The Dave Telep Mid-Major Report From 2008
By Jamie Shaw
For every recruit, for every Mid-Major and Low-Major coach, this is a must read report that still is relevant almost 9 years later!!
Pretty much universally thought that during his time as a National Basketball Analyst, Dave Telep was the leader in the game. He was at the forefront of the national rankings and breaking news movement and, before he left to take a front office position with the San Antonio Spurs, was respected and looked to by everyone.
Telep had a scouting report that was reportedly taken by over 300 colleges. He really jumped to the top of the game during his time as the national director of scouting for Scout.com and then he reached legend status after took over the same role at ESPN. This included being an on air presence as ESPN was starting to show high school and travel basketball on air. In 2013 Telep was hired as a Scouting Coordinator for the NBA draft from the San Antonio Spurs.
One thing is for sure, Telep was very astute and in tune with the happenings in the recruiting game. However, Telep’s best attribute (at least in our eyes) was his ability to write. He had an uncanny ability to put pen to paper and convey his thoughts in a way that was easy for the readers to get a full understanding of the tone, tenor and story Telep was trying to tell.
In 2008, Telep wrote a report that he and his intern Drew Cannon took on. Telep makes it abundantly clear that the idea of this study was his, but he tasked Cannon with most of the leg work and conclusions in the study. At the time, Cannon was a sophomore statistics major at Duke University. Currently Cannon, considered at the forefront of basketballs analytics movement, is in his fourth year being on staff with the Boston Celtics.
This report (Click Here For Entire Report) is entitled Mid-Major Study. In the opening paragraph, Telep and Cannon identify the purpose of this study as, “the goal of this undertaking was to pull back the curtain on the best mid-major players and achieve a sense of what made them successful and why/how they flew under the radar.”
This is a very interesting thought. Cannon and Telep look at 39 of the First-team All-Conference players from the Colonial, Missouri Valley and Atlantic-10 (the deemed Mid-Major conferences in 2008) were used to form the subject pool. Cannon then reached out to interview the high school coaches of 32 of the 39 all-league players. In his report, Cannon stated why he chose these players from these conferences, “The first point to be made about any mid-major first-teamer is that they need to meet two qualifications. The player has to be good enough to merit all-conference selection, but unlike their BCS conference brethren, questionable enough to slip through the cracks,”
These are the players that Cannon and Telep found fell into their criteria, Marc Egerson (Delaware), Gary Forbes (Massachusetts), B.J. Raymond (Xavier), Stephane Lasme (UMass), Gerald Lee (Old Dominion), Shy Ely (Evansville), Aaron Jackson (Duquesne), Valdas Vasylius (Old Dominion), Dionte Christmas (Temple), Josh Young (Drake), Loren Stokes (Hofstra), Jamaal Tatum (Southern Illinois), Jamal Shuler (VCU), Jeremy Crouch (Bradley), Nate Funk (Creighton), Booker Woodfox (Creighton), Stephen Curry (Davidson), Brian Roberts (Dayton), Antoine Agudio (Hofstra), Blake Ahearn (Missouri St.), Matt Janning (Northeastern), Jim Baron (Rhode Island), Anthony Tolliver (Creighton), Nick Fazekas (Nevada), Adam Koch (Northern Iowa), Pat Calathes (St. Joseph’s), Justin Doellman (Xavier), Theron Wilson (Bradley), Will Thomas (George Mason), Ahmad Nivins (St. Joseph’s), Larry Sanders (VCU), and Adam Emmenecker (Drake).
In conducting the study, Cannon would call each players previous coaches and conduct a list of questions about each player. The blanket questions asked about every one of these players would include amount of Extroversion (introverted, on introverted side, middle, on extroverted side, extroverted), Academics (weak, good, excellent), as a Teammate (good, great), Likeability (by teammates, by students, by teachers), Competitiveness (low, good, exceptional), Leadership (none, quiet by example, exceptional), Coachability (good or exceptional), Basketball IQ (low, good, standout), Instincts (good to exceptional), Work Ethic (subpar, adequate, exceptional).
After conducting the study, Telep and Cannon found nine different categories of players for reasons why players fell to the mid-major program, however they were still able to have exceptional careers:
**Identifiable High-Major Talent In H.S. – HM transfers or Top 100 prospects who committed early
**Fortunate Foreign Find -- Easy to understand but nearly impossible to track down. Nothing hid their ability, and they were underrecruited because nobody knew about them
**Hidden Gem -- These guys just weren’t seen enough for people to get a clear picture of their skills
**Skinny/Slow Shooter -- This group was actually understood pretty well as high school players. Everyone agreed that they could absolutely shoot lights out, but were considered either too slight or too slow to be true high major talents – and likely correctly
**Skinny, Ultra-Quick SG -- This group’s skills get projected as tweener guards – too short or too thin to play off guard but vision or ballhandling skills not strong enough to play point
**The Skinny, Skilled Big Man -- The skinny, skilled big man are generally seen as tweener forwards – not big enough to bang with HM bigs, while equally not quick enough to deal with the typical HM wing
**Undersized Power Forward -- undersized with fantastic rebounding ability, outstanding instincts, and great coachability.
**Late Arriving Big Man – The Late Arrival Big Man can be spotted by excellent instincts, strong athleticism, shot blocking ability, coachability, and work ethic.
**Intangibles Freak – Success can be explained by nothing more than intangibles & will to succeed.
As we mentioned above, this entire exercise began with 39 names and a simple question, “How did they slip through the cracks?”
Through calling all 39 players high school coaches, 32 of which called back to talk, each player was placed in a category that seemed to fit their specific situation best. Some categories were self-explanatory whether it be a high major transfer or a foreign player who slipped through the cracks. However, in this writing we wanted to write about what stood out to us, the categories that dealt with physical stature and the category of the hidden gem.
Phenom Hoops has over 150 schools who subscribe to our NCAA compliant scouting and recruiting service. We also host five travel basketball live events. A “live event” is an event where Division 1, Division 2, Division 3, NAIA and JUCO coaches are ALL able to be at an event watching talent. Through Phenom Hoops’ five live travel events, in 2017, we had over 1,100 college coaches walk through our doors. We tell you these staggering numbers to be assured that we are talking with multiple college coaches daily.
Each of these schools rely on Phenom Hoops to know which players they need to be watching. We get the coaches feedback, they tell us what they are looking for and why each player fits what they need and why each player doesn’t fit. This specific study was done directly to Mid-Major and Low-Major coaches. So this thought process is directed toward them, the goal of every high major coach should be to recruit pros. They should recruit on NBA standards and those standards are just different.
One of the major take-away’s from this study is that many Mid-Major and Low-Major coaches are recruiting wrong. Even nine years after this study was done, and made public, we can say with certainty that mid-major and low-major coaches still make the same mistakes in recruiting that Telep and Cannon warned them against.
When it comes to the recruitment of guards and wings, one of the main complaints we hear about players is, “Where does he defend…” – According to Telep and Cannon’s study they caution against Mid-Major and Low-Majors recruiting in this manner. In talking about recruiting the skinny/slow shooter, they state, “Probably the biggest reason this group isn’t as recruitable on the high major level is defense – coaches are rightfully afraid of putting these guys on the Gerald Henderson-type 2-guards of Big Six basketball. But they’re all serviceable enough defenders to still be huge net positives at the mid-major level due to their offense.”
When it comes to recruiting big men, one of the main complaints we hear about a player is in regards to being raw or their being too skinny. However Telep and Cannon warn Mid-Major and Low-Major coaches to look deeper. In their research, Telep and Cannon found that the successful bigs all had these three traits, top-notch coachability, excellent basketball IQ, and outstanding work ethic. When dealing with a raw player, don’t look at their unremarkable ball skills or perceived developing IQ. Rather take a close look and do background work on the player’s excellent instincts, strong athleticism, shot blocking ability, coachability, and work ethic.
Telep and Cannon go further here with Cannon posing the hypothesis in looking at a raw players ability to shot block rather than rebound. Cannon states, “One theory is that shot blocking reveals other abilities that are more important to future success: namely, athleticism, an understanding of the flow of basketball, the coachability to take off the ball defensive techniques to heart, and the work ethic required to continue to put out maximum work ethic on the defensive end.” Cannon provides another thought process for why successful shot blockers, albeit raw, ultimately succeed at this level, “A second theory is that standout shot blocking ability can highlight a prospect that otherwise wouldn’t be highly recruited, and this enables mid-major coaches to learn that the reason for the player’s other ordinary skills is due to a short time around the game.”
When it comes to recruiting forwards, coaches want their guys to fit nicely into a predetermined box, which typically revolves around their physical attributes. Strong and big, which is something else that the High-Major coaches look for, should not be the end all be all of Mid-Major and Low-Major forward recruiting. However, Telep and Cannon say that the guys who are the most successful at this level are ones who are best described as, “tough as nails,” “max effort and intensity,” “biggest strength was winning,” “off the charts competitiveness,” and “guys who are big enough and quick enough to defend almost any position on the floor, even at 6’5-6’6”.
When it comes to recruiting guards, again many Mid-Major and Low-Major coaches question size and position. They look away at tweener guards who are possibly too short or too thin to play off guard but vision or ballhandling skills not strong enough to play point. Through this study, Telep and Cannon assert that, “at the mid-major level, quickness can be dangerous enough offensively and opposing guards are small enough defensively that these players can thrive.”
The most telling part of this study came from the summation that Telep and Cannon gave. Mind you, that in 2008 Cannon was a sophomore at Duke and Telep was the Director of Basketball Recruiting at Scout.com. However, looking at them now, Telep is in the front office of the San Antonio Spurs and Cannon is a central analytics figure on staff with the Celtics. Two of the most sustainable and winning franchises in the NBA have brought in to these two.
Here is their summation of the study, “What We Found”
· Frame/body should be treated very, very differently when dealing with a mid-major prospect than a high major prospect. It seems that, for guards, size in both directions isn’t correlated with success. For forwards, rather than needing both height and bulk, one or the other is enough if the other skills are there (Undersized Forward, Skinny Skilled Big Man). It appears to me that frame is weighted the same when considering mid-major prospects as it is when considering high major prospects, and this simply shouldn’t be the case.
· Big-time shooters are huge assets on the mid-major scale. A full quarter of the First Team AllConference players of the MVC, CAA, and A-10 in the last three years (I’m counting two of Eldridge, Maynor, and Neal – take your pick) were known to be serious shooters in high school and became weapons in college. Shooters should be under attack with mid-major offers.
· Don’t be scared of quick looks. If you get a rare chance to pick up a Stephane Lasme or a Shy Ely because of an accidental glance, you shouldn’t be wary of recruiting someone just because they’re off the beaten path. If you show up at a no-name tournament and a no-name kid looks great, maybe he’s only still available because he’s hidden…not that I’m saying offer someone on one look
Mid-Major and Low-Major Coaches, take a look at this. We understand that your success has gotten you in the position you are currently in, so we by no means as asking you to change you philosophy on recruiting. However, there are some great points brought up here. In our view, all Telep and Cannon are asking you to do is to change your perspective. Instead of saying “this guy can’t stay in front of his man” look a little deeper and ask, “does his immense offensive skill, outweigh his defensive shortcomings?”
Again, this study is asking coaches to measure things that are tough to measure, toughness, heart, work ethic, coachability. It also takes a look at players academic standing and leadership qualities. There is no exact formula to look at to ensure the success of a player, however there are trends.
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