The $6.5M Recruiting Gamble

Recruiting can be a roller coaster of emotions and you can’t compare your journey to anyone else’s. Every prospect has a different route, and every college coach has a different approach. As I have mentioned previously, predicting how talent will transfer to the next level is very, very difficult.


Last week was the NBA Draft, one of the spectacles of professional sports that is truly American. In no other country is the future of a franchise so dependent on the prediction of player success. College recruiting mirrors this. As a college coach, I had many players over time that lived up to expectations and others that never did, and then I had some that soared above what anyone ever thought they were capable of at the college level. It was often these players that took our team from good to great.


So about that $6.5 million gamble?


I’ve been an Iowa Hawkeye fan my whole life, so this year’s draft was of particular interest to me. Keegan Murray was drafted #4. The first NBA lottery pick from Iowa ever! 3 years ago, as a senior in high school, Keegan Murray wasn’t even in the top 300 recruits in the country and was only recruited by one NCAA I team – Western Illinois and a lot of NCAA Division III teams. Keegan and his twin brother, Kris, opted for a gap year and joined a program to improve their stock. Out of that, came an offer from Iowa. A year later, Keegan is the leading scorer in the country and then picked fourth in the NBA draft. Murray’s first-year contract will be worth $6.5 million before any endorsements and he hasn’t proven anything in the NBA yet. He could be a start or could flop!


Keegan’s brother is anticipated to be a high draft pick next year. Who could have predicted? Playing at Iowa and making the NBA was their dream. The Murray’s gambled on themselves and are living a bit of a fairy tale now. Even though it’s a different sport, you can draw similarities between them and where you are currently at with your athletic career. The Murray’s weren’t thinking about the NBA when they decided to take a gap year, they just wanted to play at Iowa. One additional advatantage they had working for them was that their Dad played at Iowa and was a former college coach, and so his knowledge aided them and helped to increase their odds.

Recruiting is a lot like gambling. Coaches are taking their best guess on how you might impact their program, but in the end, it is just a guess. You will have some options where you can play right away and others that are “stretch” opportunities. If you can somehow get your foot in the door or place a bet on yourself, it just might happen. At a minimum. You have to decide the potential Return on Investment of options such as taking a gap year, attending ID camps or working with a recruiting advocate like me.


All of these things could increase your chances, but you still have to pay attention to details as it’s more than just luck. A good gambler has tactics and isn’t just lucky – it’s not like winning the lottery. Someone good at blackjack knows when to double-down, split or stand and that each decision may increase their odds.


It is the same in recruiting, you need to have attention to detail. You need to know what to do and when to do it, so if you get in front of the coach at your dream school you are ready. A good game plan and the right advocates can’t guarantee anything but can certainly increase your odds of a fairy tale ending. Finding the right-fit opportunity is key and there are many different paths to getting there. Don’t compare your recruiting journey to anyone else’s.


Having a trusted source that can help make sure you are targeting the right level athletically that are also good fits academically, athletically and financially is key.