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Sound Advice: How high school recruits can improve their stock in tough times

  • Benton junior Reece Johnson drives baseline past the Fairfield defense Friday at the Carmi 2A Regional championship.

    Benton junior Reece Johnson drives baseline past the Fairfield defense Friday at the Carmi 2A Regional championship.

By Spyder Dann
updated: 6/5/2020 9:09 AM

In a time where the stock market seems to plummet more and more each day, the same can be said for the stock of a high school recruit.
There is no denying the COIVD-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the high school calendar, spring sports, along with club and travel schedules and the light at the end of the tunnel is currently really dim.
Dim might also define the recruiting process for many high school athletes -- especially juniors -- which is the year that college recruiting is the most critical. It's when skills are scrutinized and their abilities to fit into a college program are contemplated by colleges coaches.
But now, what direction or avenue is a high school athlete supposed to take to improve their stock?
Kicking It Old School
"Back in the day" a high school athlete might have sent a letter or a video tape in the mail. Some technological advances have been made to where now athletes can e-mail that letter or video. Still, the concept remains the same.
Kyle Smithpeters, a former Harrisburg All Stater and now head men's basketball coach at John A. Logan College, said that he gets anywhere from 90 to 100 emails a day. He's calls the current situation a "logjam"
Sill, the notion of word of mouth is an option as well.
"Sending a video is about the only thing you can do right now," Smithpeters said. "I feel bad for a lot of kids, but it's the situation we are in right now where really the only thing you can do is e-mail and video. There are obviously less resources at everyone's disposal right now. It's a large adjustment for everyone."
Don't Be Afraid to Ask For Help
In terms of advice, Smithpeters said the one thing a high school recruit can't be afraid to do is ask for help.
"Find a coach, a teammate, a brother, a sister, anybody to operate the video camera will be beneficial," Smithpeters said.
Addisyn Miller, who just wrapped up her junior season of basketball for the Rangerettes and has high hopes of nailing down a college scholarship for softball had to swallow that bitter pill this spring.
She has enlisted the help of her father, Ryan, who serves as Benton High School softball coach and athletic director.
"She e-mails coaches on a regular basis," Ryan said. "We have 'family softball practice' every morning, playing catch at home, but the most important thing is to keep in contact with the college coaches that are interested in her."
Miller had two virtual visits with a pair of schools in Union University in Jackson, Tennessee and Illinois Wesleyan (Bloomington) and the incoming senior has used her digital tools in email and social media.
No Summer Lovin'
Ryan Miller noted while the loss of a spring season was devastating, the greater impact will be if there is no summer sports.
"The summer is when a majority of college coaches are out watching kids. I think if we don't get to play summer softball, it will have an effect."
Smithpeters echoes many of Miller's sentiments but also said that if and when schools do open back up, there will likely still be restrictions in place.
"Nothing is going to change until schools are opened up and even when they do open, a lot of schools and administrations aren't going to allow coaches to travel. Honestly, I don't blame them. You have to do what's best for your institution and protect your campus."
No summer sports also means no summer camps. It's a time when someone like Benton's Reece Johnson was hoping to bookend his junior season where he went over the 1,000 point mark for the Rangers and start taking in some college offers.
Johnson was going to play AAU basketball for the Illinois Bears. The senior-to-be would have already been to two tournaments, where likely, college coaches in some capacity would have been at.
"The biggest thing right now is the loss of AAU basketballl, you never know who might be in the crowd," Johnson said.
"Summer is usually when you plan visits to college campus and now you can't," Benton head coach Ron Winemiller said. "Part of the allure of being recruited is going on visits and being around the other guys on the teams. Players are not getting that right now."
Winemiller said that he has put together a highlight tape to send to 15-20 schools and then Johnson can cut that list down to five or six.
"In an ideal situation, you would want to sign in November and get it over with before the season starts. I'm not sure that's possible right now," Winemiller said.

Spyder Dann covers prep and college sports for the Southern Illinois Local Media News Group. Follow him on Twitter: @spydieshooter.

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