Florida assistant coach Rob Lanier gives SLAM an inside look at the live recruiting period.
Have you ever wondered what college coaches have to go through in the summer days as they go around the country from city to city and from tournaments to camps evaluating prospects during the July live recruiting period? Ever wonder what they look for in players when they’re sitting in the stands with a notepad and pen in their hands? There is no such thing as an off-season for college coaches as they always have to be looking ahead into the next recruiting class. The NCAA has terminated the April live recruiting period amounting pressure on coaches to evaluate prospects on the month of July solely. I figured that the best one to answer these questions would be a coach himself. I reached out to SLAM colleague Aggrey Sam and pitched him the idea. He gave me a few names of coaches he thought best fit the job. After a few calls, he was convinced that Florida assistant coach Rob Lanier was the guy. Lanier, entering his third year with the Gators, has close to two decades of coaching experience. A three-year starter for St. Bonaventure in the late ‘80s, Lanier went on to get a bachelors degree in psychology 1990 and a masters degree in educational counseling from Niagara in 1993. That’s exactly where his coaching career took off. While at Niagara, the Buffalo, NY native started off as a graduate assistant and would soon become a restricted earnings assistant. In 1992, Lanier returned to St. Bonaventure as an assistant coach. After a five-year stint at his alma mater, Lanier moved to the Big East in 1997 and became an assistant at Rutgers. Two years later he was on the move again, this time heading south after accepting an assistant position with the Texas Longhorns.
In 2001, Lanier accepted his first head-coaching job, taking the reins at Siena College in upstate NY. In his first year at Siena, Lanier led the program to a NCAA Tournament appearance after winning the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Tournament Championship in 2002. He also led them to a strong showing at the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) the following season. After his time with the Saints, Lanier entered the ACC as an assistant at Virginia. Then in 2007, he moved on to work as an assistant on Billy Donovan’s staff, a position he still holds today.
Lanier is well known for his recruiting and scouting skills. While at Texas, Lanier coached and was involved in the recruitment of Atlanta Hawks’ Maurice Evans, Indian Pacers’ T.J. Ford and Philadelphia 76ers’ Royal Ivey and free agent Chris Mihm. While at Rutgers, he was involved in the recruitment of the Indiana Pacers’ Dahntay Jones. He is a big part of the Gators’ recruiting and scouting efforts. Coach Lanier kept a dairy for SLAM on his experience and perspective of the July live recruiting period while he was out on the road this summer on the final ten days of the period.
Due to his duties at Florida, a crazy couple weeks at SLAM, and a recent eye surgery for me, the dairy got pushed back from being published in August to September.
Because of NCAA rules, Lanier is not allowed to give names of prospects. Yet he still gives us an in-depth look into what goes through a coach’s mind while evaluating kids, what are their priorities, how they narrow down their prospect recruiting list, and just how it is on the road. Be in the look out for Lanier as he continues to be a force in the college coaching scene.
Hope you enjoy!—Franklyn Calle
by Rob Lanier
The first 10 days of the period really served us well in terms of being able to evaluate many of the guys who we either haven’t seen much or at all. Now going into the final 10 days of July we can really hone in on who we like and evaluate them on the basis of who really fits our program best. In making that assessment we consider the following:
Over the past decade Florida ranks in the top 7 nationally and 1st in the SEC-in scoring. Billy Donovan’s teams have always been recognized at pressing, uptempo basketball teams that score at a high level.
Over that same span of time Florida ranks #3 nationally in 3-pt. attempts and 1st in the SEC. Also during the same time frame, the Gators have rank #5 nationally in assists and #1 in the SEC.
So now as we look at players we are doing so with those things in mind. We want players that play with a high energy level or as we refer to it with a great “Motor”! In addition, we want to have players with a high skill level. We like bigs that can play both facing the basket as well as in the post. We are very comfortable with 4s or 5s with the ability to step out to the 3 point line and be a threat. We need, in our system to have perimeter players with the ability to shoot with range and have enough ball skill and decision making ability to be effective in pick and roll, which is a huge part of our offensive attack.
The last 10 days of the period has quite a few tournaments but for us, the three tournaments that will be taking place in Las Vegas make the most sense for us. July 22nd marks the first day of the final open period so we generally use the 21st as a travel day.
I arrive in Las Vegas late on the evening of the 21st. So it was going to be a very short night since games will be starting early the next morning. Of the 3 tournaments going on (Adidas 64, Main Event and Reebok) the Adidas and Reebok Events were the two that had the majority of the prospects that we needed to see. The Adidas 64 in particular had the most prospects and best match-ups for us to see guys.
Wednesday, July 22nd
5 a.m. wakeup call and down to the workout room! The Renaissance Hotel in Vegas is great. It’s away from the Strip (which I prefer) and it is centrally located. Plus it has a nice workout room but you have to get there early or all the machines will be taken!
This morning I got a good one in.
The first game I saw took place at Henderson International School and featured two wing players that we were eager to see. They were both very good and 1 of the 2 had a tremendous motor. Neither displayed the kind of skill level we covet in this particular game but I could see that they have the capabilities. For me, my hope is that even when a kid may not have a productive game, he shows a level of competitiveness and energy that will allow him to still impact the game.
Later that morning I was able to see a young man who stood out to me in the first open period at the Great American Shootout in Denton, TX. There he displayed high level athleticism, a very good motor and adequate skill with significant upside. Today he showed more of those same qualities so it confirmed my initial evaluation which is always good. I spent the remainder of the day at the Adidas 64 tournament going back and forth between two high schools (Its amazing how far apart these schools in Las Vegas are).
I saw at least five more players of interest and three in particular that stood out. Two were wings and the other was a post. The wings were both high motor guys and the post was a rugged hard nosed competitor so it was a good day from an evaluation standpoint.
Thursday July 23rd
7 a.m. wake up today since my first game isn’t until 10:20 a.m. But ended up getting to the workout room too late and had to wait until a machine opened up. Took awhile but ended up getting a good one in!
At 10:20 I got another look at one of the wings I liked from the previous day and was very impressed once again. Very high energy level and significant skill to go with tremendous athleticism. What I haven’t seen to this point is the point guards that we are looking at. So this morning and afternoon I will get that opportunity. At 11:40 p.m. I got see the post I liked from yesterday who plays well again and then Coach Donovan joins me to see a very good wing.
This particular player played with great emotion and energy and showed tremendous athleticism. Although he doesn’t appear to be a great shooter he looks to be a guy who works hard enough to compensate for that weakness as well improve in that area. He provided a real bright spot for the day.
I saw a 3:40 p.m. game (post and PG), had dinner, then saw games at 6:20 p.m. (post and wing), and 7:40 p.m. (post and 2 wings). Following that game Coach and I headed to the airport for red-eye flights from Vegas to Florida. He was heading to Jacksonville to return home for a day and I was flying to Orlando for the Nike Super Showcase.
Friday July 24th
As a college basketball coach I have grown accustomed to spending my birthday on the road recruiting. I turned 41 today and due to the red-eye connection through Atlanta I felt my age! I landed around 9:30 a.m. in Orlando and headed straight to the Courtyard Marriott so I could shower and change before going over to the event.
I was very excited going into this event because it is so well run and there was quite a few prospects that I knew we would get a solid look at. That day I saw several players that were high on our priority list and a couple who we hadn’t been involved with that captured my attention. This event also featured some very good young players.
Saturday, Sunday and Monday
For these three days I saw the end of the Super Showcase and the beginning of the AAU Nationals. So as teams were being eliminated and the Showcase was winding down there were many more teams arriving for the Nationals.
Our three main priorities are to sign a PG, a post player (possibly two) and a wing. I have personally seen excellent players at the post and wing spots. I haven’t seen nearly as many PGs that have the combination of skill, leadership and “motor” that our system demands. There’s one in particular that I love but Coaches Donovan and Pitino have happened to see some others that, just by chance, I have not.
Here in Orlando there were a couple PGs that I wanted to look at who are highly regarded but didn’t excite me for one reason or another. In a pressing, high scoring system we desire a PG that has a high motor, leadership skills, while also being a major scoring threat. Plus we need to feel like he can excel in pick and roll. Each of the guards I looked at here were lacking in at least one of those areas.
What I did see were several good post prospects in both the 2010 and 2011′s classes and at least three very good wings. One post player emerged on Saturday that we hadn’t seen prior to that. He displayed an excellent motor, solid offensive skills and big time athleticism.
This tournament had some very good match-ups and some well played and competitive games. As much as any tournament this summer, there is a pronounced effort on the part of many coaches-even the more high profile head coaches-to position themselves in such a way to make sure they are visible. This venue, with its great facilities (Disney Wide World of Sports) does provide the opportunity for us to be seen. And with the month of July winding down there is a definite urgency to do so.
On Monday afternoon I decided to come off the road so Larry Shyatt, our veteran assistant coach, could get out to see some of the players that we have, and will be, discussing at great length. So I had the rare opportunity to spend the next 3 days back at the office. There, I was able to get organized and while helping Darren Hertz prepare for our Elite camp that will begin on Saturday August 1st. You would have to ask Darren whether or not I was of any real help but I was at least very supportive.
Friday July 31st
6 a.m. Wake up!
7 a.m. Its the final day of the July recruiting period and I’m heading back to Orlando for a 9:50 a.m. game. The cool thing is that I have my 8 year old son, Emory, traveling with me today. We get there in plenty of time to see that game.
Emory was a trooper throughout the day and mingled with many of my coaching friends without becoming much of a distraction. We watched as many as 8 games made it all the way through without any incident. We watched two games with longtime former NBA assistant Brendan Suhr (2 rings with Detroit’s Bad Boys).
It was good watching a couple of prospects with Brendan. He is very familiar with our program and his opinion is greatly valued. I appreciate his wisdom so it was good for me to know his evaluation of the two prospects we watched were in line with mine.
By the early evening it was evident that many of the kids are getting worn down and the quality of play had dropped significantly. In the final game of the evening, Emory and I sat with my good friend Mike Jarvis II of Florida Atlantic University or “Deuce,” as we call him. Knowing that we will have about a 2 hr drive that evening Duece bets Emory that if he can stay awake for the entire drive he’ll send him some FAU gear. Emory, of course, takes the bet and insists he’ll make it easily.
The Final buzzer sounds, we say all of our good-byes and hit the road. Twenty minutes later Emory is knocked out and the live period is officially over!
Camp starts tomorrow!