By Jeff Nations - firstname.lastname@example.org
WOODSTOCK -- Hunter Leveau could feel a few butterflies bouncing around in his stomach on Sunday, you bet he could.
Leveau's goal, the same as every member of Massanutten Military Academy's postgraduate boys basketball team, is to get noticed and get an offer to play collegiate basketball. On Sunday, Leveau and his teammates worked out in a gymnasium literally jammed with college coaches evaluating his every move on the floor.
"It was packed, yeah," said Leveau, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard from Johnson City, Tenn. "I was a little nervous seeing them all in here, but then after you start getting on the floor and start getting your blood flowing, you get used to it and you're good."
Sunday marked the first live recruiting period for college coaches since the summer, and representatives from 18 Division I programs flocked to MMA to see the Colonels display their abilities through individual skills drills and 5-on-5 play. Among the group were Virginia Tech head coach James Johnson, Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon, Pittsburgh head coach Jamie Dixon and James Madison head coach Matt Brady.
More coaches are expected throughout the week. MMA coach Chad Myers expects around 40 Division I programs to visit by Thursday, the last day of open workouts this week.
"All of our guys got talked to by somebody on Sunday and kind of got some interest on some level, which was good," Myers said. "Obviously it shows that we're growing as a program, having that many coaches here recruiting."
A few of the Colonels even got offers on Sunday -- Benji Bell from Northeastern, junior Dwayne Foreman from VCU, Garland Owens from Robert Morris, and Leveau landed an offer from Hofstra. That's not surprising, though -- MMA has 11 players on its 14-man roster with Division I offers already, including two commitments.
One of them, 6-10 power forward Damonte Dodd from Queens Anne, Md., worked out in front of his future head coach as the Terrapins' Turgeon checked in on him.
"He knows what I can do, he knows I can play and that I'm very athletic," Dodd said. "He just said every time he sees me, I get better. So he just tells me to keep working hard."
Deandre Burnett, a 6-2 guard from Miami, has also already given a verbal commitment to the University of Miami. So while the pressure might seem off for those two, both were just as committed as their teammates to putting out maximum effort in front of the watching college coaches.
"I'm just here to get better," Burnett said. "I'm not out here hoping coaches will come up and talk to me. I'm here to get better every day and prepare myself to play in the ACC."
Burnett came to MMA to hone his basketball skills and get ready for college, and in his case found the perfect solution in teammate Frank Mason. A 6-0 guard from Petersburg, Mason's offer list is stacked with major programs including Kansas, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech, Providence, Rutgers and DePaul. Burnett gets to play against Mason every day in practice, an opportunity for both to improve.
"Me and him go at it every day," Burnett said. "We're on opposite teams practically every day. I think it'll be the good backcourt when the season starts, as well."
University of Louisville assistant coach Kevin Keatts was among the group of college coaches at Tuesday's workout. The former head coach at Hargrave Military Academy, Keatts knows programs like MMA and Hargrave are a solid option for finding impact players.
"The reason you would come to a place like this is you're looking for guys who are physically more mature and ready to play. Obviously, you know they've been coached by a good program and then the school itself is going to prepare them for when they get to college."
NCAA rules prohibit coaches from speaking about specific players before signing day, but in general Keatts and his fellow coaches have a pretty good idea of who they're interested in before they arrive at any given school.
"For the most part we know about kids, but every now and then you go to a place and stumble across a kid that you didn't know about, so then I'd start recruiting them," he said. "But for the most part ... I would say that 15, 20 years ago there were secrets and you'd stumble across a kid more often. But right now, between Twitter, Facebook and all the guys on the Internet and your ability to get out in April and also July, you get a chance to see these guys a lot more."
For Keatts, that means evaluating not just individual skills, but also how a given player might fit into Louisville's system. This live recruiting week is important because Keatts can both watch and talk to any player the Cardinals might have an interest in signing to a scholarship.
Myers has his own role in the recruiting process, as an advocate for the player. Helping his players find the right program benefits both them and MMA, which can point to past successes in future recruiting efforts.
"I'm big on letting their families and the people they've been with a long time help them make the decision," Myers said. "I think it's my job just to kind of give them advice if they ask for it, kind of monitor them -- we look at rosters, where you fit in and what kind of system they might play, more of the basketball side. But I think the biggest thing kids gotta realize is that everything changes these days -- coaching staffs, conferences -- everything's changing, so you've got to find a place where not only does the basketball fit you and the coach, but you also enjoy being at that school."
Dodd and Burnett can rest easy -- not that they would -- but the stakes remain high for many of their teammates trying to impress this week and throughout the fall recruiting period. Dodd, ever the good teammate, has offered some advice this week.
"I said, 'When you get out there, just play your game,'" Dodd said. "Believe it or not, they look at the little things more than anybody coming out here scoring 80, 100 points. If you come out here and do the little things, you're going to be just fine."