Billy Gillispie, the former Kentucky Wildcats basketball coach and current Texas Tech Red Raiders coach, jump-started future recruiting for his current program by subscribing to MiddleSchoolElite.com, a website dedicated to ranking basketball players in the fifth, sixth, and seventh grades.
BCG, as supporters affectionately call the coach, made national headlines while coaching in Lexington by securing the commitment of Thousand Oaks, California eighth grader Michael Avery. Now stationed in Lubbock, Texas, Gillispie decided to make early relationships with potential future high school stars.
Red Raiders' Coach Gillispie
A source close to the coach said Gillispie knows he doesn’t have the Kentucky brand behind him anymore and he wants to build early relationships that will pay off in five or six years, when the kids become juniors in high school.
The source continued by stating: “Billy just wants what’s best for the kids. It’s nothin’ serious right now, just a friendly hello letter of interest with a little bit about the school and Billy himself. Just starting early, that’s all.”
Gillispie’s recruitment of Avery while at Kentucky received national scrutiny, although it was not a violation of NCAA rules.
The NCAA has since limited contact between coaches and recruits who are not yet juniors in high school. However, the source insists, BCG is within the confines of the rules.
“We like to call it the gray area,” said the source who chose to remain anonymous. “You oughta’ see Billy’s face though. It just lights up when he finds a 6’5″ seventh grader. He takes a sip of his bourbon, and then starts pecking away at an e-mail or letter.”
“It’s kinda scary how excited he gets at times. He just gets this look in his eye, and you know he wants the kid. But it’s a good kinda look. It’s not a Michael Jackson kinda look.”
MiddleSchoolElite.com ranks the young classes (2016-2018 currently) on various criteria including their accomplishments, team success, individual talent, and long range potential. The site combines these factors into a secret “formula.”
“You know,” our source continued, “it’s just something new. If we can figure out which fifth grader in the country will be the best in seven years, we’re way ahead of the curve. We’ll already have a relationship with the family, we’ll be trusted. Trust is the key to recruiting. Earn the trust of the player, the family, the AAU coach, and the runner, then you get the kid. Seven years is a long time to build up trust.”
A quick survey of other major college coaches revealed some interest in the site, but BCG remains a lone wolf in the next universe of recruiting for now.