by Kyle Stack / @KyleStack
Think of an adjective to describe college athletic recruitment and it’s not likely to be a favorable one. NCSA Athletic Recruiting, based in Chicago, is attempting to change that perception.
As part of its mission to bring together high school athletes, their parents and college programs in all sports, in all divisions of collegiate play, NCSA has hired ex-athletes to forge those relationships among all parties. Former NBA small forward Lamond Murray is one of them.
Murray is recently retired from basketball after playing professionally in the Middle East. An 11-season veteran of the NBA from 1994-2006, Murray has been leading Real Run Academy, in Los Angeles, which provides cultural opportunities to homeschool children. In a phone interview with SLAMonline, Murray explained why he developed an interest in college recruiting and how he plans to help improve its process.
SLAM: How did you come in touch with the NCSA?
Lamond Murray: I have a son who plays high school basketball and a daughter who plays high school volleyball. He’s a junior, she’s a sophomore and I was looking for a way to get them more exposure to the college coaches.
A friend told me about NCSA Athletic Recruiting and I was like, Oh, what is this? I called them and they walked me through the steps of their process, gave me a lot of information about how they deal with their athletes, the platform that they put them on in terms of them having a page with a profile picture, edited video tapes as well as their academic eligibility and requirements for the SAT and ACT.
I was like, Wow, this is a great tool. How did they get exposure to college coaches? They were like, ‘Well, we have over 3,000 college coaches that contact us who are on our site, in our database.’ They come on, they have requests that they send out for athletes—Division I, Division II, NAIA, at every level—that they’re looking for, for any particular sport, not just basketball and volleyball. I thought it was a great tool that I didn’t know about nor did my friends know anything about.
I asked them, How come we don’t know about you?, you know [laughs]. They were saying they’ve been around for 10, 12 years, more of a mom-and-pop operation and they’re just branching out more to the other sports. They’ve been really big in football but in terms of basketball, they have a lot of athletes, volleyball they have a lot of athletes there too, but they work only in certain realms because they’re not well-known right now.
That’s how I got involved with the NCSA.
SLAM: And you just told them that you wanted to work for them?
LM: Well, I made a call but obviously they asked me a bunch of questions about who I was and my background and how to become a speaker. They have a lot of guys in the football realm who played in the NFL, a lot of people at different levels of different sports. But in the basketball arena, they didn’t have anybody really out there as a speaker with the background that I have, playing at every level – college, NBA, overseas.
They were asking me if I would like to be a speaker and I was, like, Sure, I’d like to come out and see the operation, see how everything works first. Then I did that. I loved what I saw. Everybody who worked for them was a former athlete. Everybody is, you know, it’s a team effort and it’s a family atmosphere. It was a wonderful opportunity, they’ve been taking me in with open arms and have taught me a lot about how the recruiting process works, all the rules changes. It’s just something I felt necessary, especially being on the West Coast, that I felt I should take advantage of.
A lot of schools, millions of kids, a lot of people in a small area. The density over here in L.A. is pretty big. I thought it could be a great tool that these kids needed to know about.
SLAM: Could you describe what you’re doing day-to-day with them?
LM: Those speaking engagements at high schools, I’ve talked to athletic directors at the high schools, sitdowns to speak with coaching staffs, to speak with coaches individually about how they can utilize [NCSA]. Free profiles, all the different aspects of the website, the recruiting management system, as well as to get a chance to speak in front of the [athletes'] parents for a half hour in a gymnasium, from all sports. To educate them on the recruiting process in terms of what it means for their kids and that we have this tool available and that if they’d be interested in becoming part of the NCSA Athletic Recruiting that it could help their kid out tremendously to play at the next level. That’s basically how it works. I also talk to at the Five Star [basketball] camps as well as camps out here on the West Coast.
SLAM: The changes in college recruiting are pretty obvious from when you were being recruited in the late ’80s/early ’90s. Are there any similarities you’ve found between your time and now?
LM: Uh, there are still some similarities in terms of the evaluation process. You never know exactly how you’re being evaluated. You get a lot of letters saying, ‘Hey, we want you to come to our school.’ You don’t really know how to take that. Back in my day when those letters came, it meant that every school that sent you a letter wanted you. So, those things have not changed but the one thing that has changed is we can evaluate it a lot better than before, to see how is really serious about recruiting you.
You have different steps you have to take in terms of really knowing who’s legitimately recruiting you, making calls, taking business to your school, watching your practices, sending your assistant coaches out, head coaches contacting you to where you know those schools are really serious about bringing you in as well as getting you an official visit when it’s time.