In Reply to: I think there's some post hoc logic here posted by Underbruin on July 11, 2018 at 00:45:15
I agree with your last paragraph. And it made me realize that I had failed to adequately explain why I think that Beilein's approach is not only more likely to be successful at UCLA than Alford's has been, but is just better. (Keeping in mind that much of the reason for Michigan's greater success is that Beilein is just a better coach, as opposed to anything magical about his recruiting philosophy or program culture.)
I don't think the Michigan/Villanova advantage is that players who are ready to be first rounders stay extra years, although I suspect that it probably happens more at those places than at UCLA.
The bigger advantage is that players on the whole stay longer, including the players that eventually improve enough to become first rounders. In other words, Michigan and Villanova do try to recruit players that will play in the NBA. However, they seem to prefer players that will require two or more years of development in order to be ready for the NBA to the players that are likely to be one and done. Both programs have made the decision that the benefit of having players in the program for 2, 3 or 4 years outweighs the disadvantage of foregoing players who might be more impactful in year 1.
In other words, 3 years of Brunson is better than 1 year of Lonzo. Therefore, recruiting efforts are weighted much more to identifying very high potential players who, for one reason or other, are just further out on their development curves than the one and dones.
Sometimes it is as simple as physical maturity. Mo Wagner as a freshman was comically overmatched against every player on Michigan State's team, as well as the upperclassman that teams like Purdue and Iowa rely on. However, by the end of his sophomore year, even non-experts like me could tell that Wagner had a good chance of playing in the NBA.
Sometimes it is a lack of skill or basketball decision-making. Charles Mathews essentially washed out of the Kentucky program because, although he was a Kentucky level athlete, there were too many similar Kentucky athletes who had more skills and what Michael Miller used to call "ball knowledge" for Mathews to get enough playing time. After a redshirt year and probably two more full years playing at Michigan, after next season Mathews will be ready to make a good living as a professional basketball player. (John Beilein claims that he did not recruit Mathews; Mathews recruited Michigan. If true, that was a pretty good indication that Mathews would highly value his time at Michigan, and not jump at his first pro opportunity.)
Although I am not as skeptical as 68Manager, I do recognize that what Michigan and Villanova do is very difficult. It is not easy to tell the difference between "not yet developed" and "just not good enough." And a program can make a mistake the other way, also. I am guessing that Villanova was hoping to make another deep tournament run in 2018-19 behind Omari Spellman and Divincenzo, but those guys got too good too soon. (Of course, they have another NCAA championship to show for it....)
However, I think that it is worth the effort to do it the way that Michigan and Villanova do it (even at the risk of becoming the subject of derision like Virginia is at the moment), because it is much more consistent with the university's overall mission.
In every field, the university benefits from attracting some students that are so talented that they probably need the university much less than the university program needs them. However, the purpose of the university, and the organizing assumption for the university, should be that each program exists for the purpose of teaching and training students to better prepare those students for the lives that they envision for themselves.
Most college sports fans speak about recruits only in terms of how those recruits can help their school's team. That might be fine for fans of Alabama or USC football , or Kentucky or Duke basketball, but as UCLA graduates and fans, we should hold ourselves, and the university, to a higher standard.
UCLA does have the capability to provide very significant - even unique - basketball educational benefits. I think it should be choosing its basketball players, at least in part, by how much the university can benefit those players, not just how much the members can benefit the university.
UCLA can be very proud of not only how well Aaron Holiday and Thomas Welch competed and comported themselves, but how much each of them benefited from their time at UCLA. On the other hand, as well as they played, or may play in the future, the same cannot be said (at least to the same extent) for Lonzo, Ryan Leaf, or Ike Anigbogu.
I understand that it strikes most fans as ridiculous that UCLA might turn away Ryan Leaf in favor of taking a chance on a currently less able player based on the evaluation that he will be the next Thomas Welch. (I am not sure that I would go that far, either. After all, many observers did not project Leaf as a one and done when he came to UCLA.) However, I do think it is fair to ask the staff to spend more time on player and student evaluation and communication, with less time on cultivating relationships with AAU powerbrokers and other marketing and sales efforts, so that UCLA can attract players who will stay with the program longer.
And yes, that includes recruiting players that will take 2, 3 or even 4 years of development at UCLA to become elite players, in preference to recruiting some players who might be elite now.
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