CHICAGO – When Ryan Marks turned the key to his mother’s 2002 Lexus in the North Central High parking lot at around 8 a.m. and the only sound was that of a click, someone should have taken a picture of the cringe that appeared on my mug.
This was going to be a long three days.
The last time I saw Gary Parrish and Tom Izzo was around 8:45 a.m., at halftime of the first game of the adidas tournament in Cincinnati.
Then Marks, The UT-Pan American coach I have opted to follow for the next three days, and I went our separate ways from the Spoiled Duo (yes, that’s what I’ll refer to Izzo and Parrish over the next couple of days.)
I’ve come up through the recruiting ranks, working with current ESPN guru Dave Telep at Scout.com for a few years – and most of my time, admittedly, was spent sitting next to high-major guys like Izzo.
Those guys have it easy.
They run around from gym to gym just to show their face. They text and talk more than they watch.
It’s a joke.
Guys like Marks have to actually work.
Let’s face it: My 7-year-old daughter (who has recently, by the way, developed a sweet 8-foot jumper) can identify the Andre Drummond’s, the Shabazz Muhammad’s and the Perry Ellis’ – the elite players in the country.
The most difficult aspect of recruiting is what Marks has to do: truly evaluate.
Here’s a guy who has been a Division 3, Division 2 and now a D-1 head coach – so he’s got a feel for watching prospects and determining what level they will likely play.
``It’s still not easy,” Marks said on Wednesday, the first day of the July recruiting period.
Marks, clad in a green polo with the school name across his chest, grey shorts and highly unfashionable sandals (sorry Ryan), bounced from gym to gym virtually all day. It wasn’t all that different than Izzo. However, instead of signing autographs and making idle chatter with his colleagues, Marks was all business.
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He watched his share of Texas teams, but also made certain to follow Minnesota and Wisconsin teams.
``There are a ton of Minnesota natives who live in south Texas in the winter, so we decided it made sense to start recruiting the state,” Marks said. ``And my assistant, Nick Bennett, is from Wisconsin – and has a good feel for those teams.”
He got two kids from Minnesota in last year’s recruiting class.
Marks spent time in the main gym, sitting alongside the big boys, and also got in his mother’s Lexus and took the drive out to the smaller gyms.
He went so hard and so fast that, unlike the Spoiled Duo, there was no time for lunch or dinner.
In fact, Marks didn’t have anything until we stopped at a gas station and we picked up a couple drinks and some snacks when leaving Indianapolis around 9:30 p.m.
That’s when we left the gym bound for Chicago and the beautiful Marks Abode, a high-rise condo that sits in downtown (you can have your Akron hotel room, Parrish). In a cost-cutting measure, Marks has opted to stay with his mother – on a cot – while I got a comfy pull-up couch in one of the bedrooms.
Eat your heart out, Parrish.
It’s now almost 1 a.m. local time and we have to be up in four hours to beat the traffic in hopes of arriving in Milwaukee for the 8 a.m. game.
I’m on the grind, baby!
I’ll try and blog more on the drive in the morning, but for now, I need to get some sleep.
For more of our college basketball recruiting road trip, click here.