Washington Huskies Basketball: Alumni Game and the Recruiting Game


So, the alumni game was a rousing success. Anyone paying attention this past week realizes that this is an undeniable fact. HecEd was full. Just about every great Husky alum showed up and played. But it wasn’t just a successful night. It was an important night.

It’s a harsh reality that HedEc hasn’t been full very often in the past year. Enthusiasm regarding the program has been very low due to the ugly losing season and the 2nd straight year in the NIT. Despite the very solid Class of 2013 Romar signed, including McDonald’s All-American point guard Nigel Williams-Goss, the coach’s recruiting chops have also been questioned due to his failure to bring on any of the super recruits, like Aaron Gordon, that Washington had long been pursuing.

April 14, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Sacramento Kings point guard Isaiah Thomas (22) drives to the basket against the Houston Rockets in the third quarter at the Toyota Center. The Rockets defeated the Kings 121-100. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

As far as fan enthusiasm, the Alumni Game was a clear hit. I don’t need to go too far into explaining that. Regardless of how fans feel about the current team, they have no reason to show anything but love to Husky legends like Brandon Roy, Nate Robinson, and Isaiah Thomas. The crowd was at capacity, the autograph mobs were huge, and everyone had a good time.

But recruiting? This event seems, from my point of view, to be a masterful play in that complicated game. First, the fan enthusiasm never hurts. Recruits paying attention to the programs that are pursuing them probably know that things haven’t been going great on Montlake, and if they tuned into a UW game this past season, they probably saw empty seats. But if they showed up to the Alumni Game, they saw a large crowd showing a huge amount of enthusiasm towards their program, and towards the individual stars of its past.

If I were Romar, I would have looked over at the recruits taking it all in, and I would have said “Look how much these Huskies are loved. Look how much they will love you long after you are even a player here.” And even if he didn’t feel the need to mention it, the recruits probably thought as much. Even for all the former-Huskies that aren’t from the Northwest, Seattle is forever home, and this game hammered homed that point.

That being said, I think the game forced recruits to face another fact in Washington’s favor: Romar gets players to the NBA. Lots of them, especially when you consider the strength of Washington’s incoming recruiting classes when compared to powerhouses like Kentucky or Kansas. Washington gets three and four star recruits and sends a very large percentage of them off to play in the league.

If you’re a recruit that plans on making it to the league (which I assume is most high-level recruits…), that should be important to you. And if it wasn’t before, the Alumni Game would have made it hard to ignore.

“Look, Nate Robinson. I saw him go on that run with the Bulls, and the dude dunked over Dwight Howard in the Dunk Contest. Oh, there’s Brandon Roy. That guy was a star before his knees got him. Isaiah Thomas? He’s out there starting when he was the last pick in the draft. Ross? Dude won the Dunk Contest his rookie year.”

And those are just some of the more successful, visible guys in the league. So many more are grinding away on NBA rosters. Recruits, if they’re intelligent and have their priorities in order, probably want a team with a dedicated fan base and a respected coach who gets players to the league. If they were at the Alumni Game, that’s exactly what they saw in Washington.

I don’t know if any 2014 or 2015 recruits will commit and say “It was the Alumni Game! All the enthusiasm and NBA players!” Actually, I really doubt that will happen. But I am very confident that this event will help Romar win over some future Huskies.