EWU coaches adjust to pandemic-style recruiting: Part two of a three-part series

EWU+head+coach+Shantay+Legans+gives+instruction+during+EWU%27s+74-71+loss+to+Idaho+Thursday.+Legans+was+largely+unhappy+with+EWU%27s+effort+in+the+game.

Mckenzie Ford for The Easterner

EWU head coach Shantay Legans gives instruction during EWU’s 74-71 loss to Idaho Thursday. Legans was largely unhappy with EWU’s effort in the game.

By Drew Lawson, Sports Editor

EWU coaches hoping to lure top-notch athletes to play in Cheney have had to get used to a lot of FaceTime calls and virtual campus tours while on the recruitment path. 

That’s just one of the adjustments EWU recruiters have had to make amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced the cancelation of many regular recruitment activities. 

The Easterner spoke to coaches in football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball to find out how those staffs have handled this unusual recruitment situation. This story will be released in three parts. This is part two, which covers the men’s basketball team with insight from Bobby Suarez, an assistant coach.

Similarly to the football team, the men’s basketball team has its roster practically set in stone for the 2020-21 season. EWU is still looking at potential high school prospects and receiving game film and other forms of contact from AAU coaches with players that could end up at the DI level. 

“They’re getting their guys on our radar and thinking, ‘what’s a good fit?’” Suarez said. “It’s a real different time.”

Normally, EWU would be using this time to evaluate players that have already committed to the school. They also go to watch players at the AAU level. The coaching staff looks at how the players are developing through high school as they grow both physically and within their skill level. 

“We know about kids early, when they’re younger,” Suarez said. “Some kids are like gorillas as freshmen. They’re 6’7” (and) have a full beard … (but) there’s some kids that are still underrated. They haven’t hit puberty or reached their full potential.”

Mckenzie Ford for The Easterner
EWU junior guard Jacob Davison soars in for a dunk. Davison led all scorers with 15 points in EWUs 107-25 victory over Portland Bible College Tuesday.

June would normally be time for camps, which is a big recruiting opportunity for EWU. That won’t be happening this year.

“Right now, we’d (normally) be working extensively on team camp, which we won’t be able to have this year,” Suarez said. 

EWU also hosts elite camps under “normal” circumstances and tries to get all the top recruits from Washington to attend, according to Suarez. That’s another recruiting opportunity prevented by COVID-19. 

Unlike football and women’s basketball, the men’s basketball team hasn’t done many FaceTime tours. They’re more focused on connecting with players at their level, whether that’s via phone or other mediums.

“It’s different case by case,” Suarez said. “Some kids don’t want to talk on the phone. Some kids love talking on the phone. Some kids like FaceTime, (while) others just want to talk to you over Xbox Live.”

Suarez said the coaching staff has used these uncertain times to make sure they’re still connecting well with their current players.

“It’s kinda like you have to re-recruit them, because we don’t see them every day,” Suarez said. “(We’re) trying to stay in touch with them and make sure they’re doing all their academics and they’re all trying to stay in shape.”

The rules regarding a lack of face-to-face recruiting during the COVID-19 era applies to all schools, from Duke to Gonzaga to EWU. Suarez said that puts smaller schools on more of an even playing field in regard to competing for top recruits.

“The bigger schools that have bigger budgets and have more resources … they get (recruits) to campus and can wow them,” Suarez said. “It puts us more on an even playing field where it’s more (about) basketball, seeing if you fit in with the (coaching) staff.”

Right now there’s uncertainty about what the 2020-21 college men’s basketball season will look like. For now, EWU coaches are focused on staying connected with the team and staying ready for whatever fall might look like. 

Recruiting series, part one: Football.

Recruiting series, part three: Women’s basketball.