Commentary

Recruiting has lots of hits and misses

Updated: July 22, 2011, 11:44 AM ET
By Dana O'Neil | ESPN.com

NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. -- Recruiting is a lot like fishing. It takes patience. It takes skill and it takes dumb luck.

It doesn't take long for a coach to accrue his fair share of stories. There are both lovelorn tales about the recruit that jilted them and left them pining and boastful triumphs about the big fish they landed, the one everyone else thought should be tossed back into the pond.

During the EYBL Peach Jam, ESPN.com caught up with 15 head coaches. Here are their tales of woe and their epics of discovery:

[+] EnlargeTim Duncan
US PresswireTim Duncan might have become a Friar and changed the Big East for four seasons.

Rick Barnes, Texas

The one that got away: Tim Duncan. "We had him committed to Providence. We already had the full allotment but I knew we had a guy that was going to transfer, maybe two. I went to our athletic director and we went to the president, who was a priest at the time. I told him I wanted to sign Tim and he said, 'But you don't have a scholarship.' I said, 'I will.' He wouldn't let me sign him. Tim goes to Wake Forest and the other two guys transfer."

The best discovery: Royal Ivey. "He was being recruited by Marist, Rider and Boston University and Rob Lanier said, 'You need to come see this kid because I think he's pretty good."'

Mark Fox, Georgia

The one that got away: Derrick Williams. "We had him on an official visit to Nevada. I didn't think there was any way we would get him, but he visited."

The best discovery: JaVale McGee. "I remember my assistant said to me, 'I'm not sure, so you watch him and tell me if you think he's good enough.' I said, 'No. He's going to be a pro.' He didn't have a great game, but there were these two out-of-bounds plays and you could see he had great hands."

Darrin Horn, South Carolina

The one that got away: J.J. Barea. "We could have had him [when Horn was head coach at Western Kentucky] but I said, 'I don't know. He's kind of small.'"

The best discovery: Dwyane Wade. "I was a third assistant [at Marquette] at the time so I wasn't entirely involved, but I remember it well. No one saw this coming."

Ben Howland, UCLA

The one that got away: Kevin Love. "There are always more successes than failures, but the ones that really kill you are the guys you get and then they leave. I told Kevin that this year he led the NBA in rebounding as a college senior. That's pretty good."

The best discovery: Russell Westbrook. "Russell was under the radar, didn't sign early. I thought he'd be good, but did I think he'd be an all-pro? No, I'm not that smart."

Bob Huggins, West Virginia

The one that got away: Keith LeGree. "I saw him every day in July [when Huggins was coach at Cincinnati]. Every single day. And he went to Louisville." The good news: Two years later, LeGree transferred to Cincinnati.

The best discovery: Nick Van Exel. "He had two offers: New Mexico State and Cincinnati. He had played at Trinity Valley [Community College] and the team wasn't very good, so he wasn't looked at much."

Tom Izzo, Michigan State

The one that got away: Chris Webber. "I really thought we had him. I started following him [as an assistant at Michigan State] when he was in the eighth grade but then well, we all know what happened. I remember I was really bummed, but I also saw it coming."

The best discovery: Morris Peterson. "He wasn't even top 200, but it was my first recruiting class and he wanted to come. I had no idea he could be this good."

Kerry Keating, Santa Clara

The one that got away: Paul George. "He committed to us and then he changed his mind [and signed with Fresno State]. Two years later, he's a lottery pick."

The best discovery: Kevin Foster. "We beat exactly nobody to get him because nobody was recruiting him. I think King Rice [then a Vanderbilt assistant] watched him for a little while. He leads the nation in 3-pointers as a freshman."

[+] EnlargeDelonte West
Doug Pensinger/Getty ImagesDelonte West wasn't even considered the best player on his high school team.

Phil Martelli, Saint Joseph's

The one that got away: Lavoy Allen. "That one really hurt. It came down to us and Temple and when he went to Temple, it really tilted things in the Atlantic 10 and in Philadelphia."

The best discovery: Delonte West. "He was the second-best player on his high school team. Everyone was really looking at Eddie Basden."

Fran McCaffery, Iowa

The one that got away: Jay Williams. "We had a very good shot at him at Notre Dame (where McCaffery was an assistant), but then he just kept playing better and Duke turned on the heat."

The best discovery: Darren Queenan. "He had exactly one Division I offer -- ours. He ended up finishing second in Division I scoring in his senior year (at Lehigh, where McCaffery was head coach in 1988). He was a tweener, so he really wasn't recruited. We thought he was good. He ended up being instant coffee."

Josh Pastner, Memphis

The one that got away: Darren Collison. "Arizona was his dream school and we (Pastner was an assistant) just didn't pull the trigger. We weren't sure about him. All the credit in the world to Coach Howland for realizing how talented he was."

The best discovery: Jordan Hill. "He was probably ranked in the 200s. We thought he needed development but that he would develop and become something special."

Rick Pitino, Louisville

The one that got away: Rajon Rondo. "We took Sebastian Telfair instead. We should have waited. I always loved Rondo. He was at my camp every year, but a point guard had never gone directly to the NBA so I didn't see that coming with Telfair. And then not only did we lose [Rondo], we lost him to a bitter rival."

The best discovery: Nazr Mohammed. "He was probably the worst high school player I've ever seen. I remember I went to his high school and his coach said, 'Rick Pitino, what are you doing in my gym? Antoine Walker isn't walking through that door.'"

Mark Turgeon, Maryland

The one that got away: Adam Koch. "I was at Wichita State and had spent a lot of time recruiting Adam. Instead he went to Northern Iowa and became the player of the year."

The best discovery: Khris Middleton. "I liked him not just as a good player but for his character and he's become a great player for A&M."

Bruce Weber, Illinois

The one that got away: Derrick Rose. "I saw him in eighth grade at an AAU event, so that was tough. I really liked him and really liked his family."

The best discovery: Jimmy Oliver. "It was the last day of the recruiting period and I wanted to come home (Weber was a Purdue assistant at the time). I was tired but I went out and that was the day I saw Jimmy Oliver."

Roy Williams, North Carolina

The one that got away: "There are about a thousand. Dean [Smith] used to say, 'Don't worry, another one will come along.' For a long time I didn't believe him. I'd just think, 'This will kill our program,' but I've learned he was right."

The best discovery: Raef LaFrentz. "I had just buried my mom but I had to go to work, so I went to Winston-Salem for a camp for 17 and unders. I walked around the corner and I ran into Eddie Fogler. He said, "I just saw a kid that looks like a Kansas kid more than any player I've ever seen.' That night I watched Raef play for the first time. If I hadn't forced myself to go to work, who knows what happens?'"

Jay Wright, Villanova

The one that got away: Lionel Simmons. "We didn't take him. Rollie Massimino [then the Villanova head coach] said that we already had Barry Bekkedam at his position so we didn't need him. He becomes the national player of the year [at La Salle]."

The best discovery: Scottie Reynolds. "He dropped in my lap and was a first team All-American. That is probably the least amount of work I'll ever do in recruiting."

Dana O'Neil | email

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