Tara VanDerveer Q & A, Part II

This may be the off-season but fans can stay tuned in to Stanford basketball through TheBootleg.com's ongoing Q & A series with Head Coach Tara VanDerveer. In Part II, VanDerveer continues to discuss the Stanford recruiting process and answers questions from fans.

In Part I of this Q & A, Stanford Head Coach Tara VanDerveer laid out some basics about the recruiting process. To begin Part II she illuminates the application process further.

September is a busy recruiting month for college coaches. At Stanford, the players return to campus on September 15th to begin preliminary workouts prior to the official start of practice in mid-October. Just as the players return, three of the four coaches hit the road – beginning September 16th they can visit senior recruits at home or school. Although these home or school visits are only permitted with high school seniors, coaches also go to the schools of juniors, sophomores, and even freshmen to talk to coaches and/or guidance counselors about the Stanford application process and the need for AP/Honors classes and early SAT tests. Coaches may write or call high school and summer coaches but they may not write or e-mail prospects directly until September 1st of their junior year.

VanDerveer says that the application process is very thorough. A student athlete is required to write one long essay and several shorter essays. She must secure two academic recommendations (a third is optional) and provide her complete high school transcript plus SAT or ACT test scores. Her guidance counselor fills out a class ranking form.

Associate Head Coach Amy Tucker serves as the point person in communications with Stanford Admissions. Outlines VanDerveer, "Amy has to complete an Athletic Rating Form (ARF) which includes the athletic assessment of each candidate (position, needs of the program, etc.). Admissions knows all of our recruits and understands our team needs. Once the student-athlete's file is complete, Admissions will read it. They have a minimum of three people in the Admissions Office read the complete file. That process usually takes two weeks. We usually keep our fingers and toes crossed the whole time and pray a lot."

"When a decision is made Amy or I will receive a phone call with the following information:

1. We are sorry but Sally Superstar is declined acceptance.
2. We need Sally to rewrite her essay or take the SAT again, or we need to see the first quarter senior year grades.
3. We are pleased to tell you that Sally has been accepted.

The last one results in screams and cheers throughout our office, which can spread throughout the building like wildfire! All our early acceptances are conditional upon continued excellent senior grades. No senior slumps!"

Coaches may phone seniors once a week starting in August except during the week of an official campus visit, when unlimited calls are allowed to set up the visit. "Once a candidate has shown serious interest, i.e. working on the application – we track weekly what is in, we set up home/school visits and campus visits. Home and school visits can happen after September 16th," offers VanDerveer. "The campus visit can happen after the first day of the recruit's senior year but we don't usually have a candidate visit because we aren't in school. The campus visit is 48 hours. Candidates attend class and meet tons of people on campus including professors. They can play with our team if the visit is before practice starts or they can watch practice. And we go out to eat…a lot! Our players are terrific hostesses and we always have fun weekends."

"The home and campus visits can happen differently depending on where the candidate is with respect to the application. So really we are not on a level playing field with our competition until someone has been accepted. Getting really excited about a recruit (who has not been admitted) is hard and getting them all fired up about Stanford is equally hard on them and us."

Now we will segue into some questions from Bootleg subscribers. If a question has been asked by more than one person (or if I just threw it in there myself) it will not have a specific name attached. Questions from individual subscribers will be noted.

In any given year, how many of the putative top 100 high school players can Stanford recruit?

I want to say, like seriously recruit, maybe five. But when we are saying we recruit someone are we saying they will fill out an application? We might be able to recruit five. Ten would be a bonanza year.

Given the limited size of Stanford's recruiting pool, how much can you recruit to fill positional needs or look for specific types of players?

Honestly I feel we have to recruit, because it's based so much on academics, the best players that can get into Stanford. If there are three really smart point guards we will recruit them. We have to recruit the kids that can get in so it's not based on position really. We will be honest and tell them who else we are recruiting in that class. But if someone has the grades and ability to help our team, we recruit them and fit them in.

What summer tournaments do you plan to attend?

The tournament in Oregon, the Oregon City tournament (End of the Trail Tournament in July), is a great tournament. I've gone there every summer. The Nike in Augusta (South Carolina). A lot of it is where our top players will be. I'll be going to those tournaments. Amy is our Recruiting Coordinator. She'll basically look at the schedule and figure out for us where to go. I do a lot of watching the older kids. Amy, Kate (Paye), and Bobbie (Kelsey) watch the younger kids. They do more of the evaluation process. I watch to let kids know they're really high on our list, just let them know I'm there.

There are several groups that rate high school prospects, such as HoopGurlz, Blue Star, and ASGR, or give out awards, such as the Parade or the McDonald's All-American selections. Do you follow those ratings? How much stock should fans put in these rankings and awards?

We just get names. So many of the things you look for in a recruit are not measurable. So much of it is the kid's maturity, the person's ability to deal with being away from being home, which I guess is maturity too. We look at the names and then we do our own evaluations. We don't really pay much attention to it. I mean Val Whiting was third team something-or-other and led our team to two championships. The kids this year, Ros (Gold-Onwude), Jill (Harmon), and Morgan (Clyburn) laugh about the fact that none of them were McDonald's All-Americans. We don't really put any stock in that stuff to be honest with you.

Taz88 asks whether Admissions has been less stringent in the past few years compared with previous Admissions regimes.

We have always worked well with Admissions. There have been five or so different Directors of Admissions, but personally Amy or myself, we've worked well with them all. I think their job is "Mission Impossible." They will have over 30,000 applicants for 1600 places. I think they do a terrific job. They are very thorough. They are very sensitive to our team's needs and what will help us be successful. But they can't get our top recruits to get A's in classes or take AP classes or get great SAT scores. It's always tough. It is not getting any easier.

Bobbk asks about the timing of offers. We know offers are always contingent on acceptance, but when are they made for top prospects? Also how many offers do you make relative to the number of available openings?

We can offer someone at any time but it is always based on admissions. It's that way for any program but no one else is going to get denied, you know? When we have a great player that we are recruiting, it is understood that it is based on admissions and we want them to come. I never extend more scholarship offers than scholarships I have. If we have four scholarships those are all the ones that are out at a time. I never say to someone, "I have a scholarship for you" if in fact I don't.

Bobbk also wonders how offers are prioritized with recruits and their families if there are more interested athletes than scholarships available.

The timing of things is tricky. Some of it is understanding how interested they are. For me, if someone does their application I know that they are more interested than someone that doesn't. The application a little bit lets me know who is serious. A lot of people want to say that Stanford recruited them but being recruited by Stanford is work by everybody. It is stressful for recruits and their families and for us, obviously.

Part III of TheBootleg.com's Q & A with Tara VanDerveer will continue with more questions from fans about the Stanford recruiting process.

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