With over a full calendar year on the recruiting trails in the books, head coach Kevin Willard's recruiting strategy is becoming clearer and clearer by the day.
The entire staff's shortcomings (experience) and strengths (hard work, sincerity) were outlined in this spring's Recruiting Prospectus. Beyond their overall ability, its appropriate to look into their general recruiting strategy. So far, we've seen a combination of way-under-the-radar commitments (Patrik Auda, Aaron Geramipoor, Haralds Karlis), players who are more suited for the mid-major level but are worth taking a risk on (Anali Okoloji, Sean Grennan, Freddie Wilson) and a few genuinely good recruiting coups (Aaron Cosby, Kevin Johnson, Brandon Mobley).
Its true that none of these players can definitively be deemed busts, steals or anything else -- no one besides Auda and Geramipoor have played a game, let alone starters minutes. However, Willard's recruiting strategy can be identified.
The staff's failure to land several recruits that were favoring Seton Hall or had the Pirates on their final list is undeniable. Elijah Carter, Shaquille Thomas and Myles Mack are the main culprits. They respectively chose to commit to Rutgers, Cincinnati and Rutgers instead of Seton Hall. While these recruiting losses could be chalked up to coaching inexperience, the recruit's personal preference or superior alternatives to Seton Hall, the coaching staff's hard work and ability to garner the interest of talented local players early in their stint at Seton Hall is also undeniable.
In my eyes, the staff's recruiting resume from day one to today has been risky. The general strategy of recruiting players that simply weren't getting looks from other high-major programs ensures that Seton Hall will be at or near the top of a recruit's list due to the fact that they are a Big East school. Additionally, the staff seems to have been banking on the fact that some of their targets (Canarias Basketball Academy) weren't known by other high-major staffs and the eligibility of some (Aaron Geramipoor) was unknown to most schools except Seton Hall. Summed up, the majority of the recruiting strategy thus far can be deemed 'CIAton Hall'.
This strategy is risky because it assumes that their targets do not have more attractive options which would alter Seton Hall's position on the player's list dramatically. In Layman's terms: if your targets are discovered, you're screwed. The reason for why this is currently true at Seton Hall is simple but a story for another piece down the road. That said, whether these targets aren't being "discovered" due to their unknown or quality (or lack) of talent is up for debate.
In future classes, it looks like the staff will need to abandon or build upon this 'CIA' strategy. Canarias Basketball Academy is no longer a secret, recruiting exposure is growing by the day and a team comprised entirely of lower rated recruits may be a formula for success at schools like Gonzaga and Butler, but the Big East and its recruiting hungry fans is simply not comparable to the Horizon League or the WCC.
Kevin Willard's dynamic recruiting approach to this point cannot yet be deemed a failure of a success - time will only tell. Going forward, it appears Willard is looking to evolve his risky recruiting efforts into something more rewarding, on and off the court.