Women's Hoops: Stephanie Norman talks Recruiting

Vanderbilt assistant women's basketball coach Stephanie Norman discussed recruiting in detail with VandyMania's Whitney D.

VandyMania: Could you talk about the general status of recruiting right now -- how big a pool of prospects are you looking at, what are the activities are you engaged in now, things like that?

Coach Norman: I think the last time I looked at our list, we had around 140 prospects. Obviously, as you get some commitments for particular positions, that pool tends to shrink. As usual what we're doing right now is talking to high school coaches and AAU coaches, kind of fact-finding missions to find out what their grades look like, when they're taking their tests. That in itself eliminates a big chunk of kids when we gather that information. A lot of these kids don't take their tests until June, so it is real difficult to kind of hack our list a significant amount until we get those June test scores.

So then you prioritize by position, and sometimes you don't even think about position, you go after the best player that you feel like has a chance to help your team, and you feel like you can kind of manufacture the position. In our system, several of our kids are interchangeable. Everybody gets wrapped up in "Wow, you've got five people that play the off-guard on your team!" or something like that. Well, you can play the 2 or the 3 for us. It's not like some programs where you have to have a 6'1 player at the 3-spot and a 5'9 player at the 2. Our 2s and 3s , if you've watched us play, do the exact same thing; it just depends on what side of the floor you're on.

The point guard obviously does some things which are much different from any other position. The 4s and 5s are the exact same. So for our recruiting, it's much different. When people say, "You're recruiting a 5?" Well, yeah, that and a 4. "Are you recruiting a 3-player? You don't have any on the roster." Well, we've got three or four off-guards or whatever you want to call them, "2-guards", but they play the 3 as well.

VandyMania: While we're talking about positions, what's the difference in the responsibilities at a given point in time in a game if somebody is playing the 2-guard versus the 3-guard?

Coach Norman: It's the exact same on offense. Defensively, it's different. But in defensive transition, the 3s don't pick up the basketball. If you noticed last year, Cherish would pick up the basketball. All of our 2s pick up the ball. So you want your quicker, more athletic kid at your 2-spot, per se, if you really want to qualify someone as that. Your 3s are down and out to the left. We actually have a system for defensive transition. We don't pick up people, we pick up positions, spots on the floor, so that's why I say 2s and 3s. It's different on defense. On offense they're the same position, they just run different sides of the floor.

VandyMania: In the fall when I asked you about signees, you said that Tina Wirth is a "natural 3." Is that still how you're thinking of her?

Coach Norman: Yes. If you're looking for a prototypical 3, she would be someone who is a taller guard, and that's why we call her a 3, but you could call her a 2 if you want to. They should just be called "wings" because they both do the exact same thing.

But Tina obviously will provide us with an opportunity to have a bigger body and help us in rebounding from the wing position that I can't remember having since probably Tia Battle.

VandyMania: So if we sort people into 2/3s and 4/5s, she goes into the 2/3s?

Right. And Tina's the kind of kid that would do anything for your team, so if in a pinch she needed to play some post, which is the 4/5 spot, people would freak out: "You're going to play her at the 5?!"

Well, it's one and the same. You're going to see Carla and Liz in our motion offense do the same things. One runs the floor first, the other one trails, then there are a series of down screens and fade screens.

If we're running quick hitters -- which are designated plays, not reads -- then there's a chance to say, "You're a 5, and you're a 4 because you're going to go to exact positions." But our main offense isn't exact positions. Unless we're running quick hitters, there is no distinct 4 and 5. They do the same thing.

So Tina's a prototypical 3. I anticipate her playing on the wing, but in a pinch, I think she can help us in the post if we get hurt or feel like we need something down there. People will fall in love with her. She's just going to be a phenomenal player and person and contributor to our program. I anticipate really big things from her.

VandyMania: Going back to the recruiting process, right now you're making the phone calls to coaches, figuring out who looks like they're going to fit . . . "

Coach Norman: Who looks like they're going to fit, how interested they are. We've had offers out there, and kids choose to go somewhere else in the past month. Recruiting is getting earlier and earlier and earlier. This year we got to make a phone call in March, which we'd never done before, so you've seen a lot of kids commit a lot earlier because they're gaining that communication and rapport with coaches at an earlier stage.

VandyMania: By the time you're allowed to call prospects again on June 21, will your pool of prospects be pared down to a smaller list?

Coach Norman: I think I have my priorities in my head of kids that I feel like have been responsive, who we've seen and liked, and who I know currently have grades. But I'm hesitant to sort of cross these other people off because I don't know the test scores yet.

So I would anticipate as July rolls around, the list would shrink, but there are going to be additions and deletions all through July. It's going to change every single day.

Do I have sort of a list of 30 in my mixed bag of tricks that I feel is a legit list? Yes, but I don't want to cut or do anything to the kids we've been in contact with all year long just in case that they do grade in July or something changes, and we need a player at a different position that I didn't otherwise think, or we get a commitment and that kid can't get into school.

So if you cut all the ties just to narrow your list down, it doesn't make a lot of sense because you've been working on them all year, and then you need to go back to them and that's a little hard. So I'd rather keep them on and wait until I get some kid admitted, and then be able to narrow the list down.

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