SRU gets creative to find talent
April 3, 2013
SLIPPERY ROCK — In a land of juggernauts like Gannon, California, Indiana and Edinboro, Tanya Longo has to find creative ways to attract talent to the Slippery Rock University women’s basketball court. Longo, who just concluded her third season on the bench for The Rock, has devised such a plan. Open tryouts. Longo and SRU held one of those tryouts, inviting high school seniors, current students, prospective students — well, anyone with hoop talent and a desire to play — to Morrow Field House Friday evening. “My recruiting philosophy is we’ll take a look at anybody,” Longo said. This is the third year The Rock has hosted such an event. The men’s basketball team at the school also has its own open tryouts. Both have yielded huge dividends in the past. This isn’t just a cattle call. This is serious. The players are serious — and seriously talented. “You get a reasonable number of very talented players,” Longo said. “We get to see some pretty good basketball on the court. It’s cool.” Longo estimated that seven players on last year’s roster were brought to The Rock directly from open auditions, whether they were walk-ons or received scholarships. To Longo, tryouts are a necessity in the ultra-competitive landscape of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference and NCAA Division II basketball. Time is also a factor. During the college season, Longo has precious few opportunities to see high school players compete in person. “During the season, getting out to high school basketball games is really challenging,” Longo said. “Our focus is on our team during the season, and we have a lot of evening practices, which is when high school games are happening. We watch a lot of film. We look at a lot of newspaper articles and stats and that sort of thing. But to see them in person, here, is better.” It’s also valuable for the players, who get to see the campus, the athletic facilities and get to know the coaches. “That’s a big part of the recruiting process, too: the fit — making sure they can learn from me and they like the way that I teach. I’m direct.” Longo said. The Rock women’s basketball program has struggled, posting a 4-22 record this past season. Part of that has to do with playing a schedule that featured nine games against NCAA Division II tournament teams. Five PSAC teams made the 64-team tournament — the most of any conference in the country. “And four of these were in the west,” Longo said. “It’s the company you want to be in.” Longo said she is seeing signs of life from a team that has gone just 13-65 in the last three seasons. “It’s hard to look at the record and feel great about what we are doing, however, I do feel really good,” Longo said. “We have a young core of players here now. We’ve never really had that.” Longo is hoping that tryouts like the one Friday will help fill some holes and allow The Rock to take another step. “It’s a great opportunity for us,” Longo said. “And for them.” The men’s program has been holding open tryouts since Kevin Reynolds came aboard five years ago. The auditions have brought several quality players to the program. Reynolds will hold two open tryouts, one on April 27 and another on May 3. “We’re not going to close the door on anyone,” Reynolds said. “It’s a good way to find the diamonds in the rough.” Very few programs had open tryouts until The Rock started offering them. Now, Reynolds said, it’s beginning to catch on. “I don’t want to say we are trendsetters, but we have to have an unconventional approach to recruiting,” Reynolds said.