Charlie Adams

How a Final Four College Coach Recruits

Muffet McGraw has recruited and coached so well that she has taken her last four teams to the Final Four. So when the Notre Dame head coach shares what she looks for in recruiting, it is valuable information.

McGraw brings in 5 star recruits on a regular basis and gets them to play unselfishly together every year. She shared her philosophy on what she looks for in a recruit in an interview with the Notre Dame Business Review magazine:

“I look closely at a recruit’s behavior on the court when I watch them play in high school,” McGraw told the Review. “Is she cheering for her teammates? Is she listening to the coach? I look closely at her relationship with her parents. When you go into her home, is the home a shrine to the child with awards and trophies everywhere?”

McGraw added more in her book “Courting Success.”

“So what impresses me on a home visit? I expect a prospect to look nice. She should be in appropriate attire, dressed neatly. I want her to make eye contact with me. I want her to ask questions. That shows interest. I want her to be assertive enough so that her parents don’t do all of the talking.

I really get a good picture of the kind of person I’m recruiting when I get to see the recruit interact with her mom and dad. I am interested in how much she respects her parents. I want to know whether or not she’s spoiled. I can learn a lot about how a recruit will be on our team just by looking at that relationship she has with her parents. I don’t think the parents should be waiting on the daughter all the time. I remember being in a home once when the doorbell rang and the daughter said, “Mom, are you going to get that?” And I was thinking, “Geez, you’re 18 years old, get off your butt and answer the door!”

Here’s one thing I always notice when a player and her parents visit us at Notre Dame. When they’re on campus, they always go to the bookstore to buy a souvenir, and I notice which ones ask, even demand, a credit card from their parents. A recruit who says, “Thanks so much, Dad, for the sweatshirt” or “No thanks, Mom, I really don’t need a sweatshirt” impresses me. It shows how much she appreciates what she has and shows what kind of person she is. These are just some little things I pay attention to that are cues into what kind of people they are, and the cues I’m sure they have no idea I’m noticing.

In terms of skills, I look for intensity. I also look at how they play defense. Young players rest on defense. I like players with pride. I look at a recruit’s face after someone scores on them. I hope it bothers her, because I guarantee it will bother me.

We look at ball handling and aggressiveness. Does she dive on the floor for loose balls? Does she crash for rebounds, or just sort of hang around the outside?  Does she sprint the floor every possession? Is she willing to take a charge? This is something that tells me she is a team player, she’s aggressive, and she’ll sacrifice her body for the team. This is the most unselfish act in basketball. At any summer game, if a player takes a charge, you’ll see all the coaches in attendance take out a pen and make note of it. A lot of great players don’t want to take a charge because ‘it’s not their job.

‘We look closely at attitude. What happens when the coach yells at her? Is she making eye contact? Is she sulking? Is she pouting? When a player gets in foul trouble, is she complaining to the referees? How is she when the team is losing? Is she yelling at her teammates?

Actually, I prefer to see a recruit’s team lose. When a team wins by 20, that’s easy. There’s no adversity. I like to see a player get into foul trouble. How does she handle the frustration? Does she possess self-discipline? I’ve noticed that with girls you have to see them play a lot to get a feel for them. They can be up and down. You can see a player on a great day, and on a bad day. The difference is striking. It can be the difference between offering her a scholarship and wondering why she was on my list in the first place.”

“This may surprise some people, but I don’t look at a lot of statistics. When I do, I look at percentages rather than actual numbers. A player can average 27 points in high school, but it could be because she takes 30 shots. I look at free throw percentage a lot. That’s how I determine good shooters. A player who is shooting 50 or 60 percent from the line is not a good shooter. Period.

I observe their overall communication patterns with teammates. I watch free throw huddles. I watch what happens when the team is losing. Who’s positive? I watch their demeanor on the court. When they come out of a game, do they cheer for their teammates, or are they just waiting to get back in the game? I want leaders. These are really character issues more than basketball skills. Then of course, there are the God-given abilities – speed and size.

A lot of times I’ll see reports that I’m “recruiting someone.” Well, it depends on your definition of “recruiting someone.” I’m sending out hundreds of letters, but I’m certainly not “recruiting” hundreds of players. And players are getting letters from everyone. It doesn’t mean they’re getting scholarship offers. A player should also know that a school’s interest is serious and genuine when she begins to receive personal, hand-written notes from the head coach. If the head coach comes to see you play in your junior year, you’re in pretty good shape, though this is not always true. Sometimes I’ll see a prospect’s name on a lot of lists, so I’ll put her on my list, too. Then I see her play, and she’s just not what I’m looking for. But, generally, if the coach is there, it’s a good sign.

Young athletes need to ask better questions during the recruiting process. The one question players don’t ask is the most obvious one: Are you offering me a scholarship? It amazes me that they never ask that!

I have known McGraw since 1988 and have seen her consistently bring in top quality young women who can play the game, excel in the classroom and get involved in community service work. I hope these insights from her help you in your recruiting.

Charlie Adams

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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. His son was a college athlete, his oldest daughter will be a freshman college swimmer starting this fall, and his youngest daughter is very involved in AAU travel team basketball as a 5th grader. Since 2005 Charlie 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. For more information you can reach him at or go to

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