by James Howey
The college’s athletic success is no secret, and just like every college athletics program in America, that process starts with recruiting. Head coaches here at the college are of the opinion that recruiting here is a huge luxury.
Head women’s basketball coach Ben Conrad has recruited at almost every level in college basketball, and for him, this college is nothing short of top-notch.
“We had things we didn’t want recruits to see at other places I’ve been,” Conrad said. “We have nothing to apologize for here. This is first class all the way. We’re proud of everything we have here at Johnson County, and that’s pretty cool.”
The academic standard also plays a huge part in recruiting future Cavaliers.
“We really look for strong students because we’re top ten in the country academically and not like a lot of the schools in our conference. They’re going to struggle here if they are just average students,” head volleyball coach Jennifer Ei said. “A lot of the students that we are attracting have very high GPAs and they have a purpose. It’s not just about getting their school paid for — they actually want a good degree and a good education.”
Education background is important for the thorough investigation that the baseball program does for potential recruits.
“I’m concerned about their GPA, their attendance record and if they have shown that they can engage in other activities other than baseball,” head baseball coach Kent Shelley said.
Shelley expects nothing but the best out of the recruits the Cavs are bringing on the campus.
“We do as much up-front investigating as we can before we ever bring them on campus before an official visit,” Shelley said. “They have to be passionate about excelling in the classroom, on the baseball field and the game of life.”
Over the years, the big game-changer has been the evolution and growing of social media and text messaging. These are adaptations that nearly every athletic program has had to go through to get with the times.
“My assistant coaches have done an excellent job adapting to social media,” Shelley said. “These young kids today live on social media, so if you’re not in the game, you have no chance to get these kids.”
For softball head coach Aubree Brattin, phone calls are rare nowadays, and speaking to recruits will not happen right away.
“Kids don’t like to answer their phones. They want to text you and communicate behind a keyboard,” Brattin said. “The first conversation we’ll usually have is after a game at the ball field or when they are actually here on campus.”
Coach Conrad says he would be on the phone for hours when he started here at the college.
“When I started doing this, we were on the phone a ton. Even my first years here with a couple recruiting classes I would be out here on the phone three or four nights a week from 7:00 to 10:30 making calls and just grinding,” said Conrad. “It’s changed a ton in just five or six years.”
The year-round grind of recruiting is another aspect that is an eye-opener. For Conrad and the women’s basketball program, the work never stops.
“We go out and evaluate kids the spring and summer before their senior year. I spend August and September kind of deciding who we’re going to pursue, and then as we get into September and October, bringing kids on campus and making offers,” Conrad said. “When we get into the high school season, we’re going out evaluating more kids and then making some decisions on them too.”
For Brattin and softball, she doesn’t tend to go against four-years for recruits; rather, she provides them with a lot of the talent that comes out of the Jayhawk Conference.
“A lot of four-year [colleges] that like the junior college kids come to our program because they know we’re successful and we’re sending them kids that have been through everything that they are going to go through at a four-year school,” Brattin said. “So rather than compete with me for recruits, the four-years more so than other school in our conference come to me for players because of my philosophy.“
Brattin is confident that her program is the best at producing and preparing kids for a career at a four-year school.
“If you want to go on and continue to play somewhere, Johnson County is the way to go because I put in all the work to get these kids recruited to go on and play,” Brattin said. “There are so many schools in our conference that almost will turn kids away if they feel like they are going to have to do that. They just want kids who are wanting to play for two years and be done.”
The college is without a doubt the prime place for athletes in the metro area, and the experience the college provides for the students is unlike any other, even when compared to many four-years.
“I think what they get at Johnson County is a unique experience. They get a great education, establish so many individual and team types of bonding and friendships that last and they also enjoy a life outside of volleyball and school,” Ei said. “I hear it all the time from our kids that leave: ‘I wish Johnson County was a four-year.’ ”