Billy Kennedy coached teams are known for the defense they play. From his time at Murray State to his time at Texas A&M, it’s that defensive-minded approach that makes Kennedy’s college basketball teams so successful. But defense is not the only trademark of a Kennedy team. Surprise, surprise… He is also known for recruiting and landing some serious talent, year in and year out. Recently, I spoke with Coach Kennedy about that very topic: college recruiting. Here is what he had to say.

Q: When do you and your staff start identifying the right players for your program?

A: We start doing our serious research on potential recruits during their freshman and sophomore years of high school. We make the majority of our roster decisions on young men during their sophomore year, but we definitely start identifying potential “fits” for our program as early as freshman year. There are some instances involving special athletes that land on our radar while in 7th/8th grade. It really does depend on the skill level of the athlete being recruited. The more talented a young man is, the earlier the recruiting process usually begins. Our staff relentlessly commits to finding and adding the best young men to our roster.

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Q: How does your staff identify potential recruits for your program?

A: The good thing about competing at the NCAA Division I Level is that identifying recruits is usually a pretty easy thing for us to do. Most of the time, the type of kids we recruit are identified early in their high school careers by many college programs, not just Texas A&M. Whether they are playing for a quality AAU team or their varsity high school team, we really just pay attention to the “buzz” around the game and go watch as much quality basketball as we can. In addition, we bring many potential recruits on campus through our team camps. It really boils down to our staff watching as many games and as many recruits as possible, by whatever means necessary.

Q: What would you tell a recruit interested in your program that you’re unaware of?

A: Like many major Division I programs, we receive so much interest from so many high school recruits. As thankful as we are to receive an email from a young man wanting to be a part of our program, it is extremely difficult to review and respond to all of that interest. It is hard for an athlete to standout through an email, especially when his email gets mixed in with the emails coming from recruits that think they can play somewhere they really can’t. That makes filtering through recruit emails an almost impossible task.

I would advise a young man to have his high school coach or AAU coach reach out to our staff, on his behalf. If that recruit truly has the ability to play at this level, it is going to take a personal conversation with his coach for us to even consider taking the next step.

Q: What can a student-athlete control during their recruiting process?

A: Everything. The student-athlete should control everything that happens. The quicker a recruit can “zero in” on the colleges that he/she genuinely has interest in, the better off they will be. The college recruiting process shouldn’t be about how many schools have interest in you or how many offers you get, it should be about you finding the right school. The priority is to get a degree and have a successful career, not to just get a scholarship. Control the things that matter, not the things that are all hype.

Q: What are some red-flags you pay attention to with recruits?

A: An athlete that has changed schools multiple times in their four years. An athlete that has changed AAU teams multiple times in their high school career. When we see an athlete move around that much, it makes us really wonder what is going on. Is it a toughness issue? Does this athlete have a problem handling adversity? It really makes us question what the deal is. When it becomes a yearly-pattern, that is something that makes us dig a little deeper in understanding who that recruit really is.

Social media is also something that we pay great attention to. We keep up with the guys that “Twitter” all the time and love all of that. We want to know what kind of a kid we are getting. Are they about winning and team or are they more interested in things that don’t matter? Social media has a way of revealing someone and can be very telling. When making a scholarship decision, we tend to lean towards the guys that aren’t so involved in that stuff.

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Q: What advice do you have for parents of student-athletes going through the recruiting process?

A: College recruiting is a business and I would really tell parents and athletes, alike, to treat it as such. By taking a business-like approach, the recruit controls the outcome. Selecting the right college is an investment into a recruit’s future, it’s not just about basketball. Get past all the emotions that come along with the experience and get to the important stuff.