A couple of months ago, one of our readers asked me if I could comment on how the hiring of Isiah Thomas at Florida International would impact Kansas State's recruiting in the Sunshine State. At first, my initial thought was, "Well, probably not much (since FIU is a Sun Belt school)," but it was still a good question to ask. Of course, that was before the whole Freddy Asprilla saga, which directly impacts Kansas State, but overall, it made me think about what kind of impact Frank's ties in the state have had on our program since he arrived as Bob Huggins' chief assistant in 2006.
When Bob Huggins assembled his staff at Kansas State, it consisted of Frank Martin, Dalonte Hill, and former Cincinnati Bearcat, Erik Martin. Both Frank and Dalonte came to Manhattan with a certain amount of hype due to their perceived recruiting ties. Hill was in tight with Michael Beasley and the DC Assault AAU program, and Martin was a relatively famous (or infamous) high school coach in a former life. One of his best friends, Art Alvarez, is the President and CEO of the Miami Tropics AAU organization. It seemed like the trio of Huggins, Martin, and Hill would be a formidable force out on the recruiting trail, and in 2006 and 2007, that was definately the case. According to Rivals.com, Kansas State had the #2 overall recruiting class in 2007, and players like Michael Beasley and Bill Walker transformed Kansas State into a player on the national recruiting scene.
We know that Bob Huggins brought Bill Walker to Manhattan when he was hired at Kansas State, and we all know the level at which the well rewarded Dalonte Hill has been recruiting the past few years. But what impact have Frank's recruiting ties in Florida had on the program?
Before I go into this analysis, it's important to mention that a specific individual's recruiting success isn't something that we can measure with complete accuracy. We aren't privy to the conversations that these coaches have with the recruits or the relationships they cultivate, and for all I know, Frank Martin may be the best recruiter in the history of basketball. However, what we can look at are the number of players we've pulled in from the state of Florida, and the type of impact that they've had on our program. The hypothesis that we're testing is whether or not Martin's recruiting ties have paid off in the form of impact players coming to Kansas State; we aren't trying to prove whether or not Frank Martin is a good recruiter.
Since Frank Martin came to Manhattan in 2006, eight players have signed with Kansas State or received a scholarship from the state of Florida*:
In that same time period (2006-2009), Kansas State has placed twenty-one playerson scholarship. Therefore, thirty-eight percent of all signees (8-of-21) have come from the state of Florida. That's a pretty significant number of players from a state that's roughly 1500 miles away, and honestly, it's kind of surprising given how Manhattan will never be mistaken for Miami in any way, shape, or form.
However, when you look at the roster today, only four of those eight are still in the program. Jason Bennett transferred after his freshman season, Blake Young graduated in 2008, and both Fred Brown and Abdul Herrera left the team in this past year. Obviously, Brown had moments where he made a difference for the team (@Texas in 2009), but he was never a true starter, and while he was a good perimeter threat he never seemed to settle into a role on the team. Blake Young was a solid player during his two years in Manhattan, but Jason Bennett was a five-star bust who left after one season. Herrera was essentially a non-factor in his four game career at Kansas State.
Of the remaining players, Clemente is the only one that's received post-season honors (2nd Team All-Big 12, 2009). Luis Colon is a celebrated role player (and BOTC favorite), but his impact, obviously, is rather minimal considering that the big man's impact isn't really seen on the stat sheet. Chris Merriweather is an "energy" guy that comes off of the bench for defensive help, but he'll never be confused for an offensive weapon (0.8 ppg). Martavious Irving is an incoming freshman, so we don't know what kind of impact he'll have just yet.
Knowing all of this, what does that say about Frank's pipeline? Well, obviously, it's pretty disappointing. Granted, Irving may end up being a great player someday, but as of right now, the only Florida player on this roster that's made a considerable impact in the last three years is Clemente, and of the group from Florida, we've seen three defections, a couple of role players, a walk-on who was rewarded for his hustle, and a Spring signee. I don't care how you spin statistics, those aren't overly impressive results. That's not a knock on the individual players who are still around (they all seem like great kids), but when you look at the overall production from the group as a whole over the past three years, it's just been pretty below average for a recruiting area that's given us nearly 40% of our players in the past few years.
Freddy Asprilla, however, is a bit of a wildcard in this scenario. Asprilla was the SunBelt Conference "Freshman of the Year" after he averaged fourteen points and a shade under ten rebounds a game for Florida International. He's an alumnus of the Miami Tropics (as were Luis Colon and Denis Clemente), and according to article linked above by Jeffrey Martin, Alvarez is Asprilla's legal guardian. If he were to transfer to Kansas State, the 6'10", 280 lb. big man would undoubtedly have an impact in the 2010-2011 season. And, according to Jeffrey Martin and Alvarez, seeing Asprilla in Manhattan isn't all that far-fetched:
“We’ll try to feed Frank a couple more pieces of the puzzle,” Alvarez said. “He’s done a great job with Denis and Luis. I think Freddy is a good possibility.”
So, to answer our reader's initial question, will Isiah Thomas have an impact on our recruiting in Florida? Well, he definitely will if he doesn't let Asprilla out of his scholarship so he can transfer to another school (which may or may not be Kansas State). Outside of that, given the limited production that Kansas State has seen from players recruited from the state of Florida, it's hard to imagine any coach having much of a detrimental impact on our recruiting in that area. If overall production is taken into consideration, there are other areas where K-State would suffer more if recruiting become more difficult (i.e. Washington DC/Maryland). But, if we were to replace "Florida" ties with "Art Alvarez/Miami Tropics" ties, Frank's sucess rate would be rather high, and that would most likely be a great place to focus recruiting efforts in Florida going forward.
Depending on how Martavious Irving does in Manhattan the next few years, Frank may be able to save himself some time (and his recruiting budget) by just giving his buddy Art a call and asking what players he can have from their organization.
* I'm not including Wally Judge and Rodney McGruder in the list of Florida signees. They both played at Arlington Country Day in Jacksonville, Fla. for only one year. They are considered to be from the DC/Maryland area.