'On the road again -
Just can't wait to get on the road again.
The life I love is making music (insert "watching games") with my friends
And I can't wait to get on the road again.
On the road again
Goin' places that I've never been.
Seein' things that I may never see again
And I can't wait to get on the road again.'
Each July we have the opportunity to travel around the country watching some of the best young players in America. Each coach salivating more and more as the next great prospect takes the court. We wear our campus gear with logos and our mascots branded as large as possible just hoping that special player glances our direction and gives us a knowing smile.
We spend 10-12 hours per day in gyms that are either non-air-conditioned and sweltering or overly air-conditioned and freezing. We fly from city to city, drive from gym to gym, and walk from court to court trying to find the next great player to don a Bulldog uniform. We drink coffee before 8 a.m. and frequently eat our first meal of the day post 8 p.m. We fill out hand-written evaluations on hundreds of players and meet as a staff sometimes until 1 and 2 a.m. to lay out a grid and plan for the next day's attack.
Why am I telling you about this process? The reason is three-fold:
1) while it may seem a bit glamorous to travel and watch games all day, it's actually quite a grueling, tiresome and sometimes downright exhausting experience;
2) we do actually scour the country for players that play ALL positions; and finally,
3) IT'S ONE OF MY FAVORITE PARTS OF THE JOB!!!
For me, it all started back in late June with a trip to Costa Rica. I went with my friends MM and CP. It was a total blast and a place I would visit over and over if given the opportunity. More importantly, I met some of the most absolutely amazing people from all across the U.S. Thanks for a great time Josh, D-Dog, Robin, Courtney, Eric, Chelsea and the rest of the gang!!! You guys are the incredible (and the 9 best friends that anyone could have!
*Apologies to my loyal readers for the desperate attempt to incorporate a line from the movie, "The Hangover!"*
The trip to Costa Rica set the stage for a 4th of July weekend for the ages. Time with the family and friends in Oklahoma and a poolside BBQ with Michael, Kenya, Jodi, Chris, Morgan, and James in Texas was the perfect precursor to the recruiting travels.
The morning of July 5th arrived and it was time to go to work. I travelled to Dallas, TX and prepared to tackle the grid for opening days at two local tournaments beginning on the 6th of July. It took all of walking through the door at the 1st event to get an overwhelming case of chill bumps and remember why I love July! Friendly faces of coaching buddies, the sound of basketballs hitting the hardwood, and the hypnotizing smell that is a familiar mainstay of every great gymnasium, popcorn a-poppin'! Yes it was time to go to work again!
Nostalgia set in and I began to think about some of our players from the past and present. I remember watching Lauren Selmon, Tierre Wilson and Taylor Thompson as high school students in Oklahoma. I remembered seeing Erica Henry and Tiffany Williams at an event in Atlanta. Brittani Green and Paige Diggs wowed me for the first time in Dallas, while Jaleesa Ross and Marnique Arnold stole my heart in Portland, Atlanta, Memphis, San Diego, Pinole, Berkeley, etc., over the years. In a totally opposite manner, some started the recruiting process by just coming to us in the form of an 8th grade Veronica Wilson attending summer camp or like Hayley Munro, Emma Andrews, Rosie Moult and Ali Drennan as members of the Melbourne Roos, a former Australian touring team that played exhibitions against U.S. colleges and universities. Yes, recruiting is a MAJOR component of our jobs and a priority to say the least. We are only as good as those student athletes who wear the jersey with the Fresno State Bulldog name!
So what are we looking for as we sit in gymnasium after gymnasium?
We want future Bulldogs that will carry on the tradition that has been set by their predecessors on the court and in the classroom. That involves a strong self-pride, character, work ethic, dedication, a sense of team and family, and a willingness to put self aside for the good of whole. We want players that are diving for loose balls, pointing at the player that gives them an assist, picking up the teammate that just took a charge, and staying positive in challenging situations. We want student-athletes that don't do enough just to get by, but want to succeed at the highest level they can in all aspects of life. That's the formula that works and that's what we'll be looking for as we continue our travels through July 31st. So if you find yourself out and about, keep your eyes open for us and our logo's as we'll be flying, driving, and walking in an area near you!