Over the past few years, we’ve seen more and more of Texas’ best players head out of the state to play their college ball. Whether it’s Rasheed Sulaimon at Duke, Shaq Cleare at Maryland, Marcus Smart at Oklahoma State or more recently the Harrison twins who committed to Kentucky last week, the state’s best are often taking their talents elsewhere.
Kennedy's highest ranked commit so far is Derrick Griffin, the 30th ranked player in the 247Composite.
In 2013 the Harrison’s have already committed to Kentucky, Julius Randle is all but certain to pick an out-of-state school, Jordan Mickey is headed to LSU, Matt Jones to Duke, and Kendal Harris to USC. In fact, of the 2013 top ten in Texas the only two players committed to in-state schools are Derrick Griffin to A&M and Johnathan Motley to Baylor. Kennedy talked about the challenge of keeping players in the Lone Star State.
“We’re finding out that it’s harder than we thought coming in,” he said. “There’s so much competition and these kids play a national schedule year in and year out with AAU basketball that they’re familiar and able to go to other campuses and visit. But we still think we have a great situation here, and when we get them on campus we always feel like we have a chance. But recruiting now is recruiting three years in advance and we’ve still only been here one year and three months so we’re catching up from being behind from getting the job so late in May.”
Basketball recruiting starts earlier for most players than football. For example, the Harrison twins visited A&M when they were just heading into their freshman seasons three years ago. Kennedy said that in order to start landing those elite players from Texas’ great basketball cities, you have to prove you can win with who you have first.
“I think both Dallas and Houston are tough,” he said. “AAU basketball is so prevalent. It’s good in a lot of ways, but it’s also bad in a lot of ways. I probably shouldn’t get into the bad part of it (laughing), but it’s challenging. As we’ve developed relationships with these guys and they learn what we’re about it’s going to help us get guys down the road. You don’t get guys like DeAndre Jordan unless you have guys like Antoine Wright and Acie Law and have success with those teams. That’s what it takes, two or three years to get a special guy like that.”
Even though he admits recruiting is a challenge, A&M’s coach said he isn’t ever surprised by what happens on the recruiting trail, and that he wasn’t surprised at the difficulty in recruiting when he took over at A&M.
“Not really,” he said. “It wasn’t surprising because recruiting is a mess. It doesn’t matter where you’re at it’s the bloodline of a program and you have to be good at it. It’s a challenge, there are no surprises because anything can happen. Sonny Smith, the old Auburn coach once said “It’s all fair in love, war and recruiting.” It’s a challenge when it’s like that.”
The new coaching staff has had their share of recruiting victories so far. The signed Shawn Smith over offers from a number of high major programs, JuCo guard Fabyon Harris was recruited by a number of schools, as was forward Andrew Young.
Recently though, the Aggies were beat out for a player they wanted by a new contender in Texas. It’s been a long time since TCU snuck up and grabbed a top tier player, but that’s exactly what they did last week in Karviar Shepherd. And with his commitment to the Horned Frogs, conference realignment, mostly driven by football decisions, had it’s first big impact on basketball recruiting.
Because of NCAA rules, Kennedy can’t talk about specific players in recruiting, but he said that it’s hard not to notice that TCU’s presence in the Big 12 has helped them. However, he also said A&M’s move to the SEC has helped him as well.
“There’s always competition within the state, and TCU going into the Big 12 is really helping TCU, but we’ve been able to recruit some other guys because we’re going into the SEC and they’re excited about that because they know it’s the best league,” he said. “When you look at the national champions the last ten years there have been three come out of the SEC. Florida won two championships, Kentucky won one and went to the final four the last couple of years. You give a little and you take a little when you change leagues.”
If the Aggies can have a good season this year and get things rolling the right way again, there’s plenty of reason to believe that they’ll be a big contender on the recruiting stage. For now though, it all starts with winning.