Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Telep’s Top 10: Evaluation factors
By Dave Telep
When I first began evaluating high school basketball recruits in 1997, you’d see a prospect a handful of times if you were lucky. There wasn’t the kind of access to players and coaches that today is almost instantaneous.
As time has passed, if you’re so inclined, the ability to be a basketball spy has gotten easier. Information on players exists everywhere. And if you have the proper network, obtaining information is one cell phone call away. Basically, we know more about these guys than they realize. I follow guys on Twitter, for example, to delve into their character and see what they’re made of beyond the court.
For myself and a lot of the talent evaluators on our staff, there’s the physical component to an evaluation that encompasses a player’s abilities -- and that’s certainly important. But personally, what’s equally important is getting to the root of who players are as people. If the homework is done on a specific player, you then have to be confident in what you’ve learned. That’s where the separation in terms of rankings should be most noticeable. If we’re going to spend the time on the inner evaluation, we’re going to use what we’ve learned -- both good and bad.
See, there’s more to the player evaluation than how fast they change ends, how well they handle the ball and how many shots they make. Peeling back the layers to create separation in evaluations -- and in turn rankings -- is what it’s all about. Getting to the core of who prospects are and who they can become is an integral part of our jobs.
So with a new update to the ESPN basketball prospect rankings on the horizon next week, it’s the perfect time to look into what goes into a player evaluation and how those rankings are determined.
Top 10 important elements of the evaluation
1. DNA: Who are they on the court? Slice them open, read their mind, whatever. At day’s end, as a player and person, what makes them tick? If there’s a genetic code for how our bodies and minds work, then there has to be one for who a prospect is as a basketball player. It’s our job to figure that out.
2. Competitiveness: This is non-negotiable. Less-talented players -- on average -- narrow the talent gap by taking the fight to the better player. In today’s age of mixtape All-Americans, I’ll take the guy who gets the most pleasure out of winning. Toughness is a talent. There’s nothing more disappointing than seeing two elite players matched up and one or both of the guys not respond to the challenge.
3. Drive & determination: When the practice is over and they’re cleaning out the gym, which players are squeezing in those precious extra few shots before someone kicks them out? Can they say no to peer pressure and act accordingly knowing their friends may not have the same options as them? Are they maximizing their time in the gym or just punching the clock? Actions speak louder than words.
4. Coachability: Roll their eyes, ignore their coach and stare down a ref or lock in and buy in – a prospect can only be in one of those two categories. If players don’t allow themselves to be coached, they can’t play in most college programs. If prospects come in thinking they’re bigger than the team, it’s going to be a short stay. Finally, are their parents allowing them to be coached or do they coddle and make excuses? If they think they’ll have direct access to the coach after every college game, they’re dreaming. If parents never allow their kids to be coached or play through adversity, it stands to reason that the players wind up never learning how to be coached or play through adversity.
5. Appreciation vs. entitlement: This one is straightforward. Is a player the guy who complains about the legroom on the charter plane or the guy who’s just happy to have a seat on the bus? I’m completely turned off by players who expect to be rewarded simply because somewhere along the way someone told them they could do no wrong. One time when I was running a camp, a kid called at 11:30 p.m. and actually asked me to make him a sandwich because he didn’t like the pizza and wings.
6. Resume: The player who knows what it’s like to go through a state title run, that’s valuable. The kid whose team improved each year, that’s valuable. A player’s overall skills and the state of his game when he leaves high school is a big key in predicting which way he’s trending. There’s a win/loss number on a prospect’s high school resume, and it should matter to him. College is not an AAU tournament. There isn’t always a “next game.”
7. Me guy or team guy? Many of the high-profile recruits view their time in college as a pit stop. They’ve got so many people (excluding their coaches) in their ear that they never unpack their bags. But even if you’re only going to be there one season, why not win a few games? Guys who act bigger than their teammates have a hard time making it when their talent level can’t overcome their locker room superiority complex. This goes for all players, whether they’re a four-year guy or a seven-month loaner en route to the league.
8. Basketball IQ: Take a spin around college basketball. Are the best teams among the turnover leaders? Does Duke take more bad shots than the last-place team in the ACC? A player’s on-court smarts dictate what position he can play, for how long and during what stretches of the game he can remain on the floor.
9. Overall Intelligence: Forgetting the guys who are too smart for their own good and think too much and react too little, being an intelligent person is also a basketball skill. From picking up plays to reading situations and people, it’s part of a player’s profile and it’s in his DNA.
10. What others think: If I called a player’s guidance counselor, will they sing his praises or be happy he’s graduating? When a prospect attends a camp, are the staff members complaining about how poorly they were treated or raving about how gracious that player has been? Are teammates and coaches turned off by a player’s attitude? Is a prospect an energy giver or taker? Those are all important questions and answers. Ask anyone in Winston-Salem what they think of Chris Paul or ask the staffs at Oak Hill and Montrose Christian what they think of Kevin Durant. Those kids made great impressions on everyone and opened up windows into their lives for all to see. The people you come into contact with are always eager to tell your story. Prospects need to make sure it’s the narrative they want written.