You only get one chance to make a first impression! In the college recruiting business that statement not only hits close to home, it’s nestles in as part of everyday life for coaches.
Unlike football recruiting where college and universities typically look to fill 20-25 open scholarship vacancies each season, college basketball programs may pursue about 3-5 recruits.
With so few recruits coming in each season, a college basketball program does not have the luxury of missing on too many players offered scholarships. As a matter of fact, one bad recruiting class can set a program back 2-3 years, and possibly costs a coach and his assistants their jobs.
When I met the new Towson Tigers basketball coach Pat Skerry, my natural instinct was to “size him up” so-to-speak to see if he was the type of individual who could make an impression on everyone he meets – whether it was media related, a recruit, a recruit’s parent(s), a high school coach, an AAU coach, or someone who happens to be a fan of the program.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand verbal communication is the most important aspect of a successful college basketball coach.
Skerry was extremely approachable when I met with him. A nice firm handshake followed by strong eye contact let me know he relished the opportunity to sit and discuss his program with me.
The excitement in his voice discussing the 19 year journey that resulted in this opportunity was like no other initial meeting I’ve had with a coach.
Positive, upbeat, appreciative, committed, you name the optimistic adjective and he wore it on his sleeve.
Skerry inherits a 4-25 basketball team from last season with only two upperclassmen returning. That is not a recipe for a successful first season for Skerry and the Tigers.
However, under the guidance of Towson’s Director of Athletics Mike Waddell, who has developed a formula for breeding success out of a dormant program – with enhancements in technology, using social media tools, increasing student body involvement, procuring and spending funds, understanding and developing media relationships, and most importantly patience in his staff to build a winner – Skerry will get it done in time.
The “Waddell Model” that will surely be used by other programs throughout the country following the success of the Towson football team, certainly will work the same for basketball. With just three wins in Coach Rob Ambrose’s first two seasons, there were many doubters who didn’t believe in the direction he was taking the football program. Ambrose needed just one believer, Waddell.
Waddell provided the time and support Ambrose required to institute his system, hire his coaches, and recruit the type of players he needed to be successful. Ambrose rewarded his boss’ patience with a likely FCS playoff team and potentially a CAA Conference Championship.
“There is a lot of excitement on campus as a result of the football program’s success. I’m certain it will leak over to our basketball team,” Skerry said.
“I went to sorority and fraternity houses to meet with students. I let them know how important it was for them to be a part of what we are building.”
Skerry is an ideal Waddell selection to rebuild the Tigers’ basketball program. He understands and appreciates the formula to build a winner over time.
“Recruiting is about relationships,” Skerry explains. “We are in one of the most fertile recruiting locations in the country.”
With the new Tiger Arena (5,400 seating capacity) scheduled to open sometime next year, Skerry has an instant selling point to entice recruits.
When asked if he would focus on local recruits as his primary recruiting base, Skerry responded with, “The world is our recruiting base and we will search everywhere to find the best players for our program.”
Skerry will get a quick feel for his team when the Tigers open with national power Kansas on November 11th. Welcome to the head coaching ranks Mr. Skerry!
The Tigers will lean heavily on seniors FW Robert Nwankwo (6’9”) who coach describes as a “very physical player” and G RaShawn Polk (6’2”).
Skerry specifically referred to sophomore FW Erique Grumbs (6’9”) as player he has been impressed with and is expecting good things out of him.
There were three freshmen he expects to receive considerable contributions from this year, PG Kris Walden (6’1”) from Richmond, VA, FW Deon Jones (6’5”) from Hockessin, DE, and FW Jervon Pressley (6’7”) from Charlotte, NC.
Predicted to finish last in the CAA this season, expectations aren’t that high by those outside the Towson program. But to quote actor Bill Murray (son Luke Murray is an assistant coach under Skerry) who starred in the movie What about Bob? “Baby steps, baby steps!”
A video clip from the CSN 2-part series on Towson Men’s Basketball: “Earning their Stripes”: