Saturday, April 28, 2012

Georgia Basketball Recruiting

I have kept relatively quiet on this blog (although not on the hoops board) about my thoughts regarding Fox's recruiting.  Why?  Because it's not a simple topic. It requires a longer post than I've been interested in writing.

Let's start with the positive
The 2012 class has a few nice players in Charles Mann, Kenny Gaines and Brandon Morris.  They are more athletic and explosive than some of our recent signees, and they are going to help us down the road.  Charles Mann in particular is intriguing given his height and size to potentially play PG.

However, the big man recruiting continues to be an absolute dumpster fire.

Rather than jump into why things are they are...I would first strongly encourage you to read Dean Legge's article about Fox's AAU recruiting.  It's a must read if you follow this topic. Having read that...let's talk about Fox's recruiting overall.

Let's start with the Korey McCray issue. The worst thing for Fox was to have Parker sign with UCLA.  He would've been much better off had he inked with Kansas or Duke.  Inking with UCLA and Korey McCray says loudly what I've been saying quietly for a while which is...

Fox's recruiting struggles are entirely avoidable. 
And they are entirely of his own creation.

As you probably know by know, Korey is an assistant coach with UCLA.  As Dean Legge said, Korey grew up playing AAU ball in Atlanta 20 years ago.  He has been in and around the basketball scene in this state for almost his entire life.

He played his college ball for Mark Slonaker at Mercer and coached with Slonaker at Mercer before later working as a graduate assistant at FSU.  Slonaker is currently the radio color man for UGA and one of our top fundraisers for athletics. So, it's not like UGA didn't know who Korey was.

Korey has a masters degree in Adult Education from FSU, and his undergrad is from Mercer.  He has also been the CEO and Head Coach at various times for the bulk of the past 10 years with the Atlanta Celtics...the state's premier AAU program which his father founded in 1990.

I was told years ago by a reliable source that Korey began lobbying for an assistant coaching position at UGA before Coach Felton was terminated.  Over the subsequent years, he was apparently not offered an opportunity to coach at UGA so he packed his bags for UCLA.  At UCLA he pulled two of the top prospects from this state's recruiting class in Jordan Adams (4 stars) and Tony Parker (5 stars). 

Various reports have said unequivocally that Jordan Adams, a one time a UGA prospect, would not have signed with UCLA had Korey McCray not been on staff.  Following the Tony Parker press conference last week, I was told that Parker spent more time talking about McCray than he did talking about head coach Ben Howland.

Why bring that up now?
We hired a coach from Nevada with zero ties to the Southeastern US.  His first hire of Phillip Pearson was smart.  Coach Pearson has Gottfried's top recruiter at Alabama, and was known in the area.  His second hire was Stacey Palmore from Va Tech.  Palmore, a hard worker, was the top recruiter at Virginia Tech with some responsibilities for Atlanta.

Let's just pause right here.  Quickly name all the great VT basketball players over the past 10 years.  Being the best recruiter at a school that lacks any real recruiting juice, isn't exactly the kind of resume you need to blast open an ATL to Athens talent pipeline. And the crazy thing...various reports suggest Palmore is our top recruiter.

Fox's other hires are Kwanza Johnson who has great ties to Oklahoma and Nevada recruiting. And his Director of Operations is Kent Davidson.  Davidson's last job was head basketball coach of the Qatar National team.  Prior to that he was head coach for 10 seasons in the NBA Development League. recruiting ties to the Southeast.

Fox is a very strong X and Os guy.  But you can't make chicken salad without chicken.

So there sits Korey McCray.  Korey apparently isn't good enough for UGA, but he's good enough for UCLA.  Wrap your head around that briefly. Then step back and think...why in the hell would you not want to hire a smart, charismatic young coach, with a Masters Degree who has known the state's top recruits and their parents since they were around 12 years old.

In case you are curious, Shaq Goodwin also played for the Celtics.

My question isn't...."Why didn't we hire Korey McCray?  My question is...why haven't we hired THREE Korey McCrays."  The blue print is right there. There's nothing remotely sleazy about it.  It's common  sense.

Until Fox staffs for recruiting excellence, he'll recruit at his current pace.

Fox's recruiting overall is NOT terrible.  
It's just not good enough quickly enough.

The current recruiting pace won't blast the ceiling off this program.  Additionally, Fox's life is about to get much tougher with Frank Martin at South Carolina. The Gamecocks don't have the in state talent base to win at the level Martin will demand, and he is known as a bare knuckles recruiter.  SC can't go north for talent, and they can't go East.  If they want players, Martin will have to come through Georgia and likely directly to Atlanta.  Just like every other coach within 500 miles is doing.

Fox made progress with this class, and he does deserve credit for signing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.  But he hasn't made enough progress fast enough to break away from the pack.  Something has to change and it has to change fast, or he will have no one to blame but himself at his exit interview.

I'm pulling for the guy because I like his offense, and because hiring his replacement would be a nightmare.  But it is what it is.  He's got to step it up.


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