On the surface, it may appear to be a fairly easy task for a college basketball coach to build his program with talent. He needs to go out and find skilled and athletic players that are interested in attending that particular school.
With thousands of athletes competing across the country, a college men's basketball program such as Butler, which has the national name recognition to recruit from any state, shouldn't have difficulty at all finding 13 players to fill out its roster.
But that isn't necessarily the case.
“You try and target, most importantly, who are the best fits,” Butler coach Brad Stevens said recently. “Kids can certainly mature and kids can certainly change over time. But at the same time, you can learn a lot about how good of a teammate somebody is during the recruiting process.”
Stevens added another piece to his 2013 recruiting class on Wednesday, as he signed Elijah Brown out of Santa Ana Mater Dei High School in California.
“Elijah is another great example of the type of student-athlete we like attract to Butler,” Stevens said. “He is a very versatile guard who can do a number of different things, including score the basketball in a variety of ways. He loves the game, he works at the game and he thinks about the game on a daily basis. He really wants to be good.”
Factors such as being a good teammate – and that especially includes when things aren't necessarily going your way – and a true passion for the game are just a couple of the many aspects that Stevens and his staff try to unearth as they scour the country.
Many of those components might seem obvious to Bulldog fans, such as a desire to excel academically. However, not every 18-year-old actually enjoys the thought of walking across campus in January for their 8 o'clock classes. At Butler, you need a true passion on and off of the court in order to thrive in this program.
“We don't recruit a ton of numbers,” Stevens said. “We spend a lot of time trying to find (the right) guys. It doesn't mean that we are always going to be right by any means. But we do a lot of homework on the guys that we get.”
Brown verbally committed to Butler in January and then went on to complete an outstanding senior season at Mater Dei, which included a second consecutive state title.
The 6-foot-4 guard averaged 17.3 points, while helping Mater Dei to the first 2013 California Interscholastic Federation Open Division Championship. Mater Dei finished the 2012-13 campaign with a 34-2 record.
“I've been dreaming of playing Division I basketball since I was a kid,” Brown said. “Ever since Butler started showing interest in me and Coach Stevens started coming to my games, I knew I wanted to consider going to Butler very seriously.
“Now that my dream is a reality, it's the best thing for me. I can't wait to get started at Butler and win some games.”
Brown is the son of former Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike Brown. He began his high school career at St. Edward High School in Cleveland. He transferred to Mater Dei as a junior and helped his team to the state Division I championship, the first of his back-to-back state titles.
Mater Dei finished the 2011-12 season with a 34-2 record and ranked second in the nation.
“Anytime you recruit a young man who has two state championships and has played in those environments and under that kind of spotlight,” Stevens explained, “that certainly adds to his ability to handle those types of experiences once he gets here.”
The Butler recruit scored in double-figures in 30 of 34 games as a senior and notched 20 or more points in 13 contests.
Brown was named to the 10-player All-Area Team by the Los Angeles Times, and he earned honorable mention All-State recognition.
Brown joins 6-foot- 10 Nolan Berry of De Smet Jesuit H.S. (Mo.), 6-foot-7 Andrew Chrabascz of Cushing Academy (Mass.) and 6-foot-2 Rene Castro of Worcester Academy (Mass.) in Butler's 2013-14 freshman class.
The Bulldogs are currently at their limit of 13 scholarships after awarding one to former walk-on sophomore guard Alex Barlow this semester.