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Countdown To Signing Day; Making The Right Decision

By Jason Wilkins @LBInsider, 09/30/18, 9:45AM EDT


As signing day 2019 approaches so does new transfer legislation that aims to simplify and add transparency to the process for student-athletes looking to rescind their initial decision and find a “better” situation.  The legislation will include an NCAA database that lists every student-athlete who has notified their athletics department of their intent to transfer.  In an off-season that saw a record number of relocations accompanied by the ever-present social media announcement, it begs the question: Will the transfer phenomenon continue to trend up or down?

Through research and many conversations with parents, recruits and college coaches I am going to weigh in on “pre decision-making” factors that point to your name ending up in the database and “pre decision-making factors” that will increase your chances of making a solid four-year decision. 

Recruits: What are you looking for in a school/program?

You’ve most-likely all been asked this question and the most common answers range from a family feel, getting along with players and coaches, and the opportunity to play right away.  This is a question that only you can answer, but you have to be honest about your expectations. 

Let’s cut to the chase and discuss what it really boils down to playing time and winning.  Most players being recruited are used to playing significant minutes. It could feel like an episode of the Cosby Show, but if you are sitting on the bench it is going to be a hard transition.  A Power 5 offer is nice, but some recruits may need to look at a school outside of the Power 5 if immediate impact is important.

As a freshman, playing significant minutes is rare.  Most teams that rely on freshmen are rebuilding and winning may take time. If you are not accustomed to the ups and downs of losing you will be miserable and we’ll see you in the database.  Now here’s the tough part, you may actually be content being an impact player that gets numbers on a losing team, but be honest with yourself about what you can handle.  If in one year you are talking about we can’t win here your “pre decision-making” factors were misguided and we’ll see you in the database.  

Study the roster.  Who is in front of you and what do their minutes and production look like.  Do you want to compete for time, are you willing to wait your turn and enjoy winning with a minimal role over losing with a bigger role? Does playing with other good players intimidate you or does it excite you? Recruits these are questions that you and only you need to answer for yourself. 

Family Feel:
If you’re looking for a family feel, which every coach in the country promotes, then on your visit watch how the players interact with the coaches.  If someone is bad-mouthing a program consider the source.  Are they disgruntled over playing time, do they not like being held accountable, or is there truly an issue.  Transfers don’t always equal bad coaches, sometimes it just equals a misguided decision by someone who fell in love with the name of the school over the circumstance of the school.  At the same time, multiple transfers from a program with a longstanding head coach can be a huge red flag. 

Listen to both sides of the story.  Ask the coach directly why players have transferred and if you have the means, ask the players or their former HS or AAU coaches.  If the reason they transferred resonates with you as something that would make you likely to do the same it’s time to run in the other direction and pick another school that will keep you out of the database. 

Style of Play:
After researching their roster, it’s time to do your homework and get to the film room.  I’ve seen great players pick the wrong system and look like average players at the college level.  If you want the freedom to play and struggle to remember plays then picking a system that runs a lot of sets will be a disastrous choice.  If you are a cerebral kid that struggles to manufacture your own shot, then playing in a system where they run a lot of actions should be a great choice.  If the coach is defensive minded and you can’t guard a parked car, see you in the database.  If the offense always runs through one person and you are used to having the ball in your hands, find out if you will ever be that person or see you in the database. 

This should be easy.  Get online, set your DVR and when you can make those unofficial visits to take in a game. Sit behind the bench and listen to how the coach talks to players.  Can you handle their temperament? Does a laid-back coach suit you or do you need someone aggressive to get you motivated? Look to see if you can identify similarities in yourself in any of the players on the team, it may be a system you can thrive in and thus a solid 4-year decision. 

Who’s in Your Circle?
For some recruits, this decision is a family decision only.  For others, you are relying heavily on the guidance of your coaches, a family friend or may even be basing your decision on a teammate that has convinced you that you should attend the same school.

Figure out who the people in your decision-making circle have an allegiance to and why.  If it’s family their allegiance should be to you, if not, DAMN.  However, there are some coaches, trainers, “friends,” that have an allegiance to a school because of a previous relationship, a fiduciary benefit, or their own interest of living vicariously.  If you ever discover their allegiance is based on more than your best interest than it’s time to re-evaluate your circle. I’ve rarely seen the whole “I want to play with my friend” thing turns out.  Friends come and go, but this decision will set you up for the rest of your life.  If that means you happen to end up at a place with a known friend great, but understand that you will make new friends at whatever college you choose. 

In 4 Years I’m Making Another Decision, How Will You Prepare Me?
College should not be your final destination, rather a means to higher part of your journey.  If you’re not looking through the lens of how a program can help prepare you for beyond your 4 years then you are misguided.  For some, your basketball career will continue and this decision may be easy, but for most, you will be thrown into the real world and forced to create a living on your own. 

If you are part of the elite few where a professional career looks promising, research how many pros they have sent to the WNBA and overseas.  For most, you should be looking at the quality of education, job placement, and graduate school success rates.  Do they have a supportive alumni base, do they employ their own or assist their own through graduate assistant opportunities. 

Trust the facts, make a decision that is best for YOU and expect that there will be adversity anywhere you go and sometimes you need to grow through it.