Prior to one of his recent seminars on the methods and myths of college recruiting, Jack Renkens spoke with a man who felt his son was a hotshot basketball prospect.
“I don’t know if we need to be here,” the man told Renkens. “He’s getting recruited pretty hard.”
After the parent disclosed his son’s college of choice, Renkens asked if he had received any calls from schools on March 1, the first day basketball recruits can be contacted. The answer was no — meaning Renkens had a harsh surprise for father and son.
“I didn’t tell them before my speech. I told them during it,” Renkens said. “I looked at the kid and said, ‘You’re not going to that school. I can have an assistant coach call you tomorrow to tell you. Get real.’ ”
Get real. It was a Renkens catchphrase long before television’s Dr. Phil began using it, and it’s the great commandment in “Recruiting Realities,” a seminar he has presented to prep athletes and parents for seven years.
Renkens, who is based in Scottsdale, will present the seminar 121 times around the nation this year. The next stop on his tour is Mesa High School on Tuesday and Mountain View High on Wednesday.
“It’s hardcore and in-your-face,” Renkens said. “But it also presents the unbelievable opportunities that are out there.”
Renkens knows the ins and outs of college recruiting because, for many years, he was intimately involved in it.
He is a former basketball coach at the high school, junior college and NCAA Division II levels. Also, Renkens has the perspective of a parent, as his daughter, Brooke, played collegiate basketball.
“The name indicates what it is, realities,” said Steve Hogen, Mesa Public Schools athletic director. “One of the things I always hear (from parents) is that they wish they had gotten this information sooner. The parents like it because they get concrete things. Here’s how to tell if you’re being recruited, here’s what you can do to market yourself.”
Athletes must recognize, Renkens said, whether they are big-time recruits. Hint: If you don’t get that call on the first day schools can contact recruits, you’re not.
As a coach at Assumption College in Worcester, Mass., Renkens sat in the living rooms of recruits who — despite the $120,000 worth of education he was dangling in front of them — indicated a desire to wait for a Division I offer that would never come.
“They had never heard of the school, that’s their criteria,” Renkens said. “It’s like, ‘Well, I don’t want to play there.’
“I’d be like, ‘Has anyone offered you a visit? Has anyone else been at your house? No? Then what are you waiting for?’ ”
When an athlete’s sights are more realistic, Renkens said, plenty of roster spots and financial aid are available. One does not have to be all-region or get his or her name in the newspaper a lot, either.
“I could name 50 coaches at 50 schools that can’t fill rosters,” he said.
Those rosters are at places like Assumption College, which won’t get much time on ESPN but is a good place to get a Bachelor of Arts. One of the Northeast’s top liberal-arts institutions, Assumption is just one of four NCAA schools — at any level — with a 100 percent graduation rate for athletes.
“This is about getting a diploma,” Renkens said. “It’s not about hitting or shooting a ball. Not about going to the NFL or NBA. It’s about kids’ futures, their getting an education. And there are places kids can play where they will get a positive-experience education.”