By GREG LAUDANI
The recruiting process can be grueling and exhausting for the Wildcats. Head coach Maureen Magarity and her staff sometime spends 10 days at a time traveling the country during summer months, going from one high school tournament in search of future Wildcat stars.
Magarity said the team recruits various players in different ways. The Wildcats’ coaching staff does a heavy amount of its scouting during the summer at Amateur Athletic Union tournaments, which take place throughout the entire year. Magarity and her assistant coaches also attend high school games to search for future Wildcats.
Collegiate teams cannot contact athletes directly until their junior year of high school. However, teams can show interest to athletes’ coaches before that time.
UNH finds many of its players via AAU tournaments — especially in the last two years — according to Magarity.
“We find a lot of our players through AAU and that’s the way it’s been the last couple of years,” Magarity said. “Sometimes we sit from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. while about 30 games are going on at once. It’s definitely mayhem but it’s great. You can see hundreds of players in a day”
Since there are so many games going on at these tournaments, Magarity said the events serve multiple recruiting purposes.
“We might go to watch a player on our interest list but in the meantime, we could be watching another game and find a different player we may be interested in,” Magarity said.
Assistant coach Mike Roux is the team’s recruiting coordinator. Roux helps direct Magarity and other assistant coaches through recruiting activities.
Magarity said she spends most of her time during the offseason following the team’s top recruits around. She goes to games and aims to spend time with recruits and meet their families. Assistant coaches do more scouting and searching for young players the Wildcats could potentially pursue.
The NCAA rules surrounding recruiting have shifted for the better in recent years, according to Magarity. Over the last two years, the NCAA has implemented new rules allowing collegiate teams to text recruits once they are eligible to talk to teams during their junior year. Programs can now provide paid campus visits for prospective student athletes in the spring of their junior year, as well. With these new initiatives, Magarity said recruits have more opportunities to see what school is right for them.
The Wildcats’ top priority is to bring in players while preventing any surprises from popping up later.
“If you get a player for four years, you want to first get to know them, their families and former coaches,” Magarity said. “We don’t want any surprises if they decide to play here.”
Magarity said it can be devastating when a recruit chooses not to commit to UNH. However, the head coach said she understands based on the current recruiting landscape.
“There’s only so many schools and there are a lot of players,” Magarity said. “Players are deciding earlier and earlier where they want to go to school, and the NCAA has changed its rules a lot over the years.”
The UNH head coach served as the recruiting coordinator during her four-year tenure at West Point. Her background in scouting and evaluating players makes recruiting remain as one of her favorite parts about coaching.
“I love recruiting,” Magarity said. “It’s something I really enjoy even though it’s a lot of work and it takes a lot of time. But all in all, we have a great process in place here and we’ve been thrilled with who we’ve been able to bring to UNH.”
Freshman guard Aliza Simpson is one of the squad’s most recent recruits to join the Wildcats. Simpson first visited UNH during her sophomore year of high school to meet players and coaches. She said she was nervous and did not know what to expect from her first glance at a school she had interest in pursuing.
The team quickly made her feel like part of the Wildcat family.
“The coaching staff was so welcoming and they made me feel so comfortable,” Simpson said. “Everyone on the team was very nice and they took me through what daily life was like in Durham.”
A native of Londonderry, New Hampshire, Simpson committed to UNH when she was a junior at Londonderry High School, where she is the all-time assist leader and a member of the 1,000-point club. The Wildcats made their original invitation during her sophomore year.
Simpson also played for the New England Crusaders of the AAU from her freshman year on. UNH did most of its recruiting of Simpson during her time with the Crusaders. The freshman said the staff, and primarily Roux, made a consistent effort to attend her high school and AAU games.
“I’d always see them in the stands and it was kind of cool having them watch me,” Simpson said. “Everyone is really nervous when they are first getting used to playing in AAU games. The coaches would always wear their shirts, and all the players would know exactly who they were. It was really nerve-racking but it was a really cool opportunity, too.”
The Londonderry native described the recruiting process as “very stressful.” She said that most schools begin their recruitment by sending out generic newsletters to prospective student-athletes playing in AAU girls’ basketball tournaments. Simpson said that UNH personalized letters to her, which tipped her off that they were very interested in having her.
“They’re very good at what they do,” Simpson said. “They make recruits feel at home and comfortable being here. Many of us decided to play here because of how much we love the coaching staff.”
Simpson said UNH went above and beyond while she looked into different programs. According to Simpson, some collegiate programs put pressured time constraints on recruits and do not like if prospective student-athletes visit other schools.
The freshman praised Magarity for the coach’s player-first attitude while Simpson weighed her options before committing to UNH.
“Coach Mags is so genuine about [recruiting],” Simpson said. “She wasn’t pressuring at all. She told me to look at other schools and never pressured me to commit here. She said she wanted me to experience different places to see where I would fit best.”