I asked Merrimack College coach Monique LeBlanc what she looked for in college recruiting. Specifically what things players did that could move them from the interested to the disinterested pile. The obvious caveat was that there a player needs to have a certain threshold of skill. After clarifying that, she added that body language was essential. If they see a player does not high five a teammate or a coach, it’s an automatic. That player is not playing at Merrimack. Coach LeBlanc said that if the player could not respect their high school coach or AAU coach, why would a player be any different in college? There are those coaches that welcome this challenge providing the talent is there, but she is not one.
A second way a player can get crossed off the recruiting list is if they disrespect their parents. A lack of respect does not give a good look in terms of the respect that a coach will eventually have to command. Given the overlap between being a parent to a child and a coach to a player, I think this makes a ton of sense.
Social Media is still a relatively new phenomenon and Merrimack Women’s Basketball recognizes this. Coach LeBlanc intentionally keeps her distance in following recruits in social media. At the same time, she remains open-minded about changing the way it is used. There is a fine line between being creepy and also appearing disinterested to recruits.
And while they do not “like” every post that appears instantaneously, the staff will peruse a perspective student-athlete’s accounts. If a serious recruit has an inappropriate post, they will be crossed off the list. Merrimack has not lost interest on any player that they have had serious interest in due to social media concerns, but they have seen recruits of other schools post content that would not pass their test.
What has changed?
In terms of what has changed, Coach LeBlanc is watching now seeks out players who have a motor. Many coaches might argue that a motor can be taught. Coach LeBlanc views it as a skill and I would concur. In many respects this goes back to the high emphasis Merrimack gives defensive rebounding efficiency. Since their team is making defensive rebounding efficiency one of the few stats that they track going forward, they should be recruiting players that make that number grow. Quantifiable data might not exist for players that consistently set tough screens or box out on both ends. If a coach watches for it though instead of looking exclusively at scoring, passing, or other more conventional skills they can find these players.
Other Attributes that Get You Recruited
In addition to having a motor, two other attributes that get a player recruited to Merrimack are competitiveness and work ethic. Everyone’s definition of competitiveness has some gray area to it. Coach LeBlanc illustrated what she meant by a drill they implemented to track who threw the hardest and most accurate passes on the team.
Using athletic tape, there was a box on the wall. Players threw a ball as hard and accurately as they could. One coach watched for accuracy, while the other timed the speed. Preaching to players to make their passes harder was not enough. Once it became a measurably competitive task, there was a higher degree of buy in. The point got through to the players that they could make sharper passes and carried over into games. Without competitive players in the program, Merrimack likely would have continued to throw passes that were not as sharp as they should be.
In terms of the work ethic, Coach LeBlanc was emphatic on players getting better independently. Self-motivation is essential to their culture. One anecdote she shared with me was that in an elite clinic, a high school player was not running hard in transition. This player passed the minimum threshold of skill mentioned above. In an instance where the player should have been proving herself to her peers and Coach LeBlanc and Stec, she completely lacked a motor. It would have been too much of an uphill climb to recruit this player.
This is part two of my three question sit-down with Coach LeBlanc. Tomorrow I will post some tips I learned on making a five-out offense more efficient.