Australia.

"I think nowadays everybody is starting to look outside America for players," said Rupp. "Recruiting has become not just in the States, it's international now. I know I used to be the only one at the Australian Institute of Sport, but last year when I went over I think there were about 15 coaches there at a game that Ben was playing in. I think from word of mouth and then you find a Bogut out there, everyone is going over there and looking for a lottery pick. I think everyone is trying it now."

After spending 24 seasons as a high school coach, Rupp created many of the ties that have made him the successful recruiter he is. From 1986 to 2001, Rupp coached at Salt Lake City East High School as an assistant and then head coach and athletic director. He led two of his teams to the Utah state finals and was named the Coach of the Year by the Utah High School Activities Association in 1999.

"I think one of the things that helped me was when I was a high school coach I would travel along with Karl Malone and we did clinics in Asia, South America, Mexico and other places like that," said Rupp.

"So I got to meet people through Karl and foster relationships. Also when I was coaching high school, our gym was used by the Utah Jazz for their summer pro league. So all the teams would come in and do their rookie camps in my high school gym and in the evenings they would come in and play the games. A lot of foreign coaches and scouts would come over and watch those games because a lot of the players trying to make those summer league teams or NBA teams that didn't make it would go play overseas. I actually got to meet a lot of those people who came in to watch those NBA players and I was able to foster more relationships."

Rupp was also able to make connections while he was an assistant at Utah. During the three years he spent with the Utes, he was in charge of scouting and underclassmen recruiting. While there he recruited Bogut and seven-foot Luke Nevill from Australia who will be a redshirt freshman for the Utes this season.

"When I started at Utah with Coach (Rick) Majerus we had a lot of foreign people come through practice," said Rupp. "I always tried to make relationships with those people and stay in touch. It's paid off because now they call me if they know of any players. I've been lucky to be around people who have allowed me to meet so many different types of people from all over the world and create relationships."

Those relationships have helped make Rupp the premier recruiter of Australia. With connections at the Australian Institute of Sport, where he most recently found Allen, Rupp is able to find big men comparable to some of the top players America has to offer.

It appears Rupp is looking for some talent there again this season, as he spent time in Australia just last month. On Oct. 10 he participated in a basketball clinic for children in Melbourne, Australia.

"One thing about Australia was Andrew Bogut was a great find," said Rupp. "When we recruited him to Utah the plan was he would be in the NBA, but nobody knew he was going to be the number one pick. He was the first one and when we got over there we saw some big guys with some talent. That's when I was able to see Ben and another kid I recruited for Utah, Luke Nevill. He's a seven-foot kid I found over there and there are three or four more big guys over there that I still want to recruit."

The level of talent in Australia isn't a fluke or an aberration. Rupp has seen first hand the system in place at the institute of sport and likes the results.

"I think it's because they have had a pretty good tradition of big guys over there," said Rupp. "I think the Australian Institute of Sport does a good job with the development of their guys. Ben came from a program where he had very good coaches while he was growing up in regards to the clubs he was involved with."

One of the biggest challenges for Rupp and his overseas recruiting is selling a program to players and parents who usually have never been to America, let alone Indiana. It is very different from U.S. players, who are usually very aware of the tradition of the IU program and the passion fans have for it.

"You need to earn the parents' trust," said Rupp. "They're sending their kid 6,000 miles to a place where most of the kids come from Indianapolis or just a couple of states away. So you have to make sure the parents know that you're going to take very good care of their child and give them a structured environment to play in. The parents aren't going to be here so there's times when we as coaches have to take on that role. You have to let the parents and player know you can do that."

Rupp has taken that parental role with Allen. He is always there to help the 6-10 freshman adapt to a new life in America and learn how basketball is played in the Big Ten.

"I get in early before practice and Coach Rupp is always here to help me work on whatever I need that day," said Allen. "Whatever it may be, trailing threes, jump hooks or my footwork in the paint. He's always there for me and that's why I come early. I love to learn from him."

The two are also in constant contact and Rupp also keeps in touch with Allen's parents to let them know how he is doing in school and basketball.

"I call him and he calls me all the time just to check up and see how I'm doing, if I'm eating, if I'm doing all right in my classes," said Allen. "He comes to class sometimes to check and make sure I'm there and stuff like that. Hopefully soon we'll get the chance to sit down to dinner and talk about something other than basketball for a change.

"It's good to have that person who you can talk to about home and things. He was just in Australia and he went to see my parents and spoke to them. He relayed back to me that they're doing well and it's all good. Yeah, he's definitely important to me."

While recruiting is always an educated guess because it impossible to tell how a player will produce on the next level, it is even more difficult when dealing with a foreign player. Some players may seem dominant against less-talented competition and the international game has subtle differences from the American-style of play, which can make scouting difficult at times. That is why Rupp makes as many trips as possible when recruiting a player from overseas.

In the case of Allen, he was able to see him develop over the course of a few years as he recruited the likes of Bogut.

"Anytime you recruit a player, you're taking a risk," said Rupp. "That's why you never want to see a player only one time. You want to see a player multiple times. The more you see a guy, the more you're able to understand his game and see what he brings to the table. If he really has the ability to do the things that you think he can do and play to the style your team plays to, you're only going to see that by seeing the kid multiple times.

"Ben is a kid I first saw three years ago and I've watched him evolve. I made sure to get enough times to evaluate him, watch him and get to know him. After that I had a feeling he would be a very good player."

Indiana did not have that opportunity while recruiting 6-10 freshmen Cem Dinc of Turkey. Indiana was able to recruit Dinc because head coach Mike Davis had ties to Dinc's national team coach. In the 1980s, Davis played professional basketball across Europe, including a stint playing for the well-respected Serbian coach Bogdan Tanjevic in Italy, Dinc's Turkish national team coach.

Dinc made his first and only recruiting visit to Indiana in August. That was one of the few opportunities the Hoosiers had to see his style of play.

"Now a kid like Cem, we didn't see him a lot," said Rupp. "But when you get a guy with his size and his body who can play with that much athleticism, you have to bring that kid in and work hard on developing his game. You have to help him get comfortable with your style of play as opposed to players you bring in because they fit your style of play."

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