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October 10, 2007

Pipelines: Coaches rely on relationships

Recruiting is all about relationships.

It's about shaking hands. Familiar faces go a long way in the recruitment of today's young players.

As one noted recruiter put it, "More times than not, it's about who you know and not how hard you work."

In the first story of a two-part series, Rivals.com looks at college programs that have a rich recruiting tradition in what might seem to be surprising geographic regions.

Plenty of prospects in the Northeast

Billy Donovan grew up on basketball courts in the Northeast. He is considered basketball royalty in gyms in New York City and its surrounding areas. So, it doesn't come as a big surprise that he continues to go back to the area when recruiting.

The class of 2008 has provided the Gators with a pair of Northeast pledges in NYC point guard Erving Walker and Connecticut forward Allan Chaney. The class of 2006 boasted Jon Mitchell out of New York's powerful Mount Vernon program. New Jersey forward Dan Werner was also part of the class.

Joakim Noah, the emotional leader of the two-time national champions, is about as New York as it gets. He is one of the most accomplished college players to come out of the Big Apple in recent memory.

While Matt Walsh, a Philly native, and Matt Bonner - who hails from New Hampshire – weren't Big Apple products, they cut their teeth in the Northeastern corridor.

Florida isn't the only non-regional team that taps into the Northeastern talent pool. Louisville coach Rick Pitino is constantly involved with players from the New York-New Jersey region.

The current Louisville roster boasts four players from the Northeast. Juan Palacios is a South American, but played at Our Savior New American in New York before making his way to Louisville. Point guard Edgar Sosa is another Big Apple product, and New Jersey natives Earl Clark and Derrick Caracter will be asked to carry a large load this season.

The Cardinals have three commitments from players from New York or New Jersey in the classes of 2008 and 2009: Samardo Samuels, Melquan Bolding and Lamont Jones. Louisville is also keying on five-star prospect Tyreke Evans, a Philadelphia native, to round out the 2008 recruiting class.

The Midwest has been a hotbed of talent and the Big Ten schools have been quick to lock up the local talent. However, if all goes as planned for the Indiana Hoosiers, their team could have a different feel to it next season.

The Hoosiers already have a commitment from Devin Ebanks, a New Yorker who is fine tuning his craft in Connecticut, in the class of 2008. Another Empire State product, Kevin Jones, will be on Indiana's campus this weekend for an official visit. Also coming to Bloomington are Lance Stephenson and Dexter Strickland, the top two juniors in the NYC-NJ area.

Pittsburgh loves the rich talent pool of New York, too. Keith Benjamin, Tyrell Biggs, Levance Fields, Ronald Ramon and Austin Wallace all hail from the Empire State.

California to Kansas and now Carolina

Roy Williams, who was raised in the mountains of North Carolina, has had plenty of success with kids that grew up in California. During his time at the helm of the Kansas program, Williams went to West Coast and landed Golden State natives Paul Pierce, Scott Pollard, Jacque Vaughn, Drew Gooden, Eric Chenoweith, current UNC assistant coach Jerod Haase and others.

Since he's been at North Carolina, Williams is still drilling away out West. The current roster boasts three California natives in guard Quentin Thomas and forwards Alex Stephenson and Deon Thompson. The Tar Heels have a commitment from Southern California point guard Larry Drew in the 2008 recruiting class.

Williams isn't closely the pipeline any time soon, either. Twins David Wear and Travis Wear will be in Chapel Hill for North Carolina's midnight madness festivities this weekend.

Durham, a Chicago suburb

Down Tobacco Road, Mike Krzyzewski has a pipeline - and he knows the area well. Coach K, a Chicago native, has returned to the Windy City time and time again for prospects.

Jon Scheyer, a sophomore on Duke's roster, is the only current Chicago native on the team at the moment. Sean Dockery and Michael Thompson were both tested on the mean streets of the city before making to Durham. Corey Maggette and current assistant coach Chris Collins are also Chicago natives. Ironically, Scheyer broke Collins' scoring records at Glenbrook North High School.

Duke players seem to find a way back to Chicago after their collegiate days are complete. Chris Duhon and Luol Deng both wear a Bulls jersey during the NBA season. Elton Brand and Jay Williams both played in Chicago at one point, too.

SoCal, Houston and Seattle: Arizona's hot spots

California has been good to Arizona. The Wildcats have tapped into the rich recruiting areas of Los Angeles and San Diego.

Sophomore Chase Budinger, freshman Jamelle Horne and class of 2008 commitment Jeff Withey all hail from San Diego. The L.A. area has given the Wildcats Hassan Adams, Casey Jacobsen and - most recently - Brandon Jennings.

Arizona also has some Houston connections. Jawan McClellan, Fendi Onobun and Nic Wise all hail from Houston, home of assistant coach Josh Pastner. Another commitment was Ndubi Ebi, who never enrolled at the school and opted to enter the NBA Draft early.

Trading snow for rain

According to Yahoo! Maps, Chicago is 2,129.5 miles from Eugene, Ore. Detroit is 2,395.6 miles away from Eugene. The University of Oregon has three players who are from either Chicago or Detroit, and a pair of Chicago natives (Michael Dunigan and Matthew Humphrey) are committed to play for the Ducks. Another Windy City product (Josh Crittle) remains high on the board for Oregon.

Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, right? Oregon State has adopted a similar recruiting philosophy. Oregon State has a pair of pledges in 2008. Ryan Hare, a 6-foot-4 wing from Chicago, and Kavon Rose, a 6-foot-2 guard from Detroit, both gave a nod to the Beavers in the last month. Jay John and his staff played host to Fort Wayne, Ind., native Eshaunte Jones last weekend for an unofficial visit. Current freshman Mike Stovall hails from the same school as Hare.

VCU: Florida's next commuter school

Virginia Commonwealth coach Anthony Grant, a Miami native, was a dynamic recruiter at the University of Florida. He's going back to the Sunshine State as much as he can on the recruiting front since taking over the new CAA power. The class of 2007 provided the Rams with five signees from Florida. Grant and his staff already have a pledge from the fertile swamp grounds in Terrance Saintil. Floridian Marcus Capers is high on VCU's recruiting board in the 2008 class.

Back to the bayou

USC coach Tim Floyd, a Louisiana native, has deep roots in the bayou and he continues to recruit that area. Dwight Lewis - a sophomore guard - will be joined by Marcus Simmons, a freshman out of Alexandria, La., this year. Trojans guard Ryan Francis, who was slain last May, was a Baton Rouge native. The nation's top target, Greg Monroe, recently cut the Trojans from his list. However, Floyd stayed on the Louisiana product hard.

Rivals.com will dive deeper into the pipeline theory tomorrow. Which AAU teams have connections to college programs and what college teams have a pipeline to the NBA? We'll dive into it all on Thursday.



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