Continuous cycle keeps Smith busy

During a three-week period last April, just days after being hired, the Minnesota coaching staff was aggressively targeting recruits, trying to make up for the time lost in the recruiting process with the coaching change.

Mondays through Thursdays, the coaching staff was up at 7 a.m. and home by 11 p.m., spending full days at the basketball office in Bierman Athletic Building, trying to pinpoint potential recruits.

Fridays, the staff would fly across the country to see potential players in amateur tournaments, before returning Monday and continuing the cycle on into the next week.

Such is the life of a college basketball coach these days.

With coaches around the country trying their best to woo prospective players to their schools, recruiting has turned into an everyday, around-the-clock job.

“You are always looking and calling and trying to recruit. It’s a never-ending thing,” assistant coach Saul Smith said.

Tubby’s philosophy

When Gophers head coach Tubby Smith and his staff travel across the country into the homes of potential recruits, they look for the best student-athletes possible.

“I don’t know if there is a science to it, other than you want to find men of character, men of quality and that are capable of helping us win,” Tubby Smith said.

Some coaches attempt to get the best players into their program, even if they are likely to leave after one season. See: Greg Oden and Kevin Durant.

Saul Smith, however, said that is not the philosophy of the Gophers staff.

“You can say you want kids that are going to the NBA, but you don’t want one-and-done kids. They hurt your program; at least I think so.

“We want kids that want to leave their mark on the program, those are the type of kids we pride ourselves on recruiting.”

With the departures of seniors Lawrence McKenzie, Dan Coleman and Spencer Tollackson at the conclusion of this season, Tubby Smith said it was imperative to add talent to fill the void that will be left when Minnesota’s top three scorers end their collegiate careers in March.

He and his staff wanted to add size, depth and experience, a goal they believe they have successfully achieved in year one.

Tubby’s first class

Recruiting was perceived to be one of Tubby Smith’s weaknesses while at Kentucky. But from early indications, it doesn’t appear Minnesota men’s basketball fans will have any reason to be as critical about Smith’s recruiting as those in Lexington.

Tubby Smith’s first recruiting is considered by recruiting “experts” as not just one of the best in the Big Ten, but one of the best in the nation.

Five players – guard Devron Bostick, forward Paul Carter, forward Colton Iverson, center Ralph Sampson III, and most recently guard Devoe Joseph – have signed National Letters of Intent and will play for the team in 2008-2009 season.

“I think this first class is critical,” Tubby Smith said. “We needed to have a good recruiting class, and I think we have.”

Tubby Smith said he expects junior college transfers, Bostick from Southwestern Illinois College and Carter from Missouri State-West Plains College, to make the largest impacts right away because their bodies are physically stronger after playing at the JUCO level.

But Minnesota’s three high school recruits are the ones that have turned heads around the country.

The Gophers now have three players signed that are ranked in the Rivals top 150 in the nation, with the 6-foot-11-inch, 220-pound Sampson III from Northview High School in Duluth, Ga. at No. 74, Joseph at No. 82 and the 6-foot-10-inch Yankton, S.D. native Iverson at No. 138.

Keeping up with the Jones’

Quickly, Smith and his staff have proven they will be able to recruit on the same level as the top schools in the country.

Joseph, a four-star shooting guard from Grassroots, Canada, picked Minnesota over Connecticut, Texas, Georgia Tech, Vanderbilt, Kansas and Michigan.

Sampson, the son of former top NBA draft pick Ralph Sampson, selected the Gophers over Smith’s former employer, Kentucky. Iverson decided on the Maroon and Gold over two-time defending national champion Florida, among others.

Reputation helps

Winning the 1998 National Championship while at Kentucky doesn’t hurt Tubby Smith’s ability to recruit, either. Smith said he believes his reputation, among other things, will help rebuild the Gophers into a top 20 program.

“I think my reputation across the country has been influential in generating interest from players across the country,” he said.

class rankings

Minnesota class of 2008-09 rankings:
Hoop Scoop #7
Hoopmaster #11
ESPN #19
Rivals #20

Smith’s reputation is often in consideration when his staff zeros in on a recruit.

After the Gophers’ coaching staff identifies the players they want, Smith is usually the one to call recruits, since a team is only afforded a limited amount of contact with a recruit due to NCAA regulations.

“You need to use phone calls wisely. We are definitely not going to violate rules,” Saul Smith said.