There’s been plenty of negative news surrounding the recruiting of the Cal basketball recruiting program, as the last two years have featured missed recruit after missed recruit. From Jabari Brown to Kyle Wiltjer to Brandon Ashley to Dominic Artis, the Golden Bears have had plenty of high profile misses. While seeing your school miss on a player, five star or not, is painful, it leads me to wonder what reasonable expectations for our recruiting? Should we be mad whenever we end up with a three star recruit instead of the one and done blue chipper?
By nature, followers of basketball recruiting business aren’t very reasonable. Comparing high school kids to proven college performers or even NBA stars is tricky business, and it rarely comes to fruition. But it won’t stop one from singing the player’s praises and believing he’s the next big thing. And sometimes they do, but the success rate for it is not very good. Forecasting where a player’s going to attend school is even harder, making the idea of ‘expecting’ certain types of players to come to your alma mater/favorite school a risky thing.
Cal has some restrictions on what they do in recruiting. Recruiting as the #1 public university in the country has some advantages for academically oriented players, but for the borderline student who also happens to be a good recruit it makes Cal an impossible destination. Cal also isn’t known as a traditional basketball power, even on the West Coast, making the school an even tougher sell. Of course, there are also plenty of benefits to coming to Cal. A degree from Cal certainly means more than many of the schools that are winning the recruiting battles; it is very difficult competing with #1, after all. Cal also offers several opportunities; a good program in a top conference, but one where you can play right away and make an impact even if you’re not DeMarcus Cousins. And who can forget one of the best coaches at developing talent, Mike Montgomery. Point is: Cal has some disadvantages when it comes to pursuing talent, but there is also a lot to offer.
So what are realistic expectations? Each fan is different, of course, but what should we as Cal fans define as ‘acceptable’? I don’t have the answer for everyone, so post in the comments if you have a different take. My belief is that our performance for last year in recruiting was not up to the standards that we should have. Nothing personal against the players we signed, but they had a combined two other major conference offers. We might not be at the top of the food chain, but we’re not Washington State (sorry guys!) here either. The Golden Bears should be able to land the upper echelon of 3 star recruits (tough to define what that is, but to me it’s the ones other big conference schools are recruiting), some 4 stars, and maybe (maybe!) the occasional five star, if it’s a perfect storm of events that lead him to Cal. Plenty of teams have built a high-quality, NCAA Tournament program doing just that, and that’s a blueprint the Bears should follow. I think those are reasonable expectations; not up to the level of the recruiting of Kentucky or UCLA, but good enough to be a NCAA Tournament school with the potential make a run with a good storm of good luck in recruiting, and good player development. In all honesty, the 2010 class is a perfect example of what I’m talking about; a high quality 4 star and then 3 very exciting and high level 3 stars. It remains to be seen if the class of 2011 or 2012 will live up to the first full class put together by Monty. By the way, when the classes of 2011 and 2012 end up being great, be sure to quote some of that above post; you’ll make me look like an idiot (and I do a good enough job of doing that myself!)
This is not meant to be saying we shouldn’t be disappointed when we lose a high-level recruit; far from it. Any player the staff goes hard after, especially when they’re a higher level prospect, is worth getting disappointed about. It doesn’t mean going all doom and gloom and going out of your way to criticize a coaching staff that has given us three consecutive postseason births and a Pac-12 favorite for this season.
Disagree with what I have to say, or just want to say you agree? Go ahead and post the comments and tell us what you think. In the mean time, let’s hope for the Bears to exceed our recruiting expectations. Go Bears!