March 21, 2010 12:09:00 AM
Dan Burt and Jeff Osterman know all about the intricacies of recruiting women''s basketball players.
But recruiting players in the United States is one thing. Building relationships with players from foreign countries is even more challenging.
That''s why Burt, an assistant coach at Duquesne University, and Osterman, associate head coach at the University of South Florida, are ideal men to offer perspective on what it is like to recruit players from foreign lands.
Like Mississippi State assistant coach Greg Franklin, Burt and Osterman agree there is one similarity when recruiting U.S. and international players.
"It is dumb luck more than anything," Burt said. "There is no real process."
Said Osterman, "A lot of it is word of mouth. I have (recruited) kids from Africa and I have done right by them. Once you get one kid, their whole country wants to come."
Burt also has worked on coaching staffs at Bucknell, where he was an assistant from 2004-07, West Virginia (1998-2001), and UNC Wilmington (2001-04).
At West Virginia, Burt said he was fortunate the team already had two players from Bulgaria and another from Belgium on the roster. He said those players helped him to build contacts he has since been able to develop.
In three seasons at UNC Wilmington, Burt helped create and coordinate a national and international recruiting campaign that helped the program sign four adidas Top-10 Camp participants, one junior college All-American, and a four-time Cyprus National High School Player of the Year.
Since then, Burt has continued to build contacts and relationships with people in five or six countries in Central and Eastern Europe. Not only are Burt''s parents from that part of the world, but he also said he married someone from overseas, which has helped him understand the culture and the way of life of the players from that part of the world.
"It is very difficult to develop contacts because until you know the culture and the language of the country you''re always going to have that cultural and language gap," Burt said. "One of the big things to have true success internationally is you have to take an interest in who these people are first."
Burt said recruiting international players typically is a difficult and long process. He said the growth of YouTube and Facebook has made things a little easier, if not cluttered.
Burt said 10 years ago he saw more players in Europe learning English to make it easier when they were being recruited. In the past two years, Burt said the popularity of Facebook has made it easier to communicate with potential recruits. He also said there are hundreds of videos on YouTube and Facebook of players hoping to catch the eye of a basketball coach in the U.S.
"Seven or eight years ago you were hoping that they would have access to e-mail," Burt said. "Now they''re able to communicate on Facebook, which is more readily available, so it''s a lot easier to communicate than e-mail."
Osterman built many of his connections with people in Africa when he was a women''s basketball coach at Central Florida Community College (CFCC). He served as assistant coach/recruiting coordinator for one season and co-head coach for two seasons before becoming the head coach from 1997-2002.
In that time, he recruited, coached, and developed 14 National Junior College Athletic Association All-Americans and seven Kodak All-Americans.
He also coached the 2000-01 Women''s Basketball Coaches Association National Player of the Year Max Nhassengo, who went on to play at Old Dominion, and helped produce players at CFCC who went on to play at Connecticut, Auburn, Old Dominion, Kansas, Arizona State, Texas, and Kentucky.
Osterman said his friendships with people at other schools often helped him discover players who weren''t able to qualify academically at Division I schools as freshmen and needed to go to a junior or community college as a first step. He said many of the players he has recruited from Africa through the years started with limited knowledge of English but worked extremely hard to understand the language so they could earn an associate''s degree and then a bachelor''s degree.
Osterman said often times a two-year school will take a player without seeing them play based on their friendship with another coach. If it works out, a pipeline from one school to another -- or from one country or continent -- can emerge.
"In the Big East, if I can''t take them but I have a friend at a low Division I school or a Division II school, I will let them know about the player," Osterman said. "A lot of times it is all about getting the piece of paper (diploma)."
Before that day arrives, though, Osterman said he sees the rewards from recruiting players from Africa and other foreign countries every day.
"There is a different level of appreciation, and you as a coach and a teacher want to help kids who want to be helped," Osterman said. "If you spend any time with those three at Mississippi State (Rima Kalonda, Armelie Lumanu, and Chanel Mokango) and any of my kids you would get that appreciation. If everything in this world is red and blue it is kind of boring, and education is not just about books. That is the benefit of athletics. You learn to win and to lose, you get to deal with the press and speak to the media about it, you get to travel, and you get to deal with different cultures and people."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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