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Top recruits face unyielding process

Damien Leonard didn't think very long before outing the biggest offender adding to his repertoire of college recruiting letters.

The J.L. Mann junior and highly touted guard sees stacks of mail every week. And, often enough, they are from the same school.

But, for those who haven't been in Leonard's shoes to understand it, it actually gets more comical.

"Getting the same thing in the mail every week - it says the same thing," said Leonard, who is in town this week for the Beach Ball Classic. "Virginia Tech [sends one every week saying] 'We need you here. We need you here.' They all say the same thing. It's the same form mail. 'We need you. We want you here.' "

It's part of the drawback of being wanted. Sorting through the legitimate mail and the form letters can be a regular job in its own right.

Such is life for players like Leonard and others at the Beach Ball.

Twelve of this week's Beach Ball players are in the top-150 lists for their respective classes. Attached to several of their names are schools like North Carolina, Memphis, Kentucky, Kansas and Texas.

Major college recruiting doesn't wait until just before the early signing period - which is in November of each player's senior year of high school.

So that means lots of letters, phone calls and, until early in 2008, text messages.

Sometimes, those contacts don't come when it's convenient for the players.

"Coaches might call me at six in the morning," Memphis signee and Wheeler (Ga.) forward Jelan Kendrick said. "I would get up and talk to them like nothing was wrong. So it was easy for me."

Recruiting sites like Rivals, Scout and the individual fan-based ones tied to schools have compounded the interest. Some of those phone calls and postgame contacts are coming from reporters trying to find out if the player's most-recent ideas have panned out into a possible decision.

Has the player narrowed his list?

What did he think about a recruiting visit?

Did any more offers come in?

All the while, the prospects must not only try to make a decision that will deeply impact the next several years of their lives, but possibly change the course of a family's finances and prestige.

That's the way Kendrick looked at it.

Before this year, Kendrick's father took a better job near Wheeler High in Marietta, Ga., to give the family future openings he didn't believe were possible in downtown Atlanta, where Jelan Kendrick attended West Lake High School.

"When you grow up where I grew up, slim to none get that opportunity that I got," Kendrick said. "When I got the opportunity, everybody told me to cherish it because everybody out of my neighborhood doesn't get the same opportunity. I always looked at it as a blessing."

That doesn't mean the process is always pleasurable. Jokes about some college coaches coming off as used-car salesmen tend to be thrown about when it comes to recruiting high school players.

Nichols School (N.Y.) senior and Virginia signee Will Regan said he did his best early to eliminate some of the ones who seemed less than genuine from his list of regular contacts.

"In general, coaches will try to please you and make you feel comfortable," Regan said. "Sometimes, they'll go out of what they really are to do it. But a lot of the coaches I affiliated myself around weren't those people, from what I can tell. Obviously, I couldn't tell 100 percent until I was playing under them. But it seems like from my recruiting, one of the things I was trying to do was be around those people.

"It was more of a feeling that I had. It seemed like they were acting irregular, something not really like who they really were. ... It was more of the [feeling] they were being themselves."

Elgin Cook - a junior at Alexander Hamilton (Wis.) who has verbally committed to Iowa State - said ISU coach Greg McDermott made it clear early he wasn't just another cog in the system.

It made what could have been a possibly annoying portion of Cook's life much more enjoyable.

"I liked the recruiting process. It went kind of smooth," Cook said. "[McDermott] just came to a lot of our games, checked up on me daily. He made sure I came along as a man, not just as a player."

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