Part 2: Recruiting early, but not too early

In Part 1 of this peek into Vanderbilt's recruiting process, Assistant Coach Kim Rosamond explained what it takes to be successful in the ‘Dores' program. Talent and academic prowess to be sure, but character, toughness and attitude are just as essential. In Part 2, VandyMania looks at when and where recruitment focuses, and how that combination plays well for Vandy.

By the time November arrives to herald the national signing period for high school seniors, Vanderbilt's staff has long finished its' homework on prospects identified for making the grade on and off the court. Some recruits make verbal commitments early to stop the flow of contact from interested schools and focus on their final year of high school.

Junior Maggie Morrison of Baltimore's Archbishop Spalding recently did just that in announcing her decision to play for Vandy in 2011-12. The 5-8 guard, said to be a natural court leader who can shoot the 3-ball, averaged 14 points per game. Her decision to declare early effectively ended the hunt by 52 schools in the mix for her skills.

Announcing at 16 and 17 years of age is within expected norms, but the process is trending toward much younger. Barely teens of 13, eighth-graders have received collegiate offers (University of Michigan, North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Southern Mississippi). The early bird doesn't always get the worm though – transfers were at a record high last year, a sign of dissatisfaction from players who didn't do their homework. The fit wasn't right – and that's something Vanderbilt works hard to avoid.

"Obviously you can watch a kid in the seventh grade and see potential," Kim said. "It's where they take that potential that matters. It's like a Catch 22 with how early recruiting starts. You're seeing these kids so early; that's why you're seeing the number of transfers out the roof. It's only going to continue to increase because kids are beginning so much earlier and not taking time in the process to get to know the school that is recruiting them."

Vanderbilt takes a careful, more thorough approach, Kim said. "We probably do things a little bit different in that sense because we are going to take the time. This is a process we start very early to evaluate that kid. Evaluating their transcripts, talking to their guidance counselor and teachers, and getting to know their coaches and family to make sure they're the right fit not just for us, but for them as well."

Official visits are allowed only the senior year (and differ from unofficial in that the school pays for everything; costs of unofficial visits, which are unlimited, are absorbed by the prospect).

"The official visits used to be so important, and that's when kids made their decision," Kim said. "Kids are making decisions so much earlier that unofficial visits have become an important tool in this process. That's why it's very important to get a kid on campus early so your staff can get to know that prospect, but the players can as well. You get to learn so much more about a kid face-to face than speaking with them on the phone."

There is no specific region targeted in trolling for talent, although the roster appears weighted with players from the Northeast. Head Coach Melanie Balcomb and Assistant Coach Vicky Picott are New Jersey natives and Assistant Coach Tom Garrick is from Rhode Island. Five current players hail from the East Coast—three with Pennsylvania backgrounds and two incoming freshman from New Jersey and New York. In recent years, Kentucky has provided multiple players on the team; joining the Northeast area crew are two from Georgia, two from Tennessee, and one each from California, Colorado, Florida, North Carolina and Ohio.

"We go where the players are," Kim said. "In a recent 3-day span I went from California to Seattle to Denver. Granted our staff has a lot of roots on the East coast, but in no way do we restrict ourselves to certain areas."

As a Top 10 to Top 20 program with 11 consecutive trips to the NCAA tournament and national television coverage of battles with SEC powerhouses, Vanderbilt is certainly attractive to top prospects. When All American high school players like Stephanie Holzer (the injured Philadelphia center did not play her freshman year) and All-American nominee Clair Watkins (incoming freshman) commit, they reinforce the high standard of play Vanderbilt expects. Players who were high school superstars with skill and above average height will face their physical peers in college and learn about teamwork.

"It starts with the philosophy that Coach Balcomb and our staff has about recruiting. It's team first," Kim stressed. "That's something that we preach. There's no one person, even if they're a Kodak All American, who will be bigger than the team. That's why it's so important in the process to identify that and communicate that to the prospects and parents so their expectations and yours match.

Because there is no grandstanding, just the emotion of the game and focus on team, players secure in their talent understand that a good recruiting class equals more success.

Vanderbilt's latest recruits will begin to bond with their new team in July when they arrive on campus for summer term. The incoming class of Jasmine Lister (5-5 from Corona, California), Christina Foggie (5-10 from Mount Laurel, N.J.), Tori Jarosz (6-3 from Cortlandt Manor, N.Y), Clair Watkins (6-4 from Matthews, N.C.) and Kayci Ferriss (6-8 from Gordonsville, TN) is evidence that Vanderbilt's recruitment process is Gold … Black … Gold.

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