By Marcos Aragon
Before the madness of the Triple Crown NIT three-day tournament, there is an opportunity for the juniors and seniors who haven’t committed to a school yet to showcase their talents for the coaches in attendance. The Unsigned Senior/Junior Workout this year had 150 players going through different positional drills with the help of coaches from the ASICS Munciana club program.
“The biggest thing for us is you get to see them in isolated context where you know when they’re gonna see the ball, and you are guaranteed eyes on repetitions where in the game setting you won’t necessarily see them take swings or take passes or take sets on a regular basis, so it’s nice to see them in a predictable situation,” said Christopher Duenow, assistant head coach of Concordia University Irvine.
Coaches will evaluate players on how they do in the various drills but often look beyond just physical traits and examine personality and how players interact on the court.
“Initially, we’re just looking for athleticism, what their skill level is. To some degree, you’re looking at what their self confidence is in a setting they’re unfamiliar with, so it gives you a little bit of a taste of just what their presence is like, personality-wise. But mostly you’re just looking for what their foundational level is, athletically and skill wise,” added Duenow.
Head coach Sue Delaney from Salt Lake Community College echoed Duenow’s evaluation tactics, saying that athleticism is the first thing she looks for, especially at a two-year junior college like SLCC where she and her staff must recruit new players just about yearly.
“Usually every year we need to recruit for every position. I don’t know how many kids are here but it’s a lot to look at. So sometimes we look for the undersized kid, because the 6’1” setters are gonna go probably to a higher level... It’s a good opportunity for them to kind of see what level they’re at and gauge that,” said Delaney.
Both Delaney and Duenow had eyes on players who were working out in the showcase. They agreed on the importance for them to come out and see these players who haven’t been signed yet to try and persuade them to come join their respective schools.
“It’s a great opportunity for them to get some visibility and see where they stack up against other players,” said Delaney, “Everybody wants a shot, everybody wants to play college, that’s why they’re here. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be spending the money or putting the time and effort into it.”
“You never know, a diamond in the rough kid you haven’t had on the radar and they jump out at you in one moment and then you get a chance to see them later on in the weekend in the tournament setting. So it can be really productive to just catch up on kids that you maybe were unaware of,” said Duenow.
Seniors like Emma Christopherson who come from small towns like Fallbrook, California, use the showcase to demonstrate their talent for coaches who didn’t have her on their recruiting lists. She is taking full advantage of the spotlight that falls on her this weekend.
“I just think it’s a really good opportunity to just come out and work with a great group of coaches to kind of show off what I’ve learned throughout my entire career to hopefully get me to the next level,” said Christopherson, “I thought I did really well. Obviously, I’ve been traveling so I’m kind of tired, it’s been a long day. But I wouldn’t get down on myself about anything that happened, for sure.”
Christopherson came from a defunct club team in California. Despite coming into recruiting season late, she’s been happy with the experience of being recruited and is keeping her head up about the future.
“I changed clubs and didn’t even really know what the recruiting process was, but it’s been completely positive. I think a lot of girls kind of are stressed about it but I just see it as an opportunity that not everyone gets, so I’ve had a really good experience so far.”