Thursday, July 12, 2012
Larry Brown hits recruiting trail for SMU
By Andy Katz, ESPN.com
After spending the first full day of the July evaluation period on Thursday watching games in Philadelphia, SMU coach Larry Brown is off to Indianapolis this weekend, where he'll work with his assistant and coach-in-waiting Tim Jankovich to identify and contact recruits.
It's a far cry from the last time Brown was out recruiting when he was head coach at Kansas in the 1980s.
"They had one tournament then," said Brown. "They had the Nike camp at Princeton. And when you're at Kansas or UCLA or North Carolina, you're looking at only a few players. Now, I'm looking at 4,000."
OK, so maybe not that many.
But Brown is at SMU, and while the Mustangs are leaving Conference USA after this season to head to the Big East, SMU still isn't in the same pool that Brown used to swim in.
"I sat with Bill Self and John Calipari in Virginia [in April, one of the two weekends coaches were allowed to be out], and they weren't looking at the same guys I was looking at," Brown said. "Your taste is a little different."
The timing of Brown's foray back into college basketball is perfect considering a new rule that allows coaches access to their players while they're enrolled in summer school. Players and staff were kept separate in the offseason, but now they can practice two hours a week. This is a major development in keeping access for college coaches when players need to be monitored and coached the most. It also plays into Brown's greatest strength as a coach: on-court instruction.
"It has been phenomenal," Brown said. "When you're starting a new program … this has been such a blessing to be able to work with your kids prior to the season. I feel pretty fortunate with that.
"I like to teach. That's why I came back. But I've got to be realistic. We're going into the Big East, and there will be tremendous talent. We've got to upgrade it as much as we can. We have to coach them up and make them better."
SMU had one guard who would be considered a Big East-level talent in Arizona transfer Josiah Turner, who played one season at Arizona and averaged 6.8 points and 2.4 assists. He was also suspended twice by coach Sean Miller. However, Turner didn't want to go to school and left SMU before he started, opting to pursue a professional career.
"We talked for a long time, and he doesn't want to go to school," said Brown. "I said then go to JC for a year, so you don't have to sit and then play. But he said, 'Coach, I don't want to go to class.' I was trying to help him with the D-League, but if you don't put your name in the draft, you can't play in the summer league. There are agents all over him, but I was trying to help and guide him. Hopefully he won't go to Europe. Hopefully he can get in the D-League and play."
Brown said the most impressive thing he's seen so far on the recruiting trail during a few snapshots in April and the first 24 hours of the July evaluating period is the overall athleticism.
"The kids are unbelievably athletic. It's amazing," Brown said. "But there's a whole different mentality now. They are playing more games in the summer and the spring and in the fall than they do in high school. They play too many games. I feel bad for the kids. But talent-wise, it's the athleticism that's unbelievable.
"I just hope I have a chance to coach some of them," Brown said. "And teach them the right way to play."