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Recruiting process now more visible than ever
Class of 2012 at Buford High sophomore Andraya Carter has already been fielding recruiting offers from Division 1-A colleges.
On a rainy Tuesday night in the second week of January, two of the top teams in Class AA met at Long Forum Gymnasium on the campus of Greater Atlanta Christian.

At the time, the Buford girls were ranked No. 2 in the state and their region foe, Greater Atlanta Christian, was No. 7.

The battle between the two was what it was supposed to be; intense, exciting and down to the wire.

However, the battle between the two was also trumped by who was on hand to watch it: A virtual who’s who of college coaches.

Georgia coach Andy Landers sat a few seats away from Purdue coach Sharon Versyp, who was flanked by recruiters from Penn
State and Georgia Tech. All of them sat on the front row, all of them wore their team’s gear and all of them watched intently.

Four days later, during a girls’ basketball showcase at Long Forum gymnasium that included Buford and GAC, the number of college coaches perched in the front row was twice what it was that rainy Tuesday.

Among the throngs were representatives from Maryland, Virginia, Georgia Tech, Georgia State, George Mason, Old Dominion,
Florida State and Memphis. They were dressed in their team’s gear and all watched the crop of talent intently.

“Not producing for anyone that knows you can (produce) is rough,” said Buford sophomore Andraya Carter. “But it’s a lot worse when a college coach is there.

“You do something good, they drop their heads and starting writing. You do something bad, they drop their heads and start writing, and you start to pay attention to that kind of thing.”

Carter would know, since receiving her first scholarship offers — from Georgia and Florida State — in the eighth grade, she’s been watched.

At practice, scrimmages, individual workouts, regular season games, state playoff games and AAU games, Carter has been watched. One school even sent a representative to go to classes with her.

“Yeah, that was kind of awkward,” she said.

She’s received letters from coaches at all the top women’s college programs, and some from the bottom. Tennessee coach Pat
Summit came to watch her play and, after having her picture made with some Buford fans, decided she wanted to offer Carter a scholarship to go with all the others.

“It’s a good feeling when a coach wants to come watch you,” Carter said. “But it’s also hard because you feel some pressure to play your best when they’re there.”

Recruiting has been and always will be a business, but recently, it’s become a more noticeable business.

“(Coaches) show up a lot more now,” said Buford coach Gene Durden, who admitted to having to sometimes prep his team prior to tip-off for which coach is in the stands watching. “There are so many high-quality players that it’s a battle to get the cream of the crop, so coaches have to come up with unique ways to show they’re interested and get the kids attention.”

Case in point, famed recruiter Ed Orgeron — formerly associated with Tennessee and now with Southern California — arriving at a nationally-televised M.L. King-Stephenson game at Hallford Stadium in Clarkston in a small, rented helicopter.

Helicopters have been used by coaches in the past to get to and from football games quickly, but just like recruiting, this time it was a little more noticeable.

The helicopter landed in close proximity to the stadium just as the “Star Spangled Banner” was playing, earning the gaze of every fan and player and not too subtely introducing Orgeron.

High school athletes have been recruited for as long as college sports have existed.

As pressure to win on the collegiate level has increased, so has the pressure to bring in top recruits. Therefore, overt methods have taken the place of subtle interest and coaches visibility is at an all-time high.

“It’s the nature of the business,” said former East Hall basketball coach and current Lakeview boys coach Seth Vining. “If a coach recruits well, that usually translates to future success which means they keep their job.”

Vining coached former East Hall star, and highly-touted recruit at the time, Chezley Watson, who went on to play college basketball at Virginia.

“Mostly the coaches would just contact me or (Watson’s) parents,” Vining said. “Back then coaches didn’t lock in on who they wanted early and then go watch them constantly.”

In fact, Vining remembers distinctly the one time a coach showed up at a practice to watch Watson, it was then Clemson assistant Dennis Felton.

“I don’t know how I’d have handled it if coaches were coming in everyday,” Vining said.

How times have changed.