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Anxiety strikes new coaches quickly

4/19/2012

So, you’re a brand new high-major coach in a league you’ve never coached in at a program you didn’t think you’d be representing anytime soon. After your press conference, you meet with your team again. By this time, at least two guys decided you’re not cut out for the job and plan to transfer. Others within the building are mulling over a potential departure.

Meanwhile, the athletic director is trumpeting to boosters how good a recruiter you are. The reality is, you’re not as good a recruiter as you need to be since your team stinks and you know it. The buzz from the press conference wore off you quickly but it’s got the fan base energized. In two days, you’ll be out recruiting underclassmen. The problem is, you still need half a dozen guys for next year’s team.

Anxiety is inescapable. The job you signed up for is huge and the only thing that trumps the job are the expectations that come with it. Before you can go big game hunting in the Class of 2013, you’ve got to land some seniors (I’m not getting into jucos since I don’t have that roadmap). Of the seven available Top 100 seniors, there’s only one you might have a chance to get involved with. The others closed down their lists a long time ago. So, you get a number for Chris Obekpa’s (Centereach, N.Y./Our Savior) and call him. No dice, Obepka isn’t coming. Time to hit up the “B” list, which is really your “A” list now.

Point Guard

This is non-negotiable. We need a point guard, and badly. The process begins with Jerron Wilbut (Chicago, Ill./Downers Grove). At last check, Dayton was in there good and Wilbut hasn’t qualified yet. Regardless, I’m all in with him to the point of being there to sharpen his pencil for the tests. As I expand my list of point guards, I’m looking at Daiquan Walker (Philadelphia, Pa./Constitution) and Bobo Drummond (Peoria, Ill./LaLumiere). Wilbut can play at the BCS level. Outside him, I might be forced to sign a player a level higher than his ability level.

Wings

Maryland’s loss would be my gain. I’m going after Sam Cassell (Baltimore, Md./Notre Dame) and he’s my No. 1 target. Should we not sign him, next up would be Amedao Della Valle (Henderson, Nev./Findlay Prep). Ohio State had him on campus and probably has the inside track but we’re making a run at him. He’s perfect because he could play multiple positions. My wildcard, even though he’s a lower-level prospect is Thomas Johnson (Wilmington, N.C./New Hanover). He’s a late bloomer with a tough edge and even if he doesn’t wind up playing much, he’ll go hard daily. An X-Factor guy is Jeremiah Jones (Merrillville, Ind./St. John’s Military). His calling card is his versatility.

Bigs

This is a big problem for my squad. Nationally, size is a problem. There’s nothing left of note. Sure, the Tony Parker’s, Anthony Bennett’s and Amile Jefferson’s are out there but those guys have established lists. Obekpa is the lone hope for a big name. In our new staff meetings, we decided that production was more important than size. Daddy Ugbede (Gardena, Calif./Juniper Serra) was one of the most efficient players in the Nike EYBL. He’s not big but he’s nasty on the glass and relishes playing inside. Ideally he goes mid-major but when in need, take the production.

Lastly, taking a flier on Isaac Freeman (Manassas, Va./South Kent) isn’t a bad idea. He’s 7-1, desperately in need of a weight program but he could protect the rim and played against good competition this year.

Regardless of position, Dyshawn Pierre (Whitby, Ont./Anderson) and Michael Carrera (Venezuela/Montrose Christian) would receive offers. Pierre, a forward, played last summer for Canada's blossoming national team unit. Carrera, the all-time leading rebounder from the NHSI, is a blue collar guy. We'd squeeze them into the rotation somehow during our first two years on the job.

The point in hammering out this blog is to stress the anxiety that comes as a brand new head coach and also the lack of options said coach has once he takes over during March and April. The goal in that first year isn't to move into the top spot in the league, it's to field a competitive team, sell your squad to recruits and take just enough (not too many) guys to build for the future.