Recruiting process difficult to navigate, even for top-level athletes


Sierra Williams, Staff Reporter

Many student athletes want to continue to play their sport in college, but most don’t know how the recruiting process works or when to start.

Policies vary by sport and division, but the general rule is that college coaches can’t talk to an athlete before the end of their junior year. However, many schools will send information via mail as soon as they gain interest in you.

Top-level recruits, especially in the more popular sports like football and men’s basketball, receive tons of emails, letters and phone calls. Some may even be offered athletic scholarships before they enter high school. It won’t take much initiative in their recruiting process. But for recruits who are not so well-known, those athletes will have to be more proactive in the recruiting process, often having to sell themselves to college coaches to get a scholarship or a guaranteed spot on a team.

“College coaches started talking to my father and high school coach first, then after a certain age the coaches began to email and text me more,” said CJ Elleby, a senior who signed his letter of intent to play Division I basketball with Washington State University.

Elleby, who led the Eagles in scoring last season, first started looking at colleges during his sophomore year. He had official visits to WSU, Pepperdine, University of San Francisco, and California State University at Northridge. “I had about eight offers, so I didn’t really worry about the hometown schools,” Elleby said. “I had offers from schools such as [University of Washington] and [Seattle University]. I wanted to go to the schools that we had to travel to cause I always get see the hometown schools.”

While it is most common for coaches to reach out to the athletes, it can work the other way around. Athletes who have an interest in a particular school should not be afraid to make it known.

The most common way to initiate contact with a coach is through email. The initial contact should express interest in the school, along with key information about academic and athletic accomplishments. This may include awards, stats and years of experience. Athletes should also add any attributes that would make them a good fit for that school or team.

Along with email, athletes can set up profiles on recruiting websites like Having a profile on the site gives coaches access to player stats, test scores and videos. It also provides them with an athlete’s contact information so they can reach out if interested.

Once athletes are past the emailing and phone call stages, they can begin talking about campus visits. There are unofficial visits, which is primarily paid for by the athlete. While players cannot stay on campus, a perk of unofficial visits is that athletes get an unlimited amount.

In an official visit, the prospective school’s athletic department pays for transportation, meals and entertainment. These visits cannot be longer than 48 hours and athletes can only have up to five official visits to a Division I school.

It didn’t take much for Elleby to decide he wanted to make WSU his home.

“I loved the school; the energy within the athletics was great,” he said. “Most importantly, I felt really comfortable … with the coaches, players and just at Pullman.

Ed Haskins, a former coach for Garfield High School is now an assistant coach at WSU and helped recruit Elleby.

“Over the three years he coached against me, we’ve built a relationship back in Seattle and him being at WSU now is really cool to me,” Elleby said.

The last step is to verbally commit to a school and sign your National Letter of Intent (NLI.) Signing the NLI is the final commitment, and athletes cannot change their mind after committing without consequences

If athletes don’t attend the school you signed with, the signee will be ineligible to play for one year at any other school.

The early signing period in 2017 ran from Nov. 8 to Nov. 15, and if an athlete turn it in before the period starts or after it ends, the signature is null and they will have to wait until the next signing period which could go as late as Aug. 1 the following year.

Elleby signed with Washington State on Nov. 13 in front of his family, friends and teammates.

The rules and steps in recruitment are meant to protect both the athlete and the school, making it a long and stressful process. But it’s also a rewarding conclusion when they secure a spot on a team at their dream school doing what they love most.