ANDOVER — There is one rule to keep in mind when it comes to junior-college recruiting.
Literally, there really is only one rule.
“You can’t make face-to-face contact with a kid in the 48 hours before signing day,” Butler men’s coach Mike Bargen says. “But outside of that, it’s pretty much anything goes. Which means you have to be careful. Because you can wind up with no life outside of this. It can become all-consuming.”
What this is, exactly, is a high school gymnasium on a Friday night. A succession of Friday nights, to be exact.
This particular Friday he’s at Andover High to watch Thomas Jobe, a 6-foot senior point guard.
Bargen estimates he has seen Jobe play at least 50 times over the last two years, between high school games and summer games, so tonight is not to evaluate. It is simply one more step in a complicated recruiting dance between college coach, high school coach, high school player and the high school player’s family.
“I’m here so they can see my face, to show we’re interestedæ.æ.æ. you need to be seen, you don’t want to let up,” Bargen said.
Jobe, for his part, performs more than admirably. He torches Wellington for 16 points in the first half, including three three-pointers, and ends up with 19 in a rout.
After the game, Bargen begins what he calls “the wait,” which amounts to making small talk in an otherwise empty gymnasium while he waits for Jobe to get ready.
The best players, you see, usually take the longest to get out of the locker room. This is just the way of the world.
After about 15 minutes, Bargen goes in the locker room to talk to Jobe, complimenting him on his performance then inviting him to watch the Grizzlies play Hutchinson on Wednesday in El Dorado.
“Call and let us know how many tickets you need,” Bargen says. “Bring your parents, your girlfriend æ.æ.æ. do you have a girlfriend?”
Jobe’s face turns bright red. Yes, he has a girlfriend. She’s a sophomore.
Walking out of the locker room, Bargen breaks down the Grizzlies’ prospects of signing Jobe. He feels like it is between them and one other school.
“I’d really love to get him in the system and in two years, who knows?” Bargen says. “I think we’ve got a good shot.” — Tony Adame