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

RB (cont.): The reason we stayed with it is because it was helping our program be successful when we could get a very good player.  We ended up getting a really good reputation as far as what we are doing with the kids from Australia.  We got a couple transfers and then we got (Patrick) Mills.  And when Mills came it kind of exploded a little bit.  Our games started getting broadcast and our ESPN games started getting covered in Australia.  With all we’d been doing, we started getting more exposure.  So people in Australia had an awareness of who we were, St. Mary’s basketball became a brand name there.

All the kids we took originally have been from AIS.  And I think the guy who was there, Marty Clark, was an exceptional coach.  He really understood players and did a super job developing kids.  The kids that came over here were really ready to play, appreciative, and most of them were good students.  They all understood that they had to represent their family and country the right way when they came over here.  So all those things helped to get a quality person and player.  We built on that and now AIS has changed.  Their philosophy has changed; they won’t all come through AIS anymore.  AIS is taking older kids now, so it won’t be the same anymore.  That changed about a year go.  So now that they’ve changed their rules, we’ll have to adjust our strategy.

SM: Specifically what’s changed?

RB: They don’t bring young kids in the Institute anymore.  They don’t bring 16, 17’s anymore, they’re bringing in 18 and 19 year olds.  Those are the same guys colleges kids are recruiting.  Before they’d bring them in, work with them, get them ready for the U19 World Championships, and then they’d leave. And the work the kids were getting there was getting them very well prepared.

So now instead of bringing them in at 16 or 17, it’s 18 or 19. It can be too late but it’s not necessarily too late.  If they’ve not had a school looking at a kid and he’s not on track academically, not prepared him for college, then it’s too late.  If you wait til they get to the Institute, it’s too late.

You know what I mean?  They’re older; they’ve graduated out of school.  You have to identify them before they get there.  The system has totally changed.

SM: That’s really interesting that it was such a structured system where they brought players in at 16 and 17, who are maintaining their college eligibility and making it perfect to come to college.  But now you’re almost recruiting against them.  The AIS has different motives, they’re doing this to turn these players into Olympic athletes for Australia.  But Australia is isolated that outside of summer tournaments it might be tough to play against outside competition and evolve as a player that way.  What’s behind the AIS thinking when they changed the rules and how it will affect players in their development?

RB: I don’t know, I can’t tell you, I can just tell you the system they had in place was good.  You couldn’t get a better deal for a guy 16 or 17.  You were getting the best weight training, best nutrition, best coaching, and they were playing against men.  They would play against men who were 25 or 26.

We have a ton of respect for their basketball, so we were very careful to just recruit guys out of AIS and not recruit guys away from going to AIS.  But the way it is now, no one can wait.  They’re taking them when they would be going to college and I’m not sure why they went to that.  One of the situations they run into is they had a great place for guys to play when they were 16 or 17 or 18 years old.  19, they aren’t ready for the pro league.  The pro league doesn’t want 18 or 19 year olds.  So the players need a place to go and college was perfect for that.

They could go play in the second level or maybe even the pro league and work their way up.  But they were better off going to college, playing four years, getting a degree, getting a great education and growing up.  They’d be playing against guys their age, 18 to 23.  Then after that they had options.  Play in Europe, play in NBA, go back to the NBL in Australia, and now they have a college.  So it was a great option for them in that age group.  And as you see a lot of their best guys on their Olympic team did this.  Patty Mills did, Andrew Bogut did, Matt Dellevadova did, Aleks Maric did, Aron Baynes did; a lot of them.

We’ve studied the whole Australia thing hard and they had a great system.  Everyone around the world kinda looked at it.

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5