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Steve Alford explains what he looks for in recruits, why recruiting rankings don't matter

Steve Alford
Recruiting rankings might have mattered to{ }Steve Alford when he was at UCLA, but that won't be the case at Nevada. (UCLA photo)

If you care about recruiting rankings, you may not have been too impressed with the class Nevada unveiled this week. The good news is Steve Alford doesn’t care at all about those rankings.

“I won’t care one iota where our recruiting class is ranked,” Alford said Friday.

Alford admitted recruiting rankings mattered some when he was the head coach at UCLA, a traditional-rich Power 5 program where the fan base and media puts a lot of stock into reeling in top-25 classes every season. There isn’t as much emphasis on recruiting rankings at non-Power 5 schools like Nevada. For Alford, it's about finding the right fit.

“Some kids just aren’t ranked right,” Alford said. “That’s something you learn in coaching. To be honest with you, it may be one of the last things I look at is how kids are ranked. I just don’t put as much value on that. I think there are a lot of ways kids get over-hyped – where you play in high school, where you play on the AAU circuit, there’s an awful lot of over-hyping.”

Nevada’s 2020 class certainly isn’t over-hyped. The Wolf Pack inked five players to national letter of intents during the early signing period this week. Four of them – guards Daniel Foster, Alem Huseinovic and Je’Lani Clark and big man DeAndre Henry – are unrated prospects, per 247Sports. The fifth signee, wing player Tre Coleman, is listed as a three-star recruit and the No. 305-ranked prospect in the class.

Add sit-out transfers Desmond Cambridge, from Brown, and Warren Washington, from Oregon State, who are sitting out this year but will be eligible next season, and Alford is thrilled with the group of players he'll have starting in 2020-21. With Nevada losing Lindsey Drew, Jazz Johnson and Nisré Zouzoua after this season, grabbing guards was a key in this class.

“We look at this like a puzzle,” Alford said. “What do we have to add to the puzzle? We’re losing three high-level guards. We’re going to lose (Johncarlos Reyes), our starting center. Having Warren and Des sitting out and practicing with us every day is huge for us. We got five guys who really fit our puzzle. We couldn’t be more excited about it because all of those guys, they love to play. They’re students first, which is huge for us. They care about their education. They’re going to be great teammates, and they have motors.

"Anymore, I look at how hard guys play more than anything else. Do they out-motor others? Nearly 55 years of age and 30 years into this, I don’t want to use all my energy getting guys who don’t want to play hard and don’t have a motor. With this recruiting class, these are guys you’re going to see as freshmen and by the time they’re juniors I know what they’re going to look like because they all have high motors and they love to play the game and want to get better.”

In addition to their motors, Alford said one of the things he looks for on the recruiting market is winners.

“I want to see, ‘Do you win in high school? Do you win in AAU? How do you react in AAU when you play a morning game followed by a night game? Do you play or do you sit out? When I see you in person, what’s your motor look like?’” Alford said. “Those are the things I look at more than rankings, but at the Power 5 I think there’s a lot of pressure, especially at the upper level, everybody worries about where your recruiting class is. I think that’s something at New Mexico and here that will be different.”

Nevada has one open scholarship left in the 2020 class if it opts to use it, although the Wolf Pack could hold that scholarship for 2021, which currently only has one space available. Nevada has already brought two 2021 class recruits to campus for official visits, which has allowed the Wolf Pack to build longer-term relationships, something that wasn’t possible in the 2019 and 2020 classes given Alford wasn’t hired until last April. Alford is happy with the progress the team has made adding to its roster.

“For just one year in and being five, six months in, I give my staff a lot of credit,” Alford said. “We’ve covered a lot of ground. Starting with Des and Warren, who are going to be terrific, and getting five freshmen of this quality all signed early, we’re not waiting until the spring to have a class like this. They’re already in the Wolf Pack family. That’s pretty exciting.”

With more lead time, Nevada could woo more highly rated recruits in the 2021 class and beyond, although Alford reiterated recruiting rankings don’t matter to him. He did make it clear he’s not going to lower his targets simply because he’s no longer at a Power 5 school.

“We don’t look at us as mid-major,” Alford said. “I didn’t look at us as mid-major when I was at New Mexico, and I definitely don’t do it here. We’re out recruiting the best.”

Columnist Chris Murray provides insight on Northern Nevada sports. Contact him at crmurray@sbgtv.com or follow him on Twitter @MurrayNSN.

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