Rising Coaches Report: Rice's Adam Gierlach

(Courtesy k-t-studio.com)
(Courtesy k-t-studio.com)

Adam Gierlach - Head Manager - Rice University

When the inevitable Cinderella team makes its run every year, all the pundits and experts debate how the star player on the team was able to fall through the cracks of the traditional basketball powers and land at the mid major or low major school. Stephen Curry is the classic example, but with Ohio’s run this year, and the recent rumors that power conference schools contacted DJ Cooper after his freshman year and asked him to transfer, DJ Cooper is this year’s model for star mid major player falling through the cracks. The NBA is currently experiencing the same phenomenon with Jeremy Lin and Linsanity. How did somebody this good go so unnoticed?

Each player has his unique story but a common explanation is that there is a reason these kids were mid major recruits. Stephen Curry was skinny and undersized, same with DJ Cooper, CJ McCollum at Lehigh was also skinny and vastly undersized his senior year of high school, and Kyle O’Quinn from Norfolk State did not play organized basketball until late in his high school career. It stands to reason that power conference schools might miss out on these types of players; they simply may not have been good enough in high school. Stephen Curry and CJ McCollum allowed their bodies to mature and became better players in college. The situation of being able to receive large numbers of reps in a program invested in skill development may have furthered their progression as a player. But the ultimate conclusion here is that these players were not good enough when first coming out of high school and became good enough through the type of program in which they played.

The hypothesis I would like to submit is that there is a tendency for mid major programs
to devalue players in the recruiting process. The natural disclaimer is that I do not wish to include all mid major programs under this umbrella. The grey area when discussing mid major programs is not the programs in the Colonial or the Valley, but how do we categorize the top teams in Conference USA, the Mountain West, and the Atlantic 10? I only have background dealing with one of these programs, Memphis in CUSA, but I think it is safe to assume that the top tier programs in these conferences can be categorized closer to high major than mid major.

In regards to some of these players discussed earlier, their seems to be devaluation of a prospect’s place as a player. Coaches want the whole package or something slightly less than the whole package. A player might be too small, his jump shot may not be polished enough, his ball skills may not be fully developed. In the end, what is overlooked are those intangible qualities that allow players to succeed. In the end, the things a player does bring to the table may hide his deficiencies or contribute more to winning than his deficiencies contribute to losing.

It is easy to get caught up in hype about a player or negative hype regarding his
deficiencies, but every year we come back and ask how a player could have slipped through the cracks. While each case is unique and has its own circumstances, let us remind ourselves throughout the year what our programs value and what allows us to win rather than devaluing players due to size or a slight deficiency.

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