July’s final weekend is no summer vacation for college basketball coaches. That includes San Diego State’s Steve Fisher.
“This is our third week in a row of going out,” Fisher said. “This is the necessary part of it.”
It’s the last window when coaches can peak at the future. Fisher heads for Las Vegas and hopes everything he sees, doesn’t stay there.
Fisher and staff will watch, grade and evaluate recruits during an endless stream of AAU games. Just maybe, he’ll spot a teenager that someday becomes a man on Montezuma Mesa.
But Fisher will have company — lots of it. “The whole United States will be in Las Vegas,” Fisher said and we think he’s kidding. “And so will a billion teams.”
Fisher reloads a program which advanced to its sixth straight NCAA Tournament last season. It lost to Duke, the eventual champion, but the devil is in the details going forward.
Slip in July and those rockin’ fall nights at Viejas Arena are in danger of dissipating.
“To get those sell outs and wins, you got to do this,” Fisher said. “But everyone is doing it.”
But Fisher isn’t watching every hot shot, which lessens what could be a challenging endeavor. It’s quality over quantity for Fisher and that’s why SDSU emerged as the West Coast’s top program.
“We don’t have a million kids that we are chasing around and I don’t go look at the 12-year-olds,” Fisher said, and on this one, he’s not kidding. “It’s a select group of guys we are recruiting and I want to be there for the juniors, just to put my face in front of them.”
What’s tough is players putting their best face forward in these exhibitions. AAU contests are often track meets, with two baskets hugging each baseline.
Team attitude? Giving up the ball? Taking a charge? Good luck finding those attributes, and of course, that’s just what Fisher seeks.
“You watch all sorts of things: demeanor, interacting with coaches coming off the floor,” he said. “All that being said, you are still probably going to get a more accurate portrayal if you can watch them with their high school schools, but you just don’t have time.
“They give you limited chances when you’re recruiting; you have your own season to deal with and you can’t watch the high school games. In these AAU games, sometimes you don’t get the full picture of really good team players, guys that know how to play and do the things it takes to win. It is so run up-and-down.”
In this recruiting sprint to the finish, Fisher does so with athletes already secured.
Jeremy Hemsley, a point guard from Damian High in La Verne, is already in summer school.
“He’s a terrific young man and very well coached,” Fisher said. “He is legitimate point guard who can play others spots. He doesn’t have to have the ball in his hands. He’s long and athletic and he fits in well.”
Max Hoetzel is all red-and-black after transferring from Indiana. He’s a Fisher bounce-back, in that the 6-foot-8 forward was recruited to SDSU before deciding on IU. Now he’s paying his IOU with SDSU and the Aztecs will embrace his good aim in 2016.
“He’s got size and he can shoot the ball,” Fisher said. “He’s going to be older and have some maturity about him. He’ll have a year to sit and get bigger and better.”
Nolan Narin, a 6-9 Indiana prep power forward, appears headed to SDSU. But without being enrolled, Fisher can’t talk about him but one can see the experienced coach’s eyes light up.
In this NCAA world of not-so-easy-come, but easy-go, the Aztecs lost forward Brodricks Jones. He reneged on his letter-of-intent and Fisher will cut bait, which gives him a scholarship for this year.
Then there’s four-five scholarships for 2016 which Fisher will use like poker chips.
“With the younger kids you have to say what will they look like physically in three years?” Fisher said. “Although they are skinny kids now, they have a skill-set. In a few years, they won’t be so skinny and they will still have that skill-set.”
Among those Fisher will likely bat his eyes at, according to the San Diego Union Tribune’s Mark Ziegler, are: Michael Cage Jr. (son of former SDSU great) Ben Kone, Trevor Stanback, Brendon Bailey, Brandon Cyrus and Johnny McWilliams Jr. (San Marcos High).
“We’ll be sitting there with 50 other coaches doing the same thing you are,” Fisher said. “But we have done a good job of recruiting smart, as well as going after talent knowing they have an interest in us as we have an interest in them.”
It’s a two-way street, but this weekend, all roads lead to Sin City.
“I like Vegas,” Fisher said. “But I’ll be seeing more gyms than anything else.”