We had a chance to catch up with UConn Men's Basketball assistant coach Dwayne Killings after what turned out to be a tumultuous offseason for the Huskies.
You can check out Part I of our interview with Coach Killings here.
You spend so much time with some recruits and then they pick another school, do you take those decisions personally? As a recruiter did it take a while to get used to this happening?
Killings: “I don’t take it personally, and I never took it personally, it’s a process for the kid. But if you decide to come here ‘hey, you got me for life.’ I want to be in your life, I’m here to help you whether you want advice about a girlfriend or to help you prepare for a job.
There are kids who don’t select the school, but the basketball circle is so small you run into them later in life and there’s no ill will. At the end of the day it can’t be about UConn, it can’t be me, it’s about the individual kid and I think people forget that. Those individuals, they have to make a decision that’s best for them, and if it’s not this program, then hey we have to move on and find what’s best for us.
You build these great relationships and it’s a lot of fun. There are so many great stories, and they decide to make a different decision, it’s an awkward part of the relationship, but it ends right there and you have to move on and what’s next, the next man up.”
Head coach Kevin Ollie is not against recruiting one-and-dones, but is it a different mindset when trying to recruit those types of players from other recruits?
Killings: “It’s different. The story is different and you’re trying to get these kids to a different means to an end in a shorter period of time. They are only going to be with your program for a year, maybe two years, and it’s about developing their talent, getting them their education and it’s about finishing your education as you are pursuing a professional career.
The conversations are a little bit different and the plan, and everyone has a different way they go about it. … It’s not a challenge but it’s about painting a picture the right way so they can understanding it, then we have to go pursue the kid. It can definitely be done here, it’s been done.
There’s a proven record of accomplishment and I think Kevin understands what it takes for these kids to prepare themselves to play at the highest level whether it’s a four-year, three-year, two-year or one-year scenario. It’s just identifying that plan for each individual kid and executing it. But the kid has to come in and be ready to go to work.”
Does it in some ways seem like college basketball has become where you almost have to go year-to-year with so many guys transferring and leaving early, etc.?
Killings: “I think it’s a situation where what it is today might not be what it is tomorrow. You always have to be prepared for change and you always have to be looking at opportunities also. There’s always something different every day in terms of the kid who wants to be a part of our program and you have to plan for it.
You also have to understand the landscape in terms of the kids who are out there, how they can impact your program and how they are going to fit into the university. Can they have success academically?
To me, the recruiting landscape in the game has changed a little bit in that there are a lot of different moving pieces with the fifth-year seniors, who are relatively new to the game, and then there’s a possibility of guys being one-and-done, and you have kids transferring – there’s a lot of movement on rosters – and you have to figure out where players fit in and how they help you.”
Raphael Chillious was hired in the off-season as the associate head coach, has that changed your role at all with the program in terms of recruiting?
Killings: “He’s just another teammate. He has great energy, great passion for what he does and the kids. He has a great network and I think he has great experience. I got a chance to know him when we were both in Philadelphia. He was at Villanova for a year and I was at Temple.
He’s a great person. He’s a great representative of the university. It’s fun. The biggest thing has been for us to identify and recruit kids for the program and push things forward.”
What is your schedule like over the summer months in terms of recruiting?
Killings: “We are constantly talking about our present roster and what we need if this happens and that. You go through a lot of different scenarios and there’s so much stuff out on the internet now. The world has changed so much and you know it’s a kid is working out in the gym or he’s playing pick-up or playing an AAU game or all-star game, there’s videos for it. You are watching a lot of different stuff, you are following what goes on in a social media world in terms of what a kid is up to.
I think that’s a great tool for us as recruiters because you have an idea what’s going on in their world. It’s a great way to engage in conversations with those guys and a great way to evaluate them by seeing a lot of games that are being played. Where before you got stories and you’d hear how guys play. Now you can actually watch these different games that are being played when you’re not allowed to be out on the road. So, we can really try to pinpoint the right players for the program.
Then we have a lot of conversations with coach (Ollie) about what he wants, his vision. We talk about kids we have seen and we make our plan going into July about how we are going to attack those three different periods and going out on the road, evaluate players and try to figure out who the best kids are for us. We are trying to figure out the priorities for us, but also we are on campus and the most important recruits are the guys that are here.
We spend a lot of time with these guys whether it’s in the gym, offices, just trying to get these guys to maximize their opportunities in the summer both academically and athletically. Because the season will be here before you know it, and guys will be back here in late August and start building towards the season.”
You helped land two of the 2017 recruits, Josh Carlton and Tyler Polley, what will they bring to the program?
Killings: “The biggest thing is they are just so excited to be here, which is great. There’s a lot of growth left in their game, they are not finished products. I think they are going to flourish when they get here because they will have the chance to get faster, stronger.
They are both guys who are excited to learn and grow as players, which is very important. I like their talent and who they are as players. We’re excited to work with these players and I think people will be excited to cheer them on when they get here.”