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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Camp a tool for elite recruiting

    Michael Schwartz
    Michael Schwartz

    What do Chase Budinger, Jerryd Bayless, Brandon Jennings and Abdul Gaddy all have in common?

    Besides being the top players in their respective UA basketball recruiting classes from 2006-2009, all four attended an Arizona elite camp, a session that provides a major recruiting advantage for programs like Arizona.

    When Gaddy committed to the Wildcats ’09 class in late August, he became just another in a long line of Arizona prospects who got a taste of what it means to be a Wildcat before signing on. He’s not alone, as every player committed to the ’07-’09 classes – except ’08 recruit Emmanuel Negedu – has attended an Arizona elite camp.

    Similar camps have sprouted up around the nation, which could be in part inspired by the success of Arizona’s inaugural camp two years ago, otherwise known as the Chase Budinger Invitational. Although the camp helped with the recruitment of Bayless and Jennings – both of whom attended – the success in wooing Chase Budinger demonstrated the effectiveness of the camp.

    The camp may not be as important to Arizona as it is to other schools because the Arizona Cactus Classic AAU tournament takes place in McKale Center, but it still shows recruits what it means to be a Wildcat. The program even pays former UA greats to be guest speakers, a role Sean Elliott played this year.

    “”It’s obviously a very powerful thing,”” said UA assistant coach Josh Pastner. “”Those guys that we pay for guest speakers are NBA guys. Those are (the guys) kids in camp look up to. Every kid in camp’s goal is to one day play in the NBA.””

    Before Gaddy set foot on campus for this year’s camp, he already had his mind made up between his childhood dream school Arizona and hometown Washington.

    At the camp, he watched a scrimmage that included NBA players and former Wildcats Richard Jefferson, Jason Terry and Luke Walton, was led through drills by UA coaches, and got a feel for the campus and program.

    “”That reiterated in his mind it’s not only a place he dreamed about playing but solidified it as the place,”” said Gary Ward, Gaddy’s AAU coach.

    Pastner said the camp is important because it gets high-caliber athletes on campus without it being termed an official visit, quite an asset in light of the NCAA’s strict recruiting guidelines, with coaches not even allowed to send recruits text messages.

    The program does not use the camp purely for evaluation, Pastner said, as many of the players who attend have been scouted for some time by UA coaches, but UA freshmen Laval Lucas-Perry and Zane Johnson earned scholarships based on their play at camp.

    “”We’re able to know from watching how they play if they’re able to play at our level or not,”” Pastner said.

    Jerry Meyer, the basketball recruiting assistant editor of www.rivals.com, called elite camps “”a ridiculously good recruiting tool,”” the type of thing that smart schools are using to the fullest.

    Dave Telep, the national recruiting director of www.scout.com, agreed that hosting an elite camp gives schools an edge in the ultra-competitive world of college basketball recruiting.

    “”I don’t think you can replace the value of elite camp to spend a couple days and coach and teach a kid and grade and evaluate him as a player,”” he said. “”On the flip side, for the kid to get a feel for a coaching staff where he’s a really good player and competing with other players and also trying to see if the personalities match, you have a tremendous recruiting tool.””

    That tool helped Arizona nab all five players in its incoming 2007 class that Rivals ranks No. 5 in the nation and contributed to the Wildcats’ 2008 class that ESPN.com ranks No. 2.

    With Gaddy, the No. 14 player in ’09, on his way as well, the camp has helped the Wildcats stay elite in the recruiting world.

    Michael Schwartz is a journalism senior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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