By Seth Goldman, Lucy Jackson and Jordan Odiakosa
Senior athletes verbally committed to three Division I schools before the start of their final high school seasons, a growing trend as the competition among colleges to acquire star athletes increases and coaches start recruiting earlier than ever as a result.
In an interview last spring, boysâ varsity basketball coach Greg Hilliard spoke about the recruitment of his new players, saying that colleges âare already approaching us about our freshmen. In the first two weeks of practice, I had calls from UCLA about Erik [Swoope â10] and Austin [Kelly â10]. They do their homework very early.â
Although many colleges pursue likely recruits, several athletes still take on a very active role in the process due to the strict recruiting rules and limitations on the part of college coaches.Â
Â âThe coaches couldnât call me before July 1, so I would call or e-mail them,â Julie Fernandez â08 said.
As well as sending in game tapes and corresponding directly, players also go to different college sport camps or play in tournaments with scouts present to get themselves recognized. Fernandez, who was recruited for softball, described being on a club team and playing summer tournaments as the only way to get noticed.
âThe recruiting process was all done through club,â Fernandez said. âThe scouts go to the showcase tournaments that we play in over the summer.â
Though many athletes take it upon themselves to pop onto scoutsâ radars, Hilliard insists that while that may help the process, schools have it under control.
âThe [Division I] schools are investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in these kids,â he said, adding that âthey recruit entirely on their own.â
Jonathan âMooseâ Martin
Jonathan Martin â08 was doing squats and working towards the next season when a sudden outburst stopped him in his tracks.
âI swear to God I just saw Pete Carroll!â Stephen Adamson â08 said.
Martin immediately stopped and looked to confirm what he had heard.
Why would Pete Carroll, the coach of No. 1 nationally ranked USC, be wandering the halls of Taper Gym? The mystery was quickly solved when Carroll briskly walked in to the weight room in a bright yellow polo with his offensive coordinator, and calmly said, âHey, Moose.â
Up to this point, Martin had received a few offers and looks from some programs, but this impromptu meeting with Carroll, the coach of two national champion teams, only confirmed that he was a hot commodity on the recruiting network.
After this meeting, Martin was bombarded with a torrent of offers and letters, including ones from Mississippi, Harvard University and Virginia. Ultimately, Martin decided on UCLA. Martin verbally committed to the school in June, officially ending his recruiting process.
Julie Fernandez â08 strolled along the Lehigh campus, eagerly meeting admissions officers, professors and her potential teammates.
Until two weeks ago, Fernandez was torn between scholarship offers from Lehigh University and Bucknell University, both Division I schools in the Patriot League. After visiting Lehigh and the surrounding town just north of Philadelphia, however, Fernandez made her decision.
âI really liked the coach, the team, and everything about the school,â Fernandez recalled. âWhen I went to Bucknell, the town was so boring. It was in the middle of nowhere, and there were no good places to eat. It was just a bunch of diners and delis.â
Initially, Fernandez gained the interest of many east coast schools, including Boston University, Harvard University, and Colgate University, but quickly narrowed it down to her two final choices.
âMy decisions were pretty much based on the coaches and the players, but factors like which schools had openings at my position factored in, too,â Fernandez said.
Fernandez, who was voted most valuable player on the varsity softball team last year and made the First Team All Mission League, will not officially commit until Nov. 15 when she signs a letter of intent; however, she has already verbally committed to the school.
âAfter visiting both schools, I chose Lehigh, and when I got back from the trip, I called them to commit,â Fernandez said. âI just liked the environment there. It felt like a good fit.âÂ
Throughout the recruiting process, Zane Ma â08 knew he wanted to play basketball for an Ivy League school.Â
âI knew I could play immediately on an Ivy League team and get a good education,â Ma said.
Ma finally narrowed down his choices to Harvard University and Princeton University. He talked with players from both schools and found that the Princeton players were much easier to get along with.Â
In addition, he was very impressed by the Tigersâ new Head Coach Sydney Johnson, who was an assistant coach at national semifinalist Georgetown.
âI think he can bring back Princeton to being the best,â Ma said, who verbally committed to Princeton two weeks ago.
Ma and Johnson have their work cut out for them.Â The Tigers finished in last place in the Ivy League for the first time in league history last year.Â However, Ma is looking forward to the challenge.
Ma will not actually sign a letter of intent because Ivy League schools do not offer athletic scholarships.Â
He will finish his application early and send it to the coaches, who will send it to the admissions office, and then receive a letter saying that he will likely be admitted.Â Unless Ma breaks a major rule, he will be a Princeton Tiger.