March 25, 2012

Miles brings new recruiting approach to Nebraska

Over the course of his six seasons at Nebraska, there may not have been a bigger criticism of Doc Sadler than his recruiting.

With the roster essentially being reset each season with players leaving and junior college players shuffling in and out after two seasons, the Huskers seemingly were never able to establish any sort of continuity in the locker room under Sadler.

Not only that, Sadler never signed higher than a three-star recruit or any prospect rated in the Rivals Top-150, including NU's 2012 class.

That's why when Tim Miles was officially introduced as Nebraska's next head coach on Saturday, a good portion of the questions from reporters regarded his plan on how to finally bring some top high school talent to Lincoln.

Miles gave a glimpse into his recruiting strategy, saying locking down target regions to recruit and assembling a top-notch staff were the most important pieces in establishing a strong presence on the recruiting front.

"First of all, I think what you start with is you talk about just a philosophical idea of where you're going," Miles said. "I think you have to recruit the Big Ten footprint, I think we can recruit the old Big 12 North region, and then we have to be able to go anywhere to pull anybody. Now, this job is not unlike the Colorado State job, relatively, in terms of not a high volume of players in your immediate region. So you've got work to do.

"After an idea of where you're going to go geographically, I think you look at how you're going to put together a staff. This is the Big Ten Conference. I'm going to need guys that know how the Big Ten works. I have decisions to make that way. That never ends… So we're going to put together a staff that can help us do this."

Obviously Miles would take a huge step in assembling the right staff under him by bringing along his former assistant at Colorado State and ace recruiter Ronald Coleman.

Coleman made a name for himself as one of the top prep and AAU coaches in the Chicago area, and his connections immediately paid off for Colorado State when he was hired in August of 2011. With Nebraska's move to the Big Ten, having an assistant as tied to Chicago as Coleman would be invaluable.

However, Miles wouldn't go into detail about who he wanted to bring onto his staff, and said there's still a chance Coleman could replace him as CSU's next head coach. If Miles can get Coleman to join him at Nebraska, though, it would be a heck of a way to start his career at NU.

"(Coleman) was highly recommended by some other Division-I assistants," Miles said of how his relationship with Coleman began. "At the time at Colorado State, I wanted a Big Ten footprint to recruit there. We had already been in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, the Dakotas and Minnesota. I wanted to continue to East. I didn't want to go West. We had a deal at CSU where we had 17 straight California kids leave before their eligibility was up… So I kind of cut California off the face of the Earth and said I'm not going to recruit them. I'll recruit Texas, and we're going to go East. So I got to know Ron over the course of a couple months, liked him and decided to here him."

Maybe the most telling thing Miles said Saturday in terms of recruiting was that he plans to stick with high school prospects as much as possible. In his opinion, shuffling in junior college players and foreign transfers every season - like Sadler did - is not the way to build a winning program.

"I think your highest-risk guys are junior college kids and foreign kids, just because they're the most likely failure rate in terms of not making it or not making it for their full deal," Miles said. "That's my take."

The problem with that is of the five commits in NU's 2012 class, three are juco players and one foreign transfer.

Miles said he planned to reach out to Nebraska's incoming class and try to get to know them and what they bring on and off the court. He said he would evaluate each player individually, but did not confirm that all five players would be in Lincoln next season.

"I'll reach out in the next three days," Miles said. "Whether it be in person or via phone, we're going to get all the information. I want to see them, because I want to see them play. I want to see their academic transcripts and see what's going on that way. The APR's a big deal to me, a big deal to my career. If you go under 930, you get a post-season ban, and that's bad. Bad for business.

"So we want to make sure that these guys are committed to Nebraska, they're committed to getting their education, and they're going to be good enough to play for us and play well in the Big Ten."

For the Huskers' high school commits - Shavon Shields and Benny Parker - they said they were both a little shocked when Sadler was fired. As of Sunday, neither player had spoken with Miles.

"I was kind of surprised," Parker said of his reaction when Sadler was fired. "I know they didn't have a good season this year, but they had a lot of injuries at the same time and had their first season in the Big Ten, so I really didn't expect them to fire him right off the bat. It kind of made me worry about what was going to happen, because of the relationship I had with Doc and the rest of his staff there."

While he hasn't had any contact with Miles since he took over at Nebraska, Parker has known Miles for some time from back when Miles recruited him as a freshman and sophomore.

"He was pretty cool guy," Parker said. "A cool coach."

Shields said that while he was taken aback a bit when Sadler was let go, his commitment to NU never wavered, and he was excited to get to known Miles and what his coaching philosophies were all about.

"Of course the coaching staff is one of the big reasons you choose a school," Shields said, "but Nebraska has a lot to offer, and I just felt that Coach (Tom) Osborne would make a good decision on the new head coach. So I had faith in the school."

What happens with Nebraska's returning roster and 2012 recruiting class still remains to be seen, as Miles left the possibility out there that there could be some shake ups coming. When asked if he had plans to recruit players for this season, even though NU is at it's scholarship limit, Miles didn't hesitate to say yes.

"The one thing is, you have to do it right," Miles said. "But I'm not opposed to a Division-I transfer. There are Division-I transfers who can play well in this league… There are some players out there, whether it be late-availables, maybe a juco kid or a Division-I transfer. There's going to be guys out there that are going to help our program."

Lastly, Part of Miles' appeal at Nebraska was the fact that he built Colorado State around a number of Nebraska-born players. While Sadler rarely signed the top players in the state, Miles had four Nebraska kids on his roster this season, and his team went on to play two games in the NCAA Tournament.

Miles said he would continue to go after in-state players, so long as they were talented enough to play at Nebraska.

"They've just got to be good enough," Miles said. "If they're good enough, they're in. If they're not, then you can't appease everybody. It's hard, but they've got to be good enough, and that's a hard call to make."

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