Amateur Sports: Big Five Coaches Like On Court Skills and Off Court Character

The Big Five college basketball teams in Philadelphia – Temple, St. Joseph’s, La Salle, Pennsylvania and Villanova – each have their own strategies for how they go about evaluating a player’s talent and how to attract them to their school.

It’s up to the players to decide if one of these schools fits them better than any other schools that have extended offers to them.

Izaiah Brockington spoke about the process of being recruited by Division I colleges after his team played a scrimmage against Chichester High School.

Archbishop Ryan Sr. guard Izaiah Brockington has been enjoying the process of getting to know coaches and schools, but he is set on finding the school that would be best for him.

“It’s not just who wants me,but where is my best fit,” Brockington said, “Whenever a coach wants to talk to me, I get really excited to hear what they have to say. They tell me about the role they’d like to see me play, ask me how my grades are and SAT scores and what I want to do with my future.”

A positive attitude and integrity in the classroom are two traits that college coaches prefer in a player. Coaches are looking for someone who shows respect for everyone involved with the team and beyond. They look for those who can keep themselves psychologically in check during the peaks and valleys of a season. Aside from just their athletic ability and talent, players should be able to benefit those they’re playing with and strengthen the core of their team.

“I look at their personal character and how serious of a student they are,” said La Salle head coach John Giannini. “Not only are we looking for players with talent, but players who show effort in supporting their teammates and show kindness to those around them.”


St. Joseph's head coach Phil Martelli (left), John Wooden (center), and Jameer Nelson at the John R. Wooden award ceremony in 2004. Nelson Received the award for most outstanding men's college basketball player.
St. Joseph’s head coach Phil Martelli (left), John Wooden (center), and Jameer Nelson at the John R. Wooden award ceremony in 2004, as well as on the cover of a 2004 Sports Illustrated issue. Nelson Received the award for most outstanding men’s college basketball player.

“We all need to recruit from a basketball and academic standpoint,” said Temple head coach Fran Dunphy. “A college scholarship cannot be attained without good grades. It’s up to us once they come to play for us to ensure that they graduate.”

What a prospect shows on the court is just as important as how they act off the court.

“We watch how they run, shoot, how they interact with their teammates, who wants the ball at the end of the game, who makes those shots, how he interacts with his coaches,” Dunphy continued. “You train your eye to see who can do these things and who can’t.”

Despite the amount of scouting and recruiting that these schools do, they are not always the desired destination of many elite college players. Bigger name basketball teams like Duke and Kansas would often be the player’s first choice if they received a phone call from either school. Nonetheless, some Big Five schools get lucky, and a player will decide that it’s where they fit best and where they can grow the most.

“There’s a point when you have to know when to step back from a player,” said St. Joseph’s head coach Phil Martelli. “But sometimes, it’s almost like taking a leap of faith, and you get really lucky with who you recruit.”

There is no way concise way to determine how talented a player will be or how to convince a player to come to one specific school. The only way for coaches to figure out who fits their team best is to find who is available to them first, and see if they match their value set. Every several years, they get luckier than they expected, but a coach just wants a player to meet their expectations on the court and in the classroom.

-Text, images and video by Geno Cantell.

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