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How NIT run could help Iowa coaches recruit

[ 0 ] March 30, 2013 |

IOWA CITY, Ia. – When it comes to recruiting in college basketball, seeing is believing.

“Today’s young person, they equate success with visibility,” Iowa assistant coach Andrew Francis said.

One of the intangibles coming out of the Hawkeyes’ NIT run is the increased visibility that national television appearances have provided.

“This NIT season has been tremendous for us for our growth and the extra games,” Francis said. “And obviously, the exposure is always a plus.”

Iowa’s 8 p.m. NIT semifinal against Maryland on Tuesday will be televised on ESPN2, as were games against Indiana State in the first round and Virginia in the quarterfinals. The Stony Brook game in the second round was on ESPNU. Thursday’s title game will be on ESPN.

From left, Iowa coaches Kirk Speraw, Fran McCaffery and Andrew Francis say the team's NIT run can only help recruiting because of the visibility of the nationally televised games. (Register file photo)

From left, Iowa coaches Kirk Speraw, Fran McCaffery and Andrew Francis say the team's NIT run can only help recruiting because of the visibility of the nationally televised games. (Register file photo)

“I tell you, it’s an enormous help,” Francis said. “The exposure with a nationally televised game like that is tremendous for recruiting. Now when you call them they know who you are. They say, 'Oh, yeah, I saw you guys, you played really well.’ That’s always nice to hear.”

Francis came with Fran McCaffery from Siena to Iowa in March of 2010. He said that Iowa’s basketball resurgence has opened the door of opportunity in the living rooms of prospects who once asked him what conference the Hawkeyes played in, knew nothing about Iowa’s style of play and turned a deaf ear to his recruiting pitches.

Iowa will have three scholarships to give after next season, to replace departing seniors Melsahn Basabe, Zach McCabe and Devyn Marble. There also are three scholarships in the Class of 2015 to replace Aaron White, Josh Oglesby and Gabe Olaseni.

The Hawkeyes’ 24 victories this season is tied for third most in school history. That’s great, McCaffery said, but there’s plenty of work to be done.

“We’re not, at any point in time, going to stop continuing to work every day on all aspects of the program because we’re not just building a basketball team,” McCaffery said. “We’re building a program. How are we perceived on a national level, how are we perceived in the state?

“Prospects that are considering where to go to school — and they have plenty of options — how do they look at us? The exposure that we’ve gotten in these games has been very helpful, I think.”

Both McCaffery and Francis think the exposure from the NIT games against Indiana State and Stony Brook, played before sellout crowds at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, is especially valuable.

“It was tremendous,” Francis said. “Some of these NIT games, they see empty houses and crowds that are scattered. And they see Iowa and they see a packed arena, and they hear a packed arena. You can get a feeling off TV that, 'Wow, that’s a great atmosphere.’ ”

Iowa can now sell atmosphere, as well as style of play.

“Everybody that watches says, 'I want to play there. That is an unbelievable atmosphere.’ And that’s what you want,” McCaffery said.

The fact that Tuesday’s game against Maryland will be televised without the lure of competing NCAA games will carry greater impact, to McCaffery’s way of thinking. So would an appearance in Thursday’s title game on ESPN.

“If we win, we’ll have two more opportunities to play on national television when hardly anyone else is playing, and every prospect in the country is going to watch those games,” McCaffery said.

The bottom line: free publicity never hurts when you’re building a program.

“Ultimately, I think the tangible benefits are we’ll continue to get better,” McCaffery said.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball

About Rick Brown: Rick Brown covers men's basketball for The Des Moines Register and Hawk Central. He's married and the father of two. He also covers golf for the Register. View author profile.

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