Recruiting: Learn to take the good with bad.
I'm undoubtedly showing my age here, but with the recent announcement by 5-Star Point Guard, DJ Carton, that he will be attending Ohio State University, and the ensuing near meltdown by some of the Hoosier fans on various message boards following that announcement, I'm reminded that I am in fact an "old guy."
I've followed recruiting for the better part of 40 years now, and like others like me, over the course of that time I've experienced many highs, and many lows. Recruiting is just another aspect of being a fan that can be heart wrenching if you let it be. It's exciting to be involved with some of the top recruits, and battling some of the top teams in college basketball for those recruits. But once again, for as exciting and rewarding as it can be, it can also be nerve wracking and extremely disappointing.
As I seem to be often lately, I was once again reminded of my age and how long I've been following recruiting while following the Romeo Langford recruitment. If you are a member of any of the various sites that cover Indiana University like I am, you can relatively easily identify the fans who are new to the recruiting game. The ebb and flow of emotions during any recruitment can drive you crazy if you let it. But when it involves a recruit not only as good as, but also as important as Langford was, then throw in the recruitment going the distance to the spring signing period, and you have a recipe that is not for the faint of heart.
I was beyond nervous when Langford stood at the podium in his high school gymnasium with me and hundreds of other hopefuls looking on and hanging on his every word. As you all are well aware, me and those hundreds of fans, the entire state of Indiana, and Hoosier fans around the world were rewarded with the words, "I'm going to continue my education and basketball career at Indiana." Naturally those words were met with an eruption of applause and cheers, and also a sense of relief.
Fast forward to the Carton recruitment. Most of the talk centered around Michigan and Indiana being the believed leaders as July drew near, with Ohio State also being mentioned. Michigan and Indiana received official visits in the same week and it was widely rumored that IU may have pulled even in this recruitment. Ohio State followed with an official visit and it was reported that somewhere around July 25th an announcement would be coming, and the belief was it was still a neck and neck race between the Hoosiers and the Wolverines, with the Buckeyes lurking in the shadows. Carton saw what he was most looking for in a college program on that visit to Columbus and went ahead and declared his intentions to attend Ohio State and play for Chris Holtmann.
The reactions on the message boards clearly pointed out the members who have the understanding that as cliche as it may sound, more times than not it's true, you win some and you lose some, and the ones who don't. Each player is different, and is looking for something different. No matter which of his three finalists Carton chose, none were his home state (Iowa) school, which if they had been can play a big factor. Playing time as a freshman can also be a factor for a player, and it has been speculated that it played a part in this recruitment. Why doesn't really matter one way or the other in the end. The real beauty for me in recruitments like this is the fact that Indiana is in the mix for players of this caliber.
My advice to anyone new to the recruiting world as a fan is this: There are people very in-tune with each program and will offer up any info they can without jeopardizing their sources. Learn who they are, listen to what they say, and sometimes how they say it. Don't just pick out the parts that best suit what you want to hear, or what you want to happen. There are always people on message boards who claim to have inside info, or are just trolls trying to stir up trouble. But if info is offered up, and it is credible info, the powers that be will confirm or shoot down this info, whichever the case may be.
Indiana has the right coach and coaching staff to recruit at a very high level. They're not going to get each recruit they go after, no one does, not even the Dukes and the Kentucky's do. But I strongly believe they're going to get more than their fair share. Don't let your sanity hinge on each and every recruit and their recruitment. My three biggest pet peeves with newcomers to the recruiting world as fans is the fan who claims "we didn't want him anyway." If the staff has invested time and effort into a recruitment like the two examples I mentioned above, then yeah, "we" wanted that recruit. I also loathe the "fan" and I use that term loosely, that takes to Twitter and the message boards to bash an 18 year old kid that just made the biggest decision of his or her young life. And last but not least, the "fan" that questions the recruiting ability of the Indiana University coaching staff to seal the deal...especially this early in their tenure.
Try and enjoy the part of being a fan than can be the craziest sometimes. Try and take the good with the bad. Try and value the info from the experts. Get out and see some of these kids play for yourself, and wear your IU gear when you do. Trust the coaches that have yet to give you a reason not to trust them. Following recruiting can be fun if you let it be. But whatever you do, don't allow yourself to need to be talked down from the ledge following a recruiting miss, because I promise you, the next "must get" recruit is right around the corner, and in no time he will be better than the one that got away.
#GO BIG RED