All the coaches at the three summer prep tournaments are searching for a few more great players. Some already have great players committed to join their programs.
Wake Forest hit the recruiting jackpot this month when forward Al-Farouq Aminu and center Tony Woods committed to join center Ty Walker in the Deacons' 2008 recruiting class. There would be nothing unusual about that if the Deacs had not just completed consecutive seasons in which they won a combined eight Atlantic Coast Conference games.
How does a program continue to recruit with the heavyweights when it has gone through a fallow period? Wake was one game above .500 in 2005-06 and one game below .500 in 2006-07. That's not the kind of momentum that generally draws in recruits. Prosser and his crew of Jeff Battle, Dino Gaudio and Pat Kelsey did it, anyway.
Although this will be Wake's highest-ranked class in a while — it's top-three now along with UCLA and Ohio State, and could stay that high — the Deacons never really stopped recruiting successfully. In that sense, this class is not an anomaly. Even after going 3-13 in the ACC following the departure of All-American Chris Paul, they landed point guard Jeff Teague and forward James Johnson, both top-50 players.
It's harder to keep that up — and step up your game — when the on-court struggles persist. That's what makes this haul remarkable, but there are some very clear explanations:
1. Wake engages in "retro recruiting"
The staff likes to make use of phone calls and note writing to help build the level of trust with the players it courts. They're so effective at this they nearly talked Greg Oden and Mike Conley into flying south for their one winter in college hoops, but eventually lost out to Ohio State's excellent recruiting work (and, at least in some small part, to OSU's proximity to the players' home in Indianapolis).
2. Wake's players do an excellent job of selling the program
Among those programs that do not engage in negative recruiting, ultimately most coaches make similar pitches. It all can start sounding the same to prospects. But players who love where they play can be the best salesmen ... and sometimes it's as simple as, "Would I want to hang around these guys?" Wake won big there.
3. Wake has fine young players
4. Wake has a good product to sell
The ACC remains a league in which basketball is of extreme importance, and the school has a small, familial atmosphere that the right prospects find appealing.
5. Wake has some powerful alumni
Players like to know they can get to the NBA. Paul, Tim Duncan and Josh Howard provide pretty good evidence you can get there from the Deacons.
Because of the two tough years that followed Paul's departure, Prosser is one of those coaches the uninformed like to put on the proverbial hot seat when such matters are discussed. Prosser isn't going anywhere. When Wake gets a break like signing a Chris Paul, it is going to have great seasons; and when it gets a tough break like Chris Paul going to the NBA one year sooner than imagined, it's probably going to struggle.
As long as Prosser and his crew are in place, though, good players are going to continue flowing into the program. And more of Prosser's smiles will follow Deacons victories.
CBT: Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski made it official that he'll be coaching Team USA at the 2016 Rio Olympics, and he'll also be with Duke at least that long, too.
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