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by: Kris Gardner, United States Basketball Writers Association member. Credentialed media member since 1997. USBWA approved online journalist. Voter of Katrina McClain, Naismith, USBWA, and Wooden awards.

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Kelvin Sampson: "You've got to be really careful with your decision making right now."

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POSTED: July 24, 2020 -- 5:20 p.m. CT

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted everyone directly or indirectly. In the college sports landscape, college coaches have not been able to travel to attend grassroots / AAU events to recruit future college players. Coaches have to rely on watching the events online and also hosting recruits in online "virtual" settings. Houston Cougars Head Coach Kelvin Sampson was asked the impact the pandemic has had on his recruiting process.

"I don't think I've ever signed a kid that I didn't go see play live," Sampson said during a Zoom call with the media. "And, I think I speak for a majority of the coaches unless it's a foreign kid, maybe, where you're looking at video. You're talking to guys; and, he's a no brainer."

Sampson continued, "But, if he's a kid that's played in the United States because of July and the recruiting period, camps, AAU events, USA Basketball, we go see them play. That's why small colleges can blow their entire budget just by going to Vegas because there's four tournaments going on out there and there's probably 1500 to 2000 teams playing. You can go evaluate all day long."

Despite being unable to see recruits compete in person, Sampson and the coaching staff have received a verbal commitment from 6'4 guard Michael Thomas from Kilgore College. Thomas is considered one of the top guards in junior college.

"We got a commitment the other day from a kid (Michael Thomas) that we had to study for a long time just on video," Sampson commented. "Never seen him play live. That bothers me a little bit. It's kind of like wading in the water at night. You can't see where you're stepping; so, you get a little bit tentative. You've got to be really careful with your decision making right now."

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"We're recruiting a young man right now that's going to make a decision I think early; maybe in September," Sampson acknowledged. "That we're in there; but, I haven't seen him play. I know he's good. I couldn't care less who else is recruiting him. That doesn't resonate with me who's recruiting who. I don't care about that. If that mattered, look at Marcus Sasser. What matters is the way we feel. I think one of the strengths of our program is we're as good as evaluators as we are recruiters. That's why we some kids after awhile that maybe some schools don't see. That's evaluating."

"Because of COVID-19 you're taking an important tool away from all the coaches," Sampson added. "Most coaches are really good evaluators; and, then, they become good recruiters.

"I like watching tape as much as anybody; but, after awhile, the more you watch tape the questions you have. The only you can get those questions answered is to go see a kid live."

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