Bruiser needs a recruiting schmoozer
By Ron Chimelis, The Springfield Union-News Staff Writer, 5/16/1999

When your best off-season recruiting coup comes in the form of Jonathan DePina saying he's coming back after all, you've got a problem.

When prep recruits say yes to the University of Massachusetts as often as prom dates would say yes to The Elephant Man, there's room for concern.

And when UMass must rely on transfers to restock the roster, because the Minutemen run second or third in every recruiting competition they enter, it's time to fret.

So please, Minutemen. John Robic is off to Youngstown State, so there's a staff opening to be filled. Hire a recruiter. Please.

The early favorite is Tony Barbee, last seen riding off into the Wyoming sunset. Can Barbee recruit? Reports from out west are good. If he can do it, hire him.

If not, get someone who can. This team needs players. There's a nice pipeline to Boston, which Bruiser Flint has nurtured well.

But several near-misses on the junior college front leave UMass depending on Milford (Conn.) Academy, which is sending us center Micah Brand and forward Eric Williams, who took a two-year detour to Syracuse.

Flint is still working the Philadelphia angle. UMass has also had a good reputation in Puerto Rico, which didn't stop the Rafael Cruz show from closing down.

And there's always St. Raymond's High in the Bronx, which has sent us Dana Dingle, Charlton Clarke and Kitwana Rhymer in rapid, appreciated succession.

But that's not enough. Flint is trying his best, but he needs more help. Every coach does.

In his defense, one problem might be that he's too determined to give kids a straight answer, and he's too honest. Don't underestimate the handicap an adherence to the rules can present, not when you're up against some of the snakes he's up against.

On the other hand, Flint leaves the feeling he's his own main recruiter, which is not only exhausting but often ineffective. The best recruiters send out their assistants, then swoop in at the end.

Even John Calipari had Bill Bayno, and also Flint. Flint doesn't have a Bayno on the staff. He doesn't even have a Flint.

He does have Geoff Arnold, and that's fine. But here's a chance to add someone who can work the camps and schmooze with all those AAU types who give some of us the creeps, but are necessary components to building a program for the next milennium.

Robic did some recruiting, but that wasn't his strength. Arnold will now be the chief assistant, and the pecking order says he should be Flint's point man.

But the current staff's recent record in recruiting (DePina, Cruz, Anthony Oates, Ronell Blizzard) is hardly superb, so even with Flint and Arnold doing their part, a little backup wouldn't hurt.

So if Barbee can recruit, hire him. If not, find someone who can. Derek Kellogg. Coach Cal, now that he's a free agent.

My own candidate is that woman who does the local car commercials on TV. The time has come for a car-salesman type, an honest one it's hoped, to convince kids to actually sign on the dotted line instead of just thinking about it.

If UMass must keep relying on transfers, the law of diminishing returns will take its toll. There's no need for Flint and Arnold to look like Butch and Sundance, shooting it out on their own while the opposition overwhelms them.

Don't hire a shyster or a crook, Bruiser. Hire a good, honest salesman. I'm told there's a difference, even in college basketball.

Maybe Barbee's the man. But getting players is your first and biggest concern. Designing plays for them is something you can worry about later.

Because if someone doesn't start getting some high school or juco guys soon, it may already be later for this program than anyone wants to think.


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