We all know that when high-level student-athletes get recruited, it can be a stressful and demanding process. Fortunately, two of my friends on the varsity basketball team at Mount St. Joseph High School went through the arduous recruiting process this past summer. In July, senior guard Ace Valentine announced he was committing to UMBC after receiving offers from Loyola (MD), Saint Peters, and the Naval Academy, among others. Meanwhile, at the end of August, senior forward Amani Hansberry announced his commitment to the University of Illinois after a very long process, including an incredible summer playing for Team Durant in the Peach Jam Tournament in Georgia. I talked with both of them to get a real perspective on what it’s like to go through such a challenging and demanding process.
Before his big summer playing in the Peach Jam, Hansberry told me his recruitment process was “very heavy,” and then it slowed down a bit. “When my last AAU season started, it kinda picked up a lot,” he said about his status before his last tournament at the AAU level. During the Peach Jam, he received offers from Auburn, Virginia Tech, and Oregon. Out of those schools, only Auburn made his Top 5. “It felt good not having to worry about anything,” he said. “Definitely very blessed, and all the hard work paid off.” When I asked him about what he’s looking forward to about his senior year, he kept it simple, “Just winning. I’m trying to hang two more banners up [MIAA & BCL].”
Ace Valentine kept it real. When he was at the DMV Live Tournament at DeMatha High School in June, he didn’t have any offers. But once the tournament finished, he had eight offers, one of which was from UMBC. “The coaching staff showed me the most love, and I feel like I can thrive there,” he said about his commitment. “I feel like I can step in and play right away.” This season the St. Joe basketball team is playing in high-level tournaments like the ‘Iolani Prep Classic in Hawaii before Christmas and the Hoophall Challenge in Springfield, Massachusetts, in January. Valentine told me that’s what he’s looking forward to the most about his senior season. “Playing a national schedule, that’s what I really want,” he said.
For athletes at St. Joe who are attracting interest from schools, I would say to make a decision that you feel is right for you. Make a decision not based on the school but on the fit and how you feel you would do there. Prioritize making every day better than the last. Hansberry said that you need to “stack good days.”
Amani and Ace aren’t the only talented players that Mount St. Joseph basketball head coach Pat Clatchey has sent to the next level. Two notable players were Jalen Smith and Darryl Morsell, who both committed to the University of Maryland one year after each other. Jaylen Adams committed to St. Bonaventure ahead of the 2014-15 season, and Phil Booth committed to Villanova before the 2014-15 season as well. Smith currently plays for the Indiana Pacers, and Morsell received an Exhibit 10 deal with the Utah Jazz. He will join them for training camp and primarily play with their G League Affiliate, the Salt Lake City stars.
I asked Coach Clatchey how difficult it really is for them to actually make that decision to shape their future. “Many factors go into that decision,” he said. “Education, level of play, opportunity to play, and how far it is from home.” He also mentioned how important it is for schools to have a good reputation for player development in terms of putting players in the pros. He called it “the biggest and most important decision they’ve had to make.”
I hope this article helps St. Joe students understand what this process is like for basketball players like Amani Hansberry and Ace Valentine. Hopefully, if you get recruited, you will pick a place that suits you and has the same goals and ambitions as you do.