INTERVIEW: St. Mary’s Coach Randy Bennett On International Recruiting In College Basketball

SM: So where do you guys go about getting video, player reports, and who’s doing well?  So in the US colleges start tracking guys in seventh, eighth, ninth grade.  When does that whole process start for you with international players?

RB: A little later because school starts for them a little later.  16, 17, so when they’re juniors.  We don’t start from the ninth grade or that early.  We find out about them in different ways, not really a recruiting service or anything like that.  We’ll go to events and see kids.  Like we’ve gone to U18 European Championships before.  So that’s what you need to figure early, which countries that kids won’t leave to come over here.

Spain is a tough one because they’re already pros from an early age.  Italy is a tough one.  There are always exceptions to the rule but those aren’t really great places to get a college player.  So you got to figure out which ones (countries) that it makes sense, they aren’t pros, they come from education, and they’d come to college if they had a chance.  You figure out those and start delving in on who their best young players are.  So that’s kinda how we’ve done it.  Then go see them and then establish a contact.  I would say we do that more than here, where there is a recruiting service.  We don’t really do it that way.

SM:  And you mentioned places like Spain and Italy that have some of the best basketball talent in the world but yet have pro leagues where guys can start playing at 16 or younger.  So then you have financial pressures, family pressures, and they’re playing in their home country.  If they had to come to the US a college coach might look at it like “I have to get a guy culturally ready to play in the US, a different playing style, maybe not used to playing a system, playing with any of these guys before or speaking this language”.  So do some of these college coaches look at it like there are too many hurdles to jump?  When in fact maybe there are or aren’t, but is that a mindset for some coaches?

So when you guys look at recruiting what I’d like to know is how international recruiting is different for coaches?  For instance the big guy Przemek Karnowski going to Gonazaga, he could have been a top 20 recruit in the US and Gonzaga doesn’t really get top 20 recruits.  But because they know the system better, they get him.

RB:  That’s how they get him, that’s how they get all these guys.  That’s how they get a difference maker, just like that.  Elias Harris is another one, Matt Dellevadova for us.  Now if you’re Carolina or Kentucky you don’t need to go outside the country.  You can just go recruit from the top AAU teams and around the country.  Some schools can do that.

The more you do it, the more experience you get, the better you get, you can make better decisions.  You can recognize a Karnowski, who if he were playing in our country would be a top 5 player.  You have an eye for that and you pounce on that when you have a chance.

SM: Your country has been going to Australia and in Australia it’s a really structured system.  You play in your region and if you’re really good you’ve got the Australian Institute of Sports (AIS).  And your going to Australia, that’s as big as the continental US, but has 20 million people.  So when you first look at it from recruiting standpoint, you must say wow how do I get around and see all these kids.  But then they centralize and almost anyone who’s good enough gets grabbed and brought to the institute.  So how did you start thinking of Australia, why did you continue and how much does the institute play a role in recruiting?

RB: Well we first started out because I took a job where we needed some guards.  And the level of player we could get in the Bay Area or in the west wasn’t what we wanted.  We couldn’t get in the door or have a conversation with the really good players.  I wasn’t going to take a lesser player because I knew that wasn’t going to take us to where we needed to go.

We were open to transfers, JC transfers, or anything at that time.  So we ended up taking Adam Caporn in late August, I think he was two days late for school, and I’d never seen him play.  I saw him on a DVD but really went on what the guy on the Institute had told me and what a buddy had told me about him.  And Adam ended up having a great attitude, being a great leader, and was a really exceptional student.  So we rolled the dice and that started us off.  So the success we had with him helped us with our next guy who ended up being Daniel Kickert.  He ended up becoming a three-time all-league player and from there we just stayed with it.

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