5/9 Bidwell's Blog: The 'Hit & Miss' world of recruiting

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For Murray State, they've had some 'misses' in recent years. But the 'hits' have been more like home runs.

I've never been a big recruiting guy.  All of the signing day hoopla and ranking the signing classes and rumors about commitments and de-commitments have always just been background noise to me.  I've always been of the belief that a player doesn't actually exist until they are wearing a uniform on opening night.

That has now changed.  Kind of.

Now, I've become more interested in the recruiting process as a whole.  Thanks to my lack of speed and strength and my inability to throw, catch, jump or shoot beyond a 4th-grade level, I surprisingly received no attention from recruiters in high school.  Much of this is all very new to me.  For my job, we go through signing days and list names of kids who are going to certain schools and hear from coaches who always say they've got a really good class coming in.  But what do those classes actually contribute?

I went back and looked at several of Murray State's recent recruiting classes.  With the benefit of hindsight, I found something rather surprising.  These recruiting classes have either been fantastic or virtually worthless, with very little middle ground.

When Billy Kennedy took over in the Spring of 2006 he pretty much grabbed any warm body he could find to fill out his roster.  For the sake of this exercise, I won't use those signings to illustrate my point.

We'll start with his first class in November of 2006.  He signed Caldwell County's Matt Fraliex and a kid out of Jackson, Tennessee named Jewuan Long.  After redshirting in 2007-08, Fraliex played sparingly in 25 games before transferring to Mid-Continent.  Long ended up as 2012 OVC Defensive Player of the Year and was part of the winningest senior class in Murray State history.

In the spring signing period, Kennedy signed a pair of guys named Tarod Sanders and Ivan Evans.  Remember them?  Me neither.  They never played a minute for the Racer program.

In the end, Kennedy signed four kids in 2006-07.  One panned out -- although in a big way.

Kennedy's 2009-10 class wasn't much better.  Shawn Jackson transferred after one injury-plagued season.  Chris Griffin transferred after averaging two points a game his freshman season.  Jeff Reese left the team mid-season after playing in just two games.  Brandon Garrett has been a project for his first two seasons.  LaTreze Mushatt is really the only player of the five to have made any significant impact on the program.

It's hard to imagine a program can have sustained success when the pieces they try to plug in don't have any staying power.  Those two signing classes in particular didn't end up helping the program.

With that said, it's very easy to find the reasons Murray State has won three straight Ohio Valley Conference championships and won 85 games the last three years.  Kennedy and his staff did EVERYTHING right recruiting talent in 2007-08 and 2008-09.  Look at the names in these two classes:

2007-08:
Ivan Aska
Jeffery McClain
Donte Poole
BJ Jenkins

2008-09:
Isaiah Canaan
Ed Daniel

Wow.  Kennedy went 6-for-6, and did it in back-to-back years.  Sure, not every guy was a star the minute they walked in the door, but they all were vitals parts of the foundation that has lifted this program to unparalleled heights. 

There is a lot of buzz about the guys coming in next year: Henderson, McCree, Ford, Gillmore and Moss.  Are they the future stars of this program?  In five years, will we be able to look back at how that quintet helped keep Murray State relevant on the national scene?  Or will the majority of them not even see their sophomore years in a Racer uniform?

I guess that's the "fun" of this whole thing.  Although I know for coaches and fans alike, it's a whole lot more fun when the recruiting process ends up being more about hits than misses.

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