It’s no secret that the basketball recruiting process is different for mid-major schools like UCSB, which offer fewer scholarships and less national exposure than their high-major counterparts in power conferences such as the Pac-10.
Head Coach Bob Williams discussed the recruiting process for UCSB yesterday afternoon in his office at the Intercollegiate Athletic Building. Williams likes the team chemistry development aspect of coaching at a mid-major, with most of his recruits lacking either the talent or the bodies to leave college early.
“We lose kids to the Pac-10,” Williams said. “But [we] get most of [our] kids for four years if not five,” he said. “You don’t have to be held hostage with AAU, the agents, the underbelly of this game that people get so…sensitive about. You deal with it some, just not to the same extent that you do at the Pac-10 level.”
The team signed four freshmen to the class of 2015 back in November. With the core of the squad coming back for its senior campaign and the addition of redshirt transfers Nate Garth from New Mexico and Keegan Hornbuckle from Colorado, Williams claims the four will have the “luxury of learning” without the pressure to immediately contribute to a team looking to make its third consecutive March Madness appearance.
“Let’s say three of these kids redshirt,” he said. “That just made us a whole lot better four or five years down. You have to really sell the benefits of [redshirting]. What you don’t want to do is waste a freshman year.”
The two guards in next year’s freshmen class — 6’5” John Green and 5’9” T.J. Taylor — are from Oakland. The two forwards — 6’7”, 240-lb enforcer Alan Williams and 6’8”, 190-lb tweener Taran Brown — hail from Arizona and Wyoming, respectively. They join Hungarian native Greg Somogyi as the only three players on the UCSB roster raised outside of California. Williams called Alan the “poor man’s Kendrick Perkins.”
“Big Al’s actually bigger than 240,” Williams said. “He’s got great hands, loves to bang, very physical, loves to defend, loves to give the dirty look. He’s the guy that I believe everybody loves playing with.”
In the recruiting process for Brown, assistant coach Matt Stock connected with the high school senior because of their joint upbringings in Wyoming — playing a significant role in snagging Brown away from the Wyoming flagship campus. “[Wyoming] tried to recruit him and they took a lot of heat for not getting him,” Coach Williams said. “As [Brown] gets stronger, people are going to be like ‘How’d you get him?’ Just like they’re saying about Orlando [Johnson]. The more people that ask you that question, the better team you have. We love hearing that.”
According to Williams, Green plays a lot like Johnson, the junior guard who won the Big West Tournament MVP, tested the NBA waters and ultimately decided to return for his senior season next year. The other guard, Taylor, was ranked No. 22 on the list of the top 25 high school seniors in California and opted out of his commitment to Santa Clara to sign with UCSB.
“We have really good Bay Area connections,” Williams said. “[Taylor’s] older brother grew two or three inches out of high school. If T.J. grows two or three inches, we have a monster. But he’s going to be a good player [even] if he doesn’t grow.”
Williams did not elaborate on the circumstances leading to Taylor forgoing his commitment to Santa Clara as a junior, although he claimed that UCSB began recruiting him after the commitment was dropped and that Taylor “was not as comfortable with Santa Clara’s style of play.”
“Most kids want to play [immediately],” Williams said. “They’re competitive. They think they can play now. They’ve all had highly successful high school careers.”
He added: “I’d rather rank a recruiting class when I get done coaching them. This group of seniors leaving [next year] has a chance to be one of the better groups of seniors this program has had. They’ve got a lot lot of potential.”