Friday, April 16, 2010

Patience Is a Virtue in Spring Recruiting

When it comes to college basketball recruiting, patience is a not only a virtue, it's a requirement. Unlike college football recruiting, where probably 95 percent of the players sign their letters of intent on the first day of the signing period, basketball recruiting seems to drag on interminably. Especially if you are a coach waiting to hear from a potential recruit.

Dan Angell of the Journal did an interview Thursday with Sac State Coach Brian Katz about his recruiting class to date, and you can just hear the anxiety in Katz's voice as he talks about waiting to hear back from three of his targets.

So you can imagine the anxiety around the Idaho State basketball offices these days as the Bengals attempt to bring in eight new players. ISU Head Coach Joe O'Brien told Angell earlier in the day that he is hopeful he can round up that recruiting class over the next two weekends, when he plans to bring in a number of recruits each weekend. O'Brien could at least breath a bit of a sigh of a relief on Thursday, when his first spring recruit, 6-6, 220-pound forward Brandon Glanz (above) of Las Vegas, faxed in his letter of intent.

Some Bengal fans, myself included, were more than a bit apprehensive about how the Bengals' spring recruiting efforts were progressing when no signees were announced on Wednesday, the first day of the signing period, and when there were no publicly-acknowledged commitments by recruits. But we should have reminded ourselves that ISU basketball coaches historically have been recruiting well into May most years. Final Four weekend is always a "dead period" for recruits, and ISU coaches also try to manuever visits around the Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo, which brings a distinct, shall we say, "air" to Holt Arena for a week or so every spring. (Every college has its unique recruiting challenges, but I have to think horse manure ranks right up there with the most unique).

The signing of Glanz, who joins fall recruit Andre Hatchett, a 6-4 guard/forward, is the first step to addressing one of the Bengals' biggest needs this spring: big bodies who can rebound and defend the post. David Busma, the 7-foot center who redshirted last year, is the only returning big man on the roster. Just from looking at his promotional recruiting video, Glanz appears to have the skills to see time at all three forward spots. He used his athleticism to average 25 points, 16 rebounds and five blocks a game, impressive numbers no matter who you are playing against. To become a more polished inside presence in the Big Sky Conference, Glanz also will have to start putting together more of a back-to-the-basket, post-up game.
More to Come
Hopefully next on the Bengal shopping list are: a couple more post players, preferrably JC kids who have the experience and physical maturity to step in and start; a couple of wing players who can hit the three; and another point guard who can back-up returner Broderick Gilchrest, and perhaps allow him to slide over to the two guard for periods of time. That's a nice, comprehensive list to shoot for and it would be great if O'Brien really could wrap it all up over the next two weekends. But nobody knows better how flakey spring recruiting can be than coaches trying to complete a roster. Or, how critical patience is during that time.
No More Numbers
I took down a previous blog post, "The (Almost) All Numbers" edition, after being told that many of the numbers in the post (which all came from the Idaho State Board of Education web site) were inaccurate. I apologize to ISU football Coach John Zamberlin and Athletic Director Jeff Tingey for reporting inaccurate salary figures. And I apologize for drawing inaccurate, or possibly over-dramatic conclusions from those numbers. Frank Mercogliano is my balast, and he has to occasionally pull me back from the ledge when my "glass half-empty" side rears its ugly head in this blog space. I think it's latent cynacism left over from days as a political reporter and former sportswriter. It's one of my many character flaws I'm attempting to correct.
--Brad Bugger

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Bengal Recruit Defines Toughness

You often hear coaches talk about "toughness" in their players as a desired quality. Well, you'd be hard-pressed to find anybody "tougher" than new Idaho State women's recruit Abyee Maracigan (left). The 5-9 junior college transfer, who signed with the Bengals today, is a two-time all-American guard who also led her high school team to the Arizona state championship. But her accomplishments on the court are nothing compared to what she's had to overcome to get on the court.

Maracigan tore the ACL in her left leg in the first game of the national junior college basketball tournament this spring. That led to her fifth knee surgery -- the other four were to repair torn ligaments and the meniscus in her right knee. Oh, and to top that off, Maracigan broke her wrist -- twice -- this past season, but, after sitting out just two weeks, still managed to take the court for her Pima College team.

Bengal Coach Seton Sobelewski will have to wait until Maracigan arrives in Pocatello this summer to see how her rehab is going from her latest surgery, and make a determination if she'll be able to compete this coming season. But if her past tenacity and "toughness" are any indication, she'll probably be ready to step on the floor and compete the day she arrives in the Gate City. "If anything, this makes me stronger," Maracigan told the Arizona Daily Star after her latest surgery. "I've been through the rehab process so many times that it has changed me. I appreciate the game more than ever. Don't be surprised if I'm running again by next week."

Maracigan is more than just tough, though, she's a proven winner. Her high school and junior college teams put together a combined 145-28 record over the past five seasons. Pima College went from 5-22 the season before she arrived to 28-6 and third in the nation her first year there. "She's a glue kind of a player," Todd Holthaus, her coach at Pima, told the Daily Star. "She's just a winner of a kid. I told her she was the 'First Aztec,' my first real recruit. I would start building with her. "

Maracigan was one of two new recruits announced by Sobolewski on Wednesday. The other was another young lady used to winning -- Springville, Utah's Jessica Jensen, a 6-1 forward who led her Utah 4A state championship team in rebounding and blocked shots. Jensen averaged only 8.5 points a game her senior season, but she had to share the ball with Lexi Eaton, Utah's Player of the Year as a junior. She helped Springville to the state runner-up her junior year.

Maracigan and Jensen join point guard Sheryl Bitter, post player Cydney Horton and wing Kara Jenkins, who signed with ISU in the fall. Sobolewski still has scholarships to give and he and his staff are out looking for a true, back-to-the basket post-up threat to replace departing senior Oana Iacovita, and they remain involved with other recruiting prospects.

--Brad Bugger