UNC Coach Roy Williams on what recruits do to attract his interest
Roy Williams is in his 11th season as the head coach of the Tar Heels and 26th as a college head coach. ESPN, Sports Illustrated, Sporting News and Fox Sports named him the Coach of the Decade for 2000-2009 as he led Kansas and Carolina to 33 NCAA Tournament wins in that span, eight more than any other coach.
Williams shares valuable recruiting insights in his book HARD WORK (Algonquin Books), which I have read. I highly recommend it, and wanted to share with you some of the parts that specifically deal with recruiting.
Williams started his rise through coaching ranks as an assistant coach at North Carolina. He worked the Tar Heels’ summer camps, then coached by the legendary Dean Smith. Williams writes about how they always wanted to get top prospects to their summer camps so they could watch them in person – and possibly offer a scholarship.
Williams had heard from trusted sources about an up-and-coming young player named Michael Jordan, and invited him to a summer camp. After watching Jordan’s every move during his first scrimmage, Williams told the rest of the staff that Jordan was the best 6’4′ player he had ever seen. Williams writes that Dean Smith had breakfast with Jordan one day, lunch another, and offered Jordan a scholarship before the end of the camp. Jordan didn’t accept the offer, but when he attended the prestigious Five Star camp, he found he had a new shadow: Roy Williams.
“When Jordan went to one court, I followed him. When he moved to another court, I followed him. It was like there was nobody else there. I watched every step he took.”
The next year, Jordan signed with North Carolina.
Williams was an assistant coach at North Carolina for many years, then served as Head Coach at tradition-rich Kansas. He returned to UNC in 2003 to be Head Coach there, and has won two National Championships (and counting) since then. In his book, he writes at length about recruiting:
“I recruit through a process of elimination. If I see a big guy who can’t run, I don’t recruit him because I want our team to run. If I see a point guard who can shoot, but has no savvy, I won’t recruit him, because I need a point guard who makes great decisions. Whenever I go out and recruit, I’m thinking, ‘This is the way I want to play. Can that kid do what I want him to do?’”
“If I am there to watch one individual, I’ll watch every move he makes. If I’m watching a group of players at an All-Star Camp, I wait for somebody to jump out at me and I’ll write his number down on my pad every time he does something I like. One summer I was at a tournament in Louisville and they had four games going at the same time. My assistants had me watching a player on Court 2. Every time the play would stop on my court, I would glance over to Court 3, and number 34 was just killing people. I kept writing down the number 34 over and over. He was so outrageous with his effort and rebounding and how he could run. At some point in the second half I just turned away from my court and started watching number 34. That player’s name was Richard Scott and he ended up being a three-year starter for me at the Kansas.”
Of course, at a top-tier basketball program like the University of North Carolina, a coach has to make talent his number one priority to field a competitive team. Character is his number two priority – ahead of Academics.
“I once had an elementary school principal in Wichita, Kansas, tell me, ‘Coach, I wish you’d say academics is the second priority.’ “No, ma’am,’ I said, “because if he’s a great player and a 4.0 student but he’s going to be a pain in the rear end, I want it to be somebody else’s rear end.”
“I remember going to recruit Marvin Williams, and in one game he had 36 points. But that wasn’t what sold me on him. Marvin fouled out of that game, and while the crowd was giving him a standing ovation, he walked over to the end of the bench and grabbed five cups of water and handed them to the five guys who were going back into the game. I said to myself, ‘I really want this kid.’”
“They have to be kids that I’m going to enjoy being around every day. Since I became a head coach, I’ve had three recruits visit campus that my players thought wouldn’t fit in, so I stopped recruiting all three.”
At the Division One level, recruiting is so competitive that coaches like Williams go all-out to let their top prospects know how much they want them.
“During warm-ups before we (Kansas) played the 1991 national championship game against Duke, I went around the corner from our locker room to a phone and made a recruiting call to Jason Kidd.”
“Shane Battier had the most organized recruitment I’ve ever been involved in. He selected six schools and said he was going to have phone calls every Monday night. Each coach had 15 minutes. I made the phone call every Monday at 9:30.”
Recruiting has accelerated over the years, with coaches identifying prospects at an earlier stage than ever before. Williams writes about it.
“The whole thing is an insane experience. Players are being recruited when they are still just kids. There are guys in 9th and 10th grade thinking about making commitments, and our admissions office will say, ‘How can we decide if a kid should come to college when he hasn’t taken sophomore English?’”
HARD WORK is out in paperback and it has a lot of valuable content that would benefit parents coaches and athletes, especially those who have set playing Division I as their goal. The book also has a companion website with more resources. The video on Coach Williams’ background is inspiring, and will motivate young people to understand the power of a hard work ethic.
Charlie Adams was a sports anchor for 23 years, where he saw many families struggle with the recruiting process because of a lack of education on the subject. Charlie is a supporter of NCSA’s message of Athleadership and often speaks on the recruiting process. Since 2005 he has been a motivational speaker with his keynotes and seminars often being bases on sports-related themes. Corporate leaders that bring him in as a speaker often tell him that they seek to hire former college athletes because those athletes bring the ability to manage time, lead, compete, set and reach goals, and work as team players because of their college athletics background. Charlie has written four books on peak performance and the power of attitude. For more information on his programs go to StokeTheFireWithin.com