Recruiting is a weird game. Coaches say what recruits want to hear and recruits hear what they want to hear. It is a world filled with perceptions and false realities. Built up by both the universities that are doing the recruiting and the recruits that are creating perceptions based on points of view.
However, that is how it is. It is a game. Recruiting for another game. And the reality is that for most 4 to 5 star recruits winning and losing isn’t all that important for the team that is recruiting them.
A team that is winning seems to naturally sell it self. Coaches can pitch, “See, this is what you can be a part of next year! A winning program.” However, a losing team the pitch is just as strong, if not stronger, “See, we need you. If you came to this team, we would be championship caliber.”
Recruits love it. Either pitch.
And right now those pitches are being thrown at recruits left and right. Let’s take a look at a couple of the top recruits left in the top 100 just to get a feel of these two strategies.
Shabazz Muhammad lists UCLA, Kansas, Kentucky, UNLV, Duke and USC. This is an interesting case because Kentucky is the #1 overall seed in the country. Duke and Kansas are both two seeds and UNLV is a sixth seed. However, there are two teams; UCLA and USC that are not even in the tournament and the Trojans have struggled for the entire season.
The common link between all of the schools are that everyone is a high major and perceptions of each school is high. Not just in basketball but as a school.
Muhammad would know that at Kentucky he will go to a program that is winning and has been for the last few years. If he goes to UCLA or USC he could be the reason it has a big turnaround.
Anthony Bennett is down to 5; Florida, Kentucky, UNLV, Washington, and Oregon. He is also looking at a similar situation with two of those schools being on the outside looking in on the NCAA tournament. Yet, he sent out a series of tweets to fans asking that Washington was still in his top 5 and that it didn’t change anything that they didn’t make the cut.
Why wouldn’t it change anything? Because the perception is that Washington is just a piece away from making an NCAA run in the tournament. That piece could very well be Anthony Bennett according to any good recruiter.
The perception of a school is what matters, not the actual fact of winning or losing. Sure, a recuit wants to win and wants to win big but if they believe they can make it happen at a school, than that school could be his choice.
Recruiting is a game in and of itself and don’t always look at the win and loss record of a team to decide where a recruit is going. It may be just the opposite.