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‘We want to have a student and an athlete’: How women’s basketball recruits a cohesive unit

Taking a look at one of AU’s most successful programs

From the Newsstands: This story appeared in The Eagle's December 2023 print edition. You can find the digital version here

While they may be a diverse mix of athletes from all over the world, women’s basketball head coach Tiffany Coll thinks of her players as a cohesive unit. They all wear the same uniform now, but how did these players all find their way to D.C.?

The recruiting process can begin in several ways, but Coll often sees recruits for the first time at Amateur Athletics Union tournaments, which typically feature hundreds of teams from across the country. She and her staff travel to several of these events throughout the summer, choosing tournaments with the broadest array of teams from across the nation.

The staff then invites prospects to one of the team’s summer camps. Coll will then follow them for the next several months. As a prospective recruit enters their junior year, Coll and her staff attend one of their “open gyms,” an unofficial practice where they can demonstrate their skills. 

Typically, Coll gives a player a scholarship offer during their junior season, only after watching them play a high school game.

“In high school, there is a little bit more discipline, whereas in AAU, it’s more run-and-gun,” Coll said. “You don’t get to see their basketball IQ until you get to the high school side, where you can see it’s a little bit more slowed down, a little bit more focused on trying to win.”

As the recruit gets offers from other schools, Coll has to sell her program hard.

For senior forward Emily Johns, choosing American was relatively easy. When she made her official visit in fall 2018 she fell in love with the team’s winning culture and communicative all-female coaching staff. 

Of course, Coll also has to think about whether a player will fit well. Physically, she looks for her players to be tall, as this helps her team create mismatches. In her guards, she looks for good shooting ability and in her post players, good footwork and hands. These aren’t mutually exclusive, though; Coll’s players must be versatile.

“How do they treat their teammates when they come in and out of the game?” Coll asks. “Do they cheer for other people or are they just about themselves? Who do they go to for advice when they’re trying to make a decision?”

Coll also looks for well-rounded players.

“We want to have a student and an athlete,” Coll says. “We want to have people that are involved in extracurricular activities, people that have friends outside of sports, people that care about what's going on in the world, not just basketball, people that have identities outside of the sport.”

This drew sophomore guard Laura Nogues into the program. A Barcelona native, she was heavily interested in the University’s academic standing.

“I care about my academic process,” Nogues said.  “I wanna go back and be able to work, I don’t want to play pro.”

Nogue’s experience also highlights the differences between the international and domestic recruiting processes. “It’s much more difficult,” Nogues says, “because, obviously, they only see you through videos. It is very difficult to portray what type of athlete you are in a video of one game or a highlight video.”

This hasn’t discouraged Coll from recruiting internationally; aside from Nogues, sophomores Molly Lavin and Anna Rescifina are from London and Sicily, respectively. 

Coll says that recruiting is the “lifeblood” of her program. “You’re only as good as your players,” she says. “I could be coach K[rzyzewski], but if I don’t have phenomenal players, it’s not gonna make a difference.”

This article was edited by Penelope Jennings, Delaney Hoke and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Isabelle Kravis, Sarah Clayton and Emilia Rodriguez.

 Hosts Sara Winick and Sydney Hsu introduce themselves and talk about their favorite TV shows. This episode includes fun facts, recommendations and personal connections. 

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