Three things that former Arizona head basketball coach Lute Olson looked for during the athletic recruiting process

Three things that Arizona head coach Lute Olson looks for in a basketball recruitA while back I had the chance to read the book Lute!: The Seasons of My Life (Click the link for more information).  What this book details is the story of current Arizona head basketball coach Lute Olson.  While he has been out of the game for a few years now, it was a very interesting read.  .

This longtime Wildcat coach has won a national championship and is in the basketball Hall of Fame.  As a major Division I coach over the last twenty plus years, he has seen the recruiting landscape change in a number of different ways.  But in one portion of his book, he talked about three things when they recruit a player.  And when thinking about all three factors, these apply to any recruits going through the recruiting process.

Here is an excerpt from the book and I will talk about them more in-depth afterwards as well:

Generally, when we get interested in recruiting a player, we try to determine how well he’ll fit into our system.  We look for three things: Is this person physically able to play at our level?  Is this person going to be successful in the classroom and do the things on the court that we expect?  Finally, does he have the character to represent us in the community?  Every coach in every sport would say this: we look for good people who can play basketball.  The one program I can speak for is the University of Arizona’s: Character matters.  We don’t recruit players, no matter how talented, who might prove disruptive to the team.  We try to be very thorough in learning everything possible about a potential recruit.  We don’t just talk to his high school coach; we’ll speak to his counselors and we’ll talk to other coaches in his league because we may get a very different report from them.  We might even talk to the custodian.  High school custodians often have a real sense of what’s going on in their schools.  That’s what we usually do.

Is this person physically able to play at our level?
As I have said before, talent trumps everything in the recruiting process.  Coaches want the best players that they can possibly get so that they can win games.  When they win games, they will get the opportunity to move up as a coach and earn more money.  While they may love coaching basketball, getting paid millions of dollars each year to do it is not all that bad.  Schools like Duke, North Carolina, Arizona, and many others will pass on the best players if they don’t meet the next two standards.  But as I have seen time and time again, if a recruit can play, some of the shadier coaches will look past some things so that they can help them win games.  That is what really matters.

Is this person going to be successful in the classroom and do the things on the court that we expect?
With the NCAA pushing APR numbers over the last few years, it is important for all programs to be able to get athletes who can succeed in the classroom.  Many Division I coaches even have the APR rate tied into their contract so it is vital that these athletes take care of business in the class room as well as on the court.  As for doing the things that they expect on the court, Olson is not looking for someone who is going to shoot the ball every time he touches it.  They are looking for someone who will buy into the system and give up individual glory for the sake of the team.  While the best athletes will get that individual glory, you may need to defer early in your career to an older player.

Does he have the character to represent us in the community?
I am willing to bet that college coaches do not want their reputation hurt by recruiting athletes who constantly get in trouble off the court.  With the expansion of the Internet and digital cameras, it seems more and more athletes are making headlines via different websites.  That is why coaches love to recruit athletes with good grades so that they don’t have to worry about them as trouble makers.  If they can, coaches would love to go to sleep and not have to worry about that 3 AM phone call saying that one of their players were arrested.  This also includes public appearances (More a Division I thing) and autograph signings.  Being able to trust your players is a huge factor for coaches.

These are three factors that Olson looks into for each and every recruit.  If the kid is extremely talented, they may look the other way on academics and character.  But when it comes down to it, they may actually be making a mistake.  For those going through the recruiting process, keep these three things in mind.  Coaches will look at your ability, academics, and character.  Those three things could be the difference between getting a scholarship at State University or you going to the Junior College.

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