It's Not Where You're From, It's Where You're At

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No matter how much time men's basketball coach Ben Braun spends on the road recruiting, it appears that he always keeps at least one ear to the ground here in Houston. Well, that's the impression given following an interesting conversation that unfolded on Thursday afternoon.

While discussing the measures he and his staff have taken to drum up support for his burgeoning program, Braun drifted off to a relevant tangent about his recruiting patterns. For those unfamiliar with the composition of his staff, Braun has assistants with ties all around the nation. Louis Reynaud and Kevin Mouton have the West Coast locked down, Mike Roberts has ties in Texas and the Midwest, and Marco Morcos is dialed in out east. Braun, a Chicago native, is gold in the Midwest and abroad, and collectively the Rice staff can canvas the globe.

Given the hoopla that surfaced recently over UH assistant and Phi Slama Jama alum Michael Young and his son Joseph, who opted to commit to Providence instead of the Cougars, Braun sounded sensitive to any discussion on when he will begin targeting local talent. The Owls have two Houstonians on their roster - Friendswood native Trey Stanton and Worthing product Emerson Herndon - and four Texans total. In fact, the Owls have more New York/New Jersey products (three) than locals, something that someone might have brought to Braun's attention.

"I know that people have said, 'Hey, are you going to get some players from Houston?" Braun said. "Nobody is going to hold it against our players if they're from Chicago or New Jersey. Our players are going to be part of this community whether they are from Houston or not. I've never felt that because our players are from this area or Texas they are more a part of this community. I find that sometimes players from out of state adopt this as their home anyway."

In a perfect world Braun could have replaced Rodney Foster (Mayde Creek) and Aleks Perka (Klein Forest) with two local players, but coaches play to win the game, and Braun did what was best for the immediate future of his program. Will he someday get traction with the top available local talent? Sure, but he shouldn't undermine the development of his program to appease those who root for local kids more than those who hail from Minnesota or Tennessee.

Besides, given the effort Braun has produced trying to weave his program into the fabric of the greater Rice community, you can best believe Tamir Jackson and Arsalan Kazemi will be Houstonians sooner rather than later. Based on his words, Braun won't have it any other way.

"This is my home now, so it doesn't matter where I came from," Braun said. "I feel like I'm part of this community. I want my family to be part of this community whether we're joining religious affiliations or clubs. We're meeting other families and that's really positive, and I want our players to go through that interaction. I think it's going to be important to our success."

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If he's getting talent that makes national writers sit up and take notice, why does it matter where they're from? I'm sure if Braun puts together some solid seasons and makes some post-season noise the recruits around town will be more receptive.

Owl-88: I was surprised by his comments, but clearly Braun has heard some grumblings. Some folks get all wrapped up in the wrong things. By the look of it, Braun is doing an exceptional job recruiting, and I trust that he knows what he's doing. - MK

Who were some of the guys that caught your eye, per your tweet yesterday?

At Ease: Not so much one person but rather the entire front line. It would seem that Braun could work multiple lineups given the available forwards, the most intriguing to me being Stanton-Kuipers-Kazemi. And, Jackson is an interesting prospect. I've seen him play several times before and am anticipating watching his development. - MK

It's not like this is baseball where the OG can rent a couple of vans and drive around the Houston area and pick up quality ballplayers who can play AND get into Rice. HS basketball has certainly improved in Houston and Texas over the years but how many can get into Rice (one of this year's recruits is having to play a year away to qualify)?
The prep/academy schools elsewhere seem to produce a good number of the type of players/students we are looking for. Braun can recruit the moon for all I care if he can find players/students that will make for a successful program.

I haven't grumbled about the issue, but I can see it.

I doubt anybody is complaining about signing highly-sought recruits like Kazemi and Jackson. Beyond that I prefer to trust the coaches' evaluations. Nevertheless it seems strange that in '09 and '10 we have reportedly offered fewer recruits from Texas than Illinois or New Jersey. Aren't there a lot of good local student-athletes too?

Part of the thinking is that it usually should be easier to get great prospects in our (sizable) backyard than to get comparable recruits from afar. If our local perception is so bad that this is not the case, then we need to fix that ASAP.

Again, I'm not complaining. I am more curious.

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