Keno Talks Recruiting

With official practice beginning this week and the fall signing period only weeks away, talks with Friar Head Coach Keno Davis about his staff's increased footprint on the college recruiting landscape over the past year.

SH: Now that you've been here for over a year and already recruited a lot of players, do you feel that now you're finally up to speed with other programs for more of those higher ranked prospects in the classes of 2011 and 2012?

KD: The earlier you start the better with recruiting. We were behind with recruiting for 2009 and even a little for 2010, as you'd have liked those players on your list to have had a chance to come to your games as freshmen in high school, or to your practices, or your camps so you can build a strong relationship with them. When you come in as a new staff, you're working on the immediate need, which we had for 2009 with seven new guys coming in. However, you hope that four years down the road, the players that we're working on now that are freshmen will develop a good bond with us, and they might choose our program over some traditional top 5 or 10 program due to the relationships they've built with us over a long period of time.

SH: So your approach to recruiting in terms of who you target is different for the future from what it was in 2009?

KD: We tried this past season to bring in as many younger players as we could and build relationships with them during the season. We had them coming to practice, coming to games...We really focused on the really good young players in the Northeast in the hopes that it will pay dividends down the road. But we had such a pressing need with seven scholarships to fill for 2009 so I think that took up a lot of our time and energy as well. However, with the inroads we made this year with the younger players, I think Providence fans will see the progress in three or four years when they hear some of these kids say, "Well Providence has been recruiting me since I was a freshman...I've been up to the campus and I love it. This is where I want to be." We can do those types of things in the shorter window as well, but not with the success rate that we're likely to have over an extended period.

SH: Do you think this region's talent level is currently on the upswing? Or, do you think it's a lot stronger in other regions of the country?

KD: I think it varies from class to class. One class in this area may be really strong and then it could be a little bit down another year and then jump back up again. I think you see that around the country as well. I do think the Big East has an advantage though with the prep school players all being situated fairly close by in the Northeast. We can go watch two or three players in open gym during the recruiting period during the season and go see more games than programs in other parts of the country where to see one player in a day can be a full day's work due to the distances.

SH: What do you think of the view that Providence is at a recruiting disadvantage because Rhode Island is a small state without a lot of high major prospects? Do you think all the local prep schools make up for that?

KD: I don't know that I would say we are at a disadvantage, but if there are several high major players in our state, that would help us....and there might be some coming up the next few years. We also have an advantage in terms of our proximity to a lot of places, and what we've done to make Providence an attractive place to play with all the improvements we've made to facilities and the like. Everything here is really on the upswing, so when we get young men to take a look at our college campus, they really come away impressed. So, our job is to get these players here when they are freshmen, before they become McDonald's All Americans, and everyone is knocking their door down with attention. We have to build those relationships earlier to distinguish ourselves.

SH: You've done very well recruiting eastern Massachusetts lately, and have a lot of interest from NY/NJ prospects as well. Do you feel you can sell Providence as close enough to be in easy driving distance of a lot of places but yet far enough away so that kids don't feel like they are staying home for college?

KD: I think that's something we can definitely attract players with. I think that when your program is within three, four, or five hours of a recruit, you definitely get the sense that your family and friends can come and see you play your college career. Plus, you're close enough that if you want to go home for a weekend in the off season, you can do that without great difficulty unlike if you were playing across the country. So, we are obviously are going to have more success recruiting regionally than we will nationally, but we'll also recruit nationally.

We are recruiting everywhere really. We are recruiting the Midwest, we recruit Texas, the South; We'll recruit Florida, Georgia, Alabama, you name it because we feel we need to in order to be among the best. However, we can't lose our focus on our back yard as well, and we've got to take our shots at the best talent especially locally because people are beginning to see with just the commitments we've had over the last year that Providence might be the place to be in the coming years, and that the Friars may no longer be a middle of the road program in the Big East going forward but one that is really on the upswing.

SH: Have you felt better recognition out there recently of Providence being on the rise from players and coaches out on the road?

KD: I think my assistants deserve all the credit for any of that stuff you hear and read about Providence being more of a national player for talent. I can see the difference from last summer to this summer, and from conversations with recruits when you introduce yourself and talk about Providence, they definitely know Providence a lot more now than they did a year ago.

That's the assistants working hard; working in the trenches and getting after it with phone calls and the letters, all the conversations when people come to practices and come to games. You have to build that. That stuff doesn't just come. You can't win first to get that. To really win, you have to work to get the right players, and so our staff deserves a ton of credit for the recognition because they are working very hard to get us the talent to build something special.

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