Recruiting is inherently a relationship-driven endeavor. That's true of job recruiting just as much as it is with college basketball recruiting. The old adage "it's all about who you know" rings true when coaches recruit high school players. While you will occasionally find the Bryce Cotton type who is under-recruited and is found via a YouTube video, most of the time the high profile recruits list one of their reasons for choosing a school as some variation of their relationship with the coach/coaching staff. Cooley's philosophy on recruiting is to build a relationship with not only the player he is coveting, but to also build a relationship with that player's mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, best friend, mentor, mail man...well, you get the picture. Cooley believes that it's critically important to win over the people surrounding the player as well as the player himself. He once told a story about recruiting a nationally ranked player. He described how he was loved by the player's grandmother. He turned to a group of us and said "Who can say no to grandma?" That player committed to Cooley.
You can take my word that Cooley and his staff are all about building relationships but how about hearing it from a high school coach that was Jalen Lindsey's coach and is still Braxton Blackwell's coach?
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Drew Maddux had this to say: "Ed Cooley, in all the country of all the coaches I deal with, I would say he would be in the upper percentile of relationship builders. He's outstanding. He and his staff invest time...the best way to build a relationship is to invest time... Providence, coach Ed Cooley, identifies prospects, make 'em priorities... and he works like crazy to build a relationship with the sphere of influences around that player and they do an outstanding job... We have a lot of schools that come through our doors at CPA... They would be in the top 10, top 5 of schools that are most visible on our campus [in Nashville, TN]."
Another thing that Coach Maddux mentions during that audio clip is that he believes Cooley targets a smaller number of recruits. This is an interesting strategy and one that may sound like it would be risky at a school like Providence because if you focus on a smaller group and don't land anyone from that group, you may end up scrambling to fill out classes. Ed Cooley doesn't want to just fill out classes. He wants to bring in high level talent. For the class of 2015 you can see where Cooley's focus is in terms of position but it's clear they have made Donovan Mitchell a priority. Cooley and his staff value the increased time spent on each player in their smaller group because they are trying to build that relationship.
Now that the first July evaluation period is under way, it will be more obvious to fans who the coaching staff is focusing on based on where they show up on the map. Players will begin to cut their lists following July, schedule visits and some will even commit. With Ryan Fazekas in the fold for 2015, Cooley will be focusing strongly on a handful of guards, including Mitchell, to help fill the void for the 2015-16 roster.
You can find more of Mike's work on his site, pcbb1917.com and you can also follow him on Twitter @pcbb1917.