In large black letters on a silver backdrop in a meeting room tucked in the back of the Rudy Davalos practice facility is a simple, seemingly obvious message: “Coach this team.”
The sign hangs above a large, white dry erase board that the University of New Mexico men’s basketball coaching staff uses to keep track of current recruiting targets.
The list can fluctuate from 20 or 30 names to more than double that, depending on the time of year.
And, despite the undeniable importance of recruiting in the college basketball world — a theme that gets amplified during the intense and recently-completed July recruiting period every summer — the simple three-word message serves as a reminder to second-year Lobos head coach Paul Weir that he already has 13 scholarship players and a couple more walk-ons who have already made their commitment to him and to UNM.
“That’s to remind myself that as much as I go down the road of recruiting, don’t ever forget the guys you currently have,” Weir said as he talked with the Journal this week about his recruiting philosophy.
“And I tell that to all the recruits that come in. I may not have spent as much time with you or on you as maybe this coach or that program do, but just so you know, that’s because I give everything I have to these current guys. … I’m never going to get away from coaching the players that I have.”
The NCAA allows coaches — a head coach and three assistants — to have in-person “evaluation” periods of players for a total of 15 days in July, spread out for five days at a time (Wednesday through Sunday) over three weeks in the month. The evaluation period coincides with the busiest month of the year for the club basketball scene with tournaments all over the country for players of all ages, up to those about to enter their senior high school years.
The NCAA is proposing widespread rules changes that could make all that change as early as next summer, but for now, July is still king of the college recruiting calendar.
Last summer, Weir and his staff spent as much time re-recruiting Lobos and piecing together a roster of junior college and Division I transfers as it did making inroads on the long-term recruiting benefits July is known to bring.
This year, the program had its first full recruiting cycle under Weir.
“I thought it went really well,” Weir said. “It was obviously much different than last July. Last July, we were either here (in Albuquerque) trying to host recruits and get our roster finished up or we were trying to go out and watch kids that were literally still available in (that year’s) class. We were just trying to finish up the roster to get ready for the season. There was no watching future kids and getting ahead of the game. … It was just trying to get caught up.”
This year, the staff had been studying high school recruits who could become future Lobos for months by the time July actually arrived, but the calendar’s busiest month always changes even the best-laid plans.
UNM’s recruiting board at one point, Weir said, might have “60 to 70” names on it. Assistants might have much longer lists of their own, but the staff as a whole has a shorter, more manageable list of targets. Today, the Lobos staff has trimmed its list to around 40, and the month of July produced “about 20 to 25 we had not seen” heading into the evaluation period.
Considering UNM and other Mountain West schools, defending champion Nevada in particular, rely so heavily now on Division I and junior college transfers, and less on the high school-aged players that make up the bulk of the July recruiting circuit, what does July hold for a program at the mid-major level?
“If you look at our roster right now, obviously there’s not a lot that comes from July,” Weir acknowledges, but adds that July isn’t just about the next recruiting class, but ones down the road.
“Even now as we’re watching player A, B and C,” Weir said, “those could be the same A, B and C that are transferring 12 months from now.”