Isaiah Briscoe doesn’t mind admitting that he enjoys the typical spoils that come with being one of the top high school basketball players in the country, from red carpet visits to a constant barrage of texts and phone calls from coaches who find new ways to tell Briscoe how badly they need him.
“Who wouldn’t like that?” said Briscoe, a sophomore combo guard at St. Benedict’s Prep (Newark, N.J.).
While the VIP treatment is certainly welcomed, Briscoe said it will have little bearing on his ultimate decision.
The biggest factor?
“Watching games on TV,” Briscoe said. “It tells you everything that you need to know. Coaches always talk about how they’ll use you and the freedom they’ll give you, but then you watch and sometimes you don’t see that. That’s why it’s so important to watch games.”
Tyus Jones agreed.
As the No. 1 player in the 2014 class, Jones, a point guard at Apple Valley (Apple Valley, Minn.), hears recruiting pitches from coaches regularly, but said he intently watches his particular position during visits and on TV to see everything from how the coach interacts with his floor general to what plays they run in what situations.
“I am constantly watching,” Jones said. “When I was at Kentucky a few weeks back I was definitely watching Ryan (Harrow) closely. I see things that most people wouldn’t catch. I have to. I want to make the best decision possible, so I’m pretty serious about it.”
Briscoe estimates that he and his father, George Briscoe, a former point guard at Stockton College, watch games on TV three times a week for hours.
“I watch my position and how the guards operate and things like that, but I also watch the coach a lot,” Isaiah said. “I don’t like coaches that yell and stomp for no reason. I can take a coach yelling if I do something wrong, but just screaming and getting red, nah, I’m not feelin’ that.
“Like Sean Miller at Arizona, he doesn’t yell much and Jim Boeheim at Syracuse, you don’t see him yell much. Then you’ve got Coach K. He yells, but you can’t get mad at him because he lets his guards go. So if he’s yelling it’s because you did something wrong. I’m telling you, you learn a lot watching.”
George Briscoe said being glued to the tube is necessary for the weeding out process.
“We look at playing styles for the most part,” he said. “For example, when we look at Rick Pitino’s style at Louisville or Shaka Smart’s style at VCU, we know that’s not for us because it doesn’t fit Isaiah’s style. That’s not a knock to them; it’s just not right for us. Then we look at Duke, Syracuse, Arizona and schools like that and we know that would work for us. See, when we watch I turn into the recruiter then. And all recruiters want the best match, right?”
Boeheim said he’s well aware that potential recruits tune in to see the Orange play regularly.
“It’s a powerful tool,” Boeheim said. “Of course, if you’re winning, it’s an easy sell because everyone’s happier that way. But if you lose, you can spin that too, like, ‘This is why we need you.’ So yeah, we’re aware that they’re watching. They should watch.”
Julius Randle and his mother, Carolyn Kyles, certainly do.
Randle, a senior forward at Prestonwood Christian (Plano, Texas) who was named to the preseason American Family Insurance ALL-USA Team and ranked No. 2 in the Rivals150, said that he watches for the same reasons as Jones.
Kyles watches for another reason.
“Sometimes, in this recruiting process, coaches say negative things about other schools and the way they run their system,” Kyles said. “I never comment when they do, I just listen. Then I watch for myself. Sometimes they’re right, but a lot of times they’re not.”
It’s for that very reason that Duke assistant coach Jeff Capel said he encourages potential recruits to tune in often. Capel said it helps the Blue Devils dispel “scare tactics” that other schools use against them, such as “not producing big men” and “not having freedom offensively.”
“It's similar to politics,” Capel said. “People throw things out without facts to support what they are saying. We hope that the kid or the parent watch to see that our guys have more or as much freedom as anyone, that Coach K has produced more first-round picks than anyone, more National Players of the Year than anyone and more NBA All-Stars than any other current coach. That's what we hope they see – the truth.”
Moss Point (Moss Point, Miss.) shooting guard Devin Booker said that he and his father, former Missouri All-American Melvin Booker, watch games to make sure the system allows freedom for Devin to display his exceptional shooting ability.
“As a shooter you definitely want to go to a school that gets up and down the floor and allows you to shoot,” said Devin, a junior. “If a school is telling me that they allow that, but then I don’t see it when I watch them, that’s something I definitely take note of. I’ve gotta see for myself.”
Same for Isaiah Briscoe.
He said that he and his dad tune in to watch every school, whether the coach is a legend or an up-and-comer.
“You have to,” Isaiah said. “Can’t just take the coaches’ word for it.”
Seeing is believing.
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter @JayJayUSATODAY.