Hard work on recruiting trail helps Myers land top-tier hoops talent at MMA

Chad Myers, coach of Massanuttten Military Academy's basketball team, comes off the bench after an official's call during a contest against Fork Union in January. Rich Cooley/Daily

WOODSTOCK – When Chad Myers began his first two-year stint as Massanutten Military Academy’s postgraduate boys basketball coach in 2011, he had an idea how the program should be run.

Myers, himself an alum of Hargrave Military Academy who later returned to the school as an assistant coach for its prestigious postgrad hoops program, saw similarities in the two military schools. MMA is gifted with the same advantage in geography, he said, nestled within what he considers one of the prime regions for high school basketball spanning from Pennsylvania to North Carolina. MMA has a similar structure to Hargrave, Myers added, and has all the necessary facilities – academic and athletic – to house a postgraduate basketball program.

Myers knows it sounds cliché, but when he came to Woodstock to take over MMA’s program, he felt all that stood between the Colonels and on-court notoriety was the need for someone to put in the necessary work.

“That’s what I try to instill in our guys, is like there’s only one way you’re gonna get there and that’s just outwork everybody,” Myers, who returned to MMA in 2016 after three years spent pursuing other coaching ventures, said last week. “You’ve gotta work when other people aren’t. I think as coaches we’ve gotta do that, too.”

In each of Myers’ three seasons as MMA’s postgraduate hoops coach, the Colonels have reached the prestigious, invitation-only National Prep Championship tournament that unofficially crowns the prep school national champion each March. At the core of that success is Myers’ tireless push to draw some of the nation’s top young talent to Woodstock, and to continue developing that talent once he gets players on campus.

Massanutten Military Academy prep basketball coach Chad Myers, left, greets Frank Mason III as he returned to the academy April 24 to have his jersey retired. Mason, who graduated from MMA in 2013, is a member of the NBA's Sacramento Kings. Rich Cooley/Daily

The blueprint for Myers’ prep hoops coaching style began in his return to Hargrave as a coach in 2006 after he finished up his playing career at Shepherd University. Under former Hargrave head coach Kevin Keatts – now the head men’s basketball coach at N.C. State – Myers spent much of his time scouring the country for some of the top prep-level talent, often crashing on the bedroom floors of people he knew to save money, he recalled, and forming the groundwork for what has since become an extensive collection of relationships with high school, Amateur Athletic Union and college coaches.

Myers, who has mentored nearly 50 NCAA Division I signees as a head coach, including around 23 at MMA, brought that same willingness to travel far and wide in search of talent with him to Woodstock.

Over the last two weeks alone, Myers bounced between showcase events in Emerson, Georgia, Spartanburg, South Carolina and North Augusta, South Carolina, over a span of three days, returned to Woodstock for a brief break, then headed up to Pennsylvania last Thursday. On Tuesday Myers – who said he pays for part of his out-of-town trips out of his own pocket but does receive travel money from the postgrad program’s budget – left for Las Vegas to attend more showcase events.

“A lot of it is just being out, showing face, being around,” said Myers, who, as of last week, had one more spot to fill on his 2017-18 roster. “It helps when people know the program, see the program.”

Recruiting has been a little bit easier this offseason, Myers said, as opposed to his return to Woodstock in April 2016 that left little time for him to build a roster before students reported to MMA last August.

Myers said this past May he and MMA assistant coach Hayden Sowers brought nearly 85 players onto campus for workouts while also hitting the AAU circuit to get another peek at potential roster pieces.

During that time, the two coaches were searching for the right combination of players in order to successfully rebuild an entire team in one offseason – the product of the rapid turnover that defines the postgraduate hoops scene – and trying to find the hidden gems who may have gone under-recruited out of high school as well as those they feel they can help the most, whether it be in the classroom to become academically eligible or on the court to sharpen their basketball skills.

The players Myers recruits also must have an open mind when it comes to the military school lifestyle.

“Massanutten is not for everybody,” said Myers, who added that the postgraduate basketball program is allotted a certain amount of scholarship money that it can give players for various reasons, “but it can help a lot of people and I think the kids have to be able to buy into what it does to help them.

“I think once they’re here and they see and they kind of understand everything, it helps them. But it’s hard sometimes initially getting them to come here just to be here because I think a lot of people, their perception of a military school is different than it even is. I think our structure allows kids to be successful in all different aspects, whether it’s personal life, academically, basketball-wise. I think a lot of kids really need it.”

Recruiting targets in Myers’ 2017-18 class may not have needed as much convincing as those in the past. The basketball success of Frank Mason III, who played for MMA in 2012-13 and is now a rookie for the Sacramento Kings, may resonate more than anything Myers pitches to prospective MMA postgrad players.

Myers said Mason’s story – he was lightly recruited out of Petersburg High School, attended MMA for a prep year in order to become academically eligible, earned a scholarship offer from Kansas University, raked in every major NCAA men’s basketball player of the year award as a senior in 2017 and was taken 34th overall in the NBA Draft last month – has been a major boost for the program.

“Kind of my sell is look man, you can get whatever you want out of this place,” Myers said. “(Mason) did it. He came into the same situation, went through the exact same thing that you did. So I think it’s really helped us, them just seeing it because it’s one thing to tell them but (another) when they see somebody else went through it and was successful.”

Myers said last week he had 14 players on the roster for the upcoming school year – he generally tries to keep that number at 15 in order to provide ample playing time and instruction to each student-athlete – though the roster is not yet set in stone. Most colleges have up through the first week of classes to sign players for the upcoming basketball season, Myers said, meaning players still have time to jump into the collegiate ranks.

“Until a guy shows up for sure on Aug. 18 I’m always working,” said Myers, who will spend most of August getting all of the paperwork in order and making sure each of his players is enrolled in the proper classes.

Of the current 14 players slated to join the Colonels, Myers said a handful are already garnering major Division I college interest, including 6-foot-5 shooting guard Kiyon Boyd (H.D. Woodson/Washington, D.C.), 6-foot-4 shooting guard Tyrese Martin (William Allen/ Pennsylvania) and 6-7 small forward Mekhi Long (Maryland). Myers said Long, a prospect in the 2019 class, will attend MMA for the next two seasons.

“We’re much more talented on paper than we were last year, by far across the board,” Myers said. “I would say it’s close to like (the 2012-13 team with Mason, which earned a national No. 1 ranking), you just never know how it all comes together. We’ve never seen these guys all play in one gym together.”

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