Protecting Home Turf

Hunter Mickelson

More and more controlling your home turf is the key to recruiting.

Location is everything in real estate, and more and more that is becoming the case in the world of college basketball recruiting. Coaches all across the country are doing everything they can to keep the best players in their key in-state cities home, and on tomorrow's signing day that will be especially evident.

When looking at the top classes in the country it becomes very clear that protecting your home turf is extremely important. No place is that more evident than in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Upon being named the Head Coach of the Razorbacks following the 2007 season, John Pelphrey knew he had a big task ahead of him to bring Arkansas back to the top, but three young prospects were emerging, and Pelphrey knew they would be the key.

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Pelphrey immediately went to work on the recruiting trail watching Aaron Ross, Hunter Mickelson, and Rashad Madden who all were teammates on the Arkansas Wings. While the trio was only playing 14-and under basketball the first time Pelphrey saw them, the trio would quickly become a priority.

In March of 2008 Pelphrey landed a commitment from Ross, who is now a four-star small forward, and though Mickelson and Madden would take much longer to come on board, Ross' presence combined with a strong effort from the Razorback coaches eventually was enough to convince the trio to stay together for the next four years. Madden ended up being the gem of a group, and is considered a four-star shooting guard, while Mickelson also reached four-star status as a power forward.

Buoyed by keeping his three key targets inside the state, Pelphrey was able to add some other pieces to the puzzle to give the Razorbacks a top five class, and an extremely bright future.

While Pelphrey was getting it done in Arkansas over a long period of time, Mike Rice and the Rutgers coaching staff had to get things together quickly. Taking over the program following the 2010 season, Rice saw an opportunity to capitalize on the talent boom in New Jersey along with the always fertile recruiting ground of New York City.

In order for Rice to get the ball rolling at Rutgers he knew that the Playaz Basketball Club AAU program was a key. The Playaz were one of the most successful squads on the summer circuit, and more importantly had talented and uncommitted players. After trailing the squad the entire month of July, Rice's hard work paid off. Four-star power forward Derrick Randall came on board on August 1 and then only a month later high scoring point guard Myles Mack also joined in.

Along with those two from the state of New Jersey, Rice dipped in to the New York City area grabbing shooting guard Mike Taylor, and maybe most importantly power forward Kadeem Jack, who has the potential to be an immediate impact guy.

Thanks to those four prospects who decided to stay close to home, Rice and his staff now have a lot of momentum in the area, and a lot to look forward to in coming years.

Bringing in big local hauls like the ones Rutgers and Arkansas did are important, but maybe just as big is keeping the one singular elite talent in the area home for school. There are clear examples of that this year, and no two are more noticeable than at the University of Memphis and the University of Arizona.


Thomas Stayed Close To Home
Josh Pastner has absolutely made it his mission to build a fence around the city of Memphis and keep the best players home. He did it successfully in the 2010 class, but in 2011 there was an even bigger prize out there, and it was Adonis Thomas. Also unlike the members of his 2010 class, who many assumed were staying in Memphis regardless, Thomas seemed to like the idea of taking his services to a different part of the country.

After entertaining recruiting pitches from schools such as Florida, Arkansas, Tennessee, and UCLA, Thomas decided that it was in his best interest to stay close to home and play for the Tigers. By securing the top 10 prospect Pastner made it clear that Memphis is now his city, and that getting a player from him in his backyard is going to be tough. While Thomas is the only commitment for Pastner, and his class doesn't have the high rankings that it did last year due to numbers, he surely going to be just as happy this singing day.

Like Pastner, Sean Miller is looking to keep his key in-state targets home. In 2010 he did it with Daniel Bejarano, and then once again in 2011 Nick Johnson was the focus. From the moment Miller took the job in April of 2009, Johnson was his number one target. In a state that doesn't historically produce a ton of talent, the Phoenix native was a must get for Miller. Johnson had an opportunity to play at a number of schools including Arizona State, Louisville, Kansas, Ohio State, Oklahoma, and Wake Forest, but in the end in the in-state Wildcats won out, and Miller accomplished a big goal of keeping the super athletic combo guard close to home.

Those are just some of the examples of coaches protecting their home turf this year. Definitely there are many more. As always the University of Illinois was a force in Chicago getting four commitments from the Windy City, Mississippi State landed their top in-state target in Rodney Hood along with two other high level targets from within the borders, and also give credit to Anthony Grant and the Alabama Crimson tide for locking up Levi Randolph and Rodney Cooper who both could have an immediate impact on their home state school.

Overall it has never been more clear that in order to win the recruiting wars, and in turn win on the floor, a head coach has to control his home turf.

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