Strong recruiting is the lifeblood of every college program, no matter the sport. Many factors make a difference in a coach or program have the reputation of a good recruiter. Winning games during the season is an obvious one. A strong recruiting pitch with the ability to offer early playing time or a big role are others. However, at the core of every strong recruiter are two main things: the ability to form a positive relationship with recruits and a proven track record of developing the talent they bring in. Recently, a strong example of this basic model has been the Fresno State MBB program.
In the past month, the Bulldogs have secured two big commitments: 3 star Center Efe Odigie and 3 star G Isaac Likekele, both out of Texas. Mountain West Connection caught up with Odigie and Likekele this week following their commitments to hear what they had to say.
“First off, the most important factor was Coach Terry.” Efe said. “I feel like he had a good plan in store for me along with a good vision, and I feel like he cares for me as a person and not just a basketball player. But really the entire coaching staff played a role in my commitment. From GA to Head Coach, each one of them played a role in my recruitment especially during my visit.”
Recruiting is about getting talented players into a program, but it’s also about getting the right players in, ones who will be a good fit. Efe seems to fill the right hole for Fresno State.
“Considering that their starting center is leaving next year, they see me coming in and filling in that spot. I have a good back to the basket post up game, I feel like I can run the floor well and get easy transition buckets, and can finish shots around the rim. I also have a mid-range shot.”
“Fresno State, I just felt the family atmosphere the moment I touched down. The players are pretty much just like me.” Isaac explained. “I feel like the coaches can help me to get where I want to be. I have great relationships with them. Coach Terry is great and we talk a lot. He and Coach Jones have a great vision for me and my future. I like coaches Matson and Wainwright and Coach Burton and I have known each other for a few years. He was my head recruiter at Lamar and we’ve stayed in contact since he’s gone over to Fresno State.”
As far as his skills on the court, Likekele said: “I would consider myself a combo guard. I can initiate the offense if I need to but my mindset is to play an all-around game. Scoring, giving assists, rebounds, playing solid defense. I think my biggest strengths are my leadership and my ability to finish around the basket in traffic. I’m trying to get better in every facet to get to as close to perfection as I can.”
Fresno State has found two players who have bought into the coaching staff and want to be a part of what they are doing. Again, that comes from the relationships they build and the track record they have developing those recruits.
Looking at their website, Fresno State has had consistency and longevity on their staff. Head coach Rodney Terry (7th season), assistants Jerry Wainwright (4th season), Byron Jones (7th season), and Nick Matson (7th season) have all stayed together for quite a number of years and are able to use that to their advantage when making recruiting pitches.
Also, Terry recently hired new Director of Basketball Operations Brian Burton from Texas who will likely serve as an asset with such strong ties to Texas from his previous stints in grassroots, Junior College, & Division 1 in Texas. Considering Efe and Isaac are both from Texas and he may be helping the strong staff of recruiters already.
However, Coach Terry and his staff have been successful in recruiting for many years, putting together a strong resume of players, including 16 players who have made it to the NBA during his time as a college coach. Fresno State basketball also can boast Paul George and Tyler Johnson emerging from their program to become pros.
With two September commits already, don’t be surprised if the Fresno State staff keep rolling as the calendar turns to October.