If there's a rehab for recruiting junkies, I'd be the first to sign up. Yes, I have a problem -- an addiction to recruiting. That's a good thing. After all, it's recruiting that puts food on the table and pays for the Telep boys to go to school. It's also recruiting that keeps me awake at night; ask my wife.
For someone like myself, there is nothing worse than "missing" on a player. Believe it or not, every few years, I have someone independently study rankings with the hope of learning from my mistakes. My personality allows the misses to run wild in my mind, and rarely do I take time to celebrate a good evaluation. In the interest of starting on a positive note, allow me to briefly pat myself on the back before I throw myself under the bus.
Here is a look at some of my noteworthy hits, misses and regrets from over the years.
Junior varsity gem
Chris Paul played two seasons of junior varsity basketball at a public school in North Carolina. In the summer prior to his junior season, I watched him go for 30 in a game at the AAU Nationals. I'd seen his high school team that season but didn't arrive in time for the junior varsity game. Once his junior season began, I went to a high school game and a local scout made a regretful statement during the game. He said Paul wasn't the best point guard in the county. Not one to allow such blasphemy to go unchecked, I countered that not only was he in fact the best in the county, he was the best I'd seen in the country. That, ladies and gentlemen, counts as a hit. Solid gold, undisputed hit. Don't worry, I'm not bragging, the carnage comes later in the article.
Good recruiters use pipelines, and analysts do too. In order for the pipeline to work, it has to be mutually beneficial for both parties. One of my favorite pipelines helped three kids dot the radar at a higher level. Reggie Morris, then the coach at Leuzinger High School outside Los Angeles, coached Dorell Wright and helped him ascend from unknown to elite. We had a mutual friend and talked often about his players. Because of that, Wright became a guy I was able to tout before most, yet still late in his senior year. He began a three-year run of under-the-radar prospects at Leuzinger.
Morris also coached Russell Westbrook, whom I rated as a strong mid-major entering his final season. As his last year played out, Morris kept me in the loop regarding Westbrook. And when it was time to offer up a final ranking, Westbrook was inserted into my top 100 at No. 66; the lone service to rate him as such.
Though not the same caliber prospect, the next year Morris had Donnell Beverly. At this point, I was two-for-two out of Leuzinger so I trusted Morris again and alerted schools about Beverly. He eventually signed with UConn.
In 2004, my top-five point guards were Shaun Livingston, Sebastian Telfair, Rajon Rondo, Daniel Gibson and Jordan Farmar. Farmar was the tricky one because Quentin Thomas (North Carolina) was regarded by some as the top point guard out west. Thankfully, I was a Farmar guy all the way.
Others of note
I proudly ranked DeJuan Blair in the top 20 when not many others put him in that neighborhood. It was my good fortune to be in a small gym in Houston when Von Wafer went from nowhere to elite recruit. My friend Mike Ellis phoned me about a kid from Richmond named Ed Davis. He asked me to come up and see him and to let him know what I thought. What did I think? Somewhere between the layup line and the tip I marked him to be a pro. I happily led the charge to rank Davis highly. When injured as a senior, which he kept under wraps, I rode out the storm while most dumped his stock.
Honestly, claiming a "hit" seems a little cocky to me. Surely many folks saw these guys long before me. I just so happened to be the guy in position to give them a pass/fail grade and fortunately I've made a few correct calls. The right ones don't do much for me, it's the misses that concern me the most.
Most of the hits go totally unnoticed, such as Antoine Agudio. I rated him a high-major recruit and steal for Hofstra. He went on to be a four-time All-CAA player.
Bosh not high enough
It was 2002, and I was seriously dating the woman I would marry a year later. Now, it would be easy to use that as an excuse for being off my game (sorry, Paige). OK, 2002 was a great year for me personally but professionally, I graded players poorly. That year, I rated Chris Bosh No. 6 overall, which alone isn't a problem. Where I messed up was ranking Paul Davis (Michigan State) No. 4 and one spot ahead of Bosh in the power forward rankings. Yikes.
Down on Deron
Like I said, 2002 wasn't a banner year. How would you feel if you ranked 11 point guards ahead of, gulp, Deron Williams? Raymond Felton was the top dog at the point that year and a then 6-foot-1, 185-pound Williams was recruited to Illinois by Billy Gillispie. In that same recruiting class, rated 33 spots ahead of Williams was Dee Brown, his backcourt mate. I saw Williams play during his rookie season with the Utah Jazz and waited for him after the game. He was cool with me and always has been, but his mother Wendy asked me that night how I felt about his ranking now. She reminded me he was No. 56 overall.
Problem in Houston
Believe me, there are a lot of misses to pick from without trolling message boards for reminders. I whiffed on Emeka Okafor by ranking him in the bottom end of top 100. Okafor led the city of Houston in rebounding at 18 per game as a senior. I've since learned via Okafor, Blair and Paul Milsap that elite rebounding translates to college and beyond.
Others of note
For a variety of reasons, I flat-out whiffed on some college All-Americans. JaVale McGee, I rated him mid-major, and not even a good one. Ditto for Wesley Johnson, who played on the second team for the Dallas Mustangs. My apologies to Jordan Taylor, Wisconsin's All-American point guard. He was given a mid-major-plus tag and left out of the top 100. I graded Taylor out higher than Nick Fazekas, another All-American, and Jimmer Fredette. In my infinite wisdom, I rated two guys higher than Fredettte on his own AAU team.
Raise your hand if you saw Eric Maynor's final high school game. I did and still rated him a mid-major player. I remember telling Jeff Capel as much on my ride home.
Regrets ... I have a few
Call me chicken
I first began really evaluating my rankings because of Adam Morrison (Gonzaga) and Tyrus Thomas (LSU). Those two guys drove me over the edge. Recruiting analysts are graded by what their top 100 looks like and neither one made mine -- despite receiving high-major grades. Before his senior season, in a remote gym in Las Vegas, I watched Morrison dump 40 points on a team of "paying campers." The guys guarding Morrison would have been better served guarding the water cooler than trying to stop the then 6-5 Morrison. I walked out of that gym liking Morrison and toyed with putting him in the top 100. I regretfully remember like it was yesterday that he was one of my final cuts.
Thomas' story drove me equally nuts. At the AAU nationals I watched him three times and liked him, even though he was so thin you could see through him. At the time, Western Kentucky was the only school on him. I knew he was going to be good but chickened out -- just like I did with Morrison.
Stick with your gut
Chris Warren was a star for Ole Miss. Old Dominion and VCU wanted him badly; NC State brought him to campus and never offered him. I had Warren rated a stud mid-level guy entering his senior season, which I followed closely. Warren was a tough kid and a winning machine. After the state championship I made one phone call to a friend in Florida whom I trusted. He attended the game and expressed concerns over Warren at the highest level. Prior to the call, Warren was going to be No. 100. Should have stuck with my gut on that one.
More than Dell's kid
I'll end with my ultimate regret: Steph Curry. I first saw him early in his sophomore season and he was not a player. Dell Curry's kid needed protein shakes and all the fried late-night food he could eat to get to 125 pounds. He had some talent and mainly because of his genes I tagged him a valued low-major target. I ran into Curry quite a bit over the next few seasons on the high school and AAU circuit. Each time, he kept getting better, but because of his wafer-thin body, it was hard to get on the train at the highest level. I did think Virginia Tech (his dad's alma mater) should take him and redshirt him. He was improving every year. I witnessed it with my own eyes. On my desk was the final top 100 and Curry was No. 100, but I took him off the list. True story.
Over the next three years, I must have fielded 50 calls from reporters for stories about Curry. It would have been a lot more pleasurable had I not erased him from the list. Because of Curry, in years when there is a clear-cut elite sniper, I try to make a point to include him. My one saving grace with Curry is an e-mail I sent to Sam Presti when he was in the front office of the San Antonio Spurs. Following Curry's first exhibition game against Michigan, I e-mailed Presti and told him to start a file on the kid because he had all the markers of a late bloomer. I lost the e-mail for a few years but when I visited Presti in Oklahoma City, his right-hand man Rob Hennigan printed it off for me and it's now posted in my office so I can stare at it daily. The e-mail serves as a reminder that if you do the homework on a player, trust your instincts.
Dave Telep is the senior basketball recruiting analyst for ESPN.com. His college basketball scouting service is used by more than 225 colleges and numerous NBA teams. He can reached at email@example.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter.