It's a rare occasion when the UConn women's team loses out on a recruit. In our mind, the recruiting process would typically go something like this: a conversation with coach Geno Auriemma, then a visit to Storrs to watch the Huskies play, see the banners and the trophies, and hang out with some of the best players in the country, and the rest takes care of itself. Namely: the lucky high school player would sign her letter of intent and a year or so later, she'd be the latest cog in a finely tuned national title-winning machine.
Except that the Huskies don't always win it all. Auriemma has seven national championships during his tenure, but UConn lost to Big East rival Notre Dame in the Final Four last season. And as the rest of the college basketball-playing world outside Tennessee, Stanford and UConn become more competitive, the Huskies won't get every player they want. And that was the case with forward Xylina McDaniel, South Carolina's Gatorade player of the year (and NBA great Xavier McDaniel's daughter).
UConn will be fine, of course. They had one of the nation's best recruiting classes for 2011, and 2012 still includes center Breanna Stewart, the only high school player on USA Basketball's Pan American Games team. But as the Hartford Courant's John Altavilla writes, recruiting is an extensive process spanning months and years.
"Marissa [Moseley], Shea [Ralph] and I meet often; every day there is something we discuss about [recruiting]," Chris Dailey, UConn's associate head coach told Altavilla. "I was told a long time ago you need to do something every day, and if you don't you will be behind. It could just be a casual conversation about someone [one of the coaches has seen]. We spend a lot of time trying to identify time on our schedules to go visit a player. It's a constant and it's fluid because it involves people, their schedules and families.
"We're either actually getting closer to a player every day or we're moving further apart."
And Dailey's not kidding. Having UConn's resume certainly helps, but as we noted above, women's basketball supremacy no longer includes just a handful of teams. In April, Texas A&M won the NCAA Tournament. Pretty sure nobody saw that coming, but after watching the Aggies play, it was clear they earned the title.
Plus, recruiting isn't an exact science -- not every player turns into Maya Moore.
"Everything varies with the process, and what you never hear about is that it doesn't matter what the depth chart says or what your needs are and who is coming in the following year as freshmen," Dailey said. "It can all change on the first day of practice.
"Kids get better, others don't. Kids get hurt. There are so many variables. Players you expect to develop at a certain level may not. Injuries may cause others to move back into a different class [medical redshirt]. It's just about constant change."
One thing that hasn't changed: the Huskies are annually in the national championship conversation and that won't change anytime soon.