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How does McMaster University compete on the recruiting trail? Q&A with Lady Marauders Assistant Coach Ed Grosel

The Women's Basketball Team at McMaster University, the Lady Marauders, have a long-standing tradition of success. To see why, look no further than the staff. Head Coach Theresa Burns is in her twenty-first year in that position. Anne Marie Thuss and Ed Grosel, two of Coach Burns' Assistant Coaches, have fifteen-plus years combined experience on McMaster's staff. This continuity helps the Lady Marauders achieve success both on the court and on the recruiting trail year after year. Under Coach Burns' tutelage, the Lady Marauders have won four Ontario University Athletics championships, and they have made eight Canadian Interuniversity Sport Nationals appearances. However, that success didn't come without a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. McMaster is at a distinct disadvantage on the recruiting trail in multiple ways, and previously aforementioned Assistant Coach Ed Grosel lays those out in the one-on-one interview below. Despite the uphill batlle that the coaches are fighting on the recruiting trail, given the staff's tenacity, expect the staff to continue its success on the recruiting trail and for the program to continue its winning ways.

Q: How do you hear about players?

A: These are a few avenues that I use. A) My network of coaches at either the high school or club level who on occasion will contact me about a player B) Student-athletes can fill out a form online expressing their interest in our program and we will follow up C) Attending basketball events, such as tournaments, showcase workouts, and club games

Q: How do they make it onto your shortlist?

A: If they are a player that we see fits our needs or improves our team, I will either contact them directly or go through their coaches to arrange a meeting. We do not have any restrictions in Canada at the present moment in regards to contacting and meeting with athletes, as compared with the strict NCAA guidelines. So basically what I’m saying is every week is a viewing week. Athletes can visit schools any time of the year.

Q: I worked for the University of Tennessee men’s basketball team, and I know how we did it there, but I was just wondering if the process was any different in Canada?

A: The major difference would be our ability to get in contact with athletes. We have no restrictions.

Q: Every coach looks for something different when recruiting. What is your approach?

A: We have spent time, as coaches, with players developing a “Positive Culture” on our team. So, for me, spending the extra time with the player and their parents in the early stages of recruiting is very important. We find out if that athlete will fit that type of team culture, and then we decide if we are going to move forward.

Q: What do you guys look for most in a player? Obviously it varies by position. 

A: For me, it comes down to three variables regardless of position. 1) Are they athletic? 2) Can they follow team offensive and defensive systems? 3) Can they break off a play and create when systems break down?

Q: What are the best features of McMaster?

A: It is a contained, medium-sized campus with an enrollment of approximately 23,000 undergraduate students. Most, if not all, classes are on the main area, which makes getting to classes or events easy for pedestrians or bicyclists. For the athlete, the school has invested considerably in its facilities, boasting a new football stadium, a new athletic complex featuring a high performance area targeted specifically for varsity athletes, and a sports medicine clinic onsite. Check out this website for a virtual tour around campus.

Q: Why would I want to come there if I was a high school recruit?

A: First and foremost, you would be graduating with a degree from a World Ranked University according to Global Rankings. Our athletic department is totally committed to making sure that the student-athlete commitment to excellence is not only on the field but also supported and reflected in the classroom as well.

Q: Do you feel like you have to get a head start on other schools to help you land big recruits?

A: For the most part, it’s very competitive to recruit in Southern Ontario. I think our University sells itself. Academically, it’s a well regarded learning institution. So, attracting student-athletes that meet entrance requirements can be a challenge at times and limits potential athletes.

Q: What would your pitch be to a player that is choosing between your school and a D2 school?

A: You will be able to experience University as an international student-athlete, graduate with a quality degree from a respected university, and compete at a comparable level of play. I think potential recruits would be interested to have a look at what we have to offer.

Q: How do you sell your recruits on campus visits? 

A: Besides offering a quality university education, the extended support services that the student-athlete recieves on the court and in the classroom are designed to help them succeed. As a parent sending your son or daughter away to school, knowing that the athletic department is totally commited to them should be an important feature to selcting a potential school. I also believe we have a very unique culture at McMaster University that is reflected by the support from the local community and our athletic department from the Director down.

Q: Do you pay for official campus visits, or is funding not allotted for that? 

A: If players are from out of town and are staying overnight, we look after their expenses. We have flown in players out of province, who have shown a serious interest in our school.

Q: Do you think the rise in the Canadian men’s basketball team will have a positive effect on growing the game there and hopefully draw more high level recruits? Or do you think it really has no affect at all?

A: I think the rise in both the men's and women's programs have and will continue to have an impact on the growth of basketball in Canada, especially after our Canadian Women's National Team qualified for and played well at the London Olympics. Bringing more attention to what we've known for a while is that the quality of basketball in Canada for both the men's and women's teams is at a very high level. Those bluechip prospects historically have left to compete in the USA, and I don't see that changing at all.

Q: What separates your campus from any other college campus?

A: I think having a contained University with all facilities and residences on campus is a selling feature.

Q: Can you explain exactly what Provincial funding means?

A: There are funds set aside for athletes that meet certain critria. There's this program called "Quest for Gold." It is specifically targeted towards those elite athletes that might leave Ontario for a full scholarship in he NCAA. By design, its meant to offer a way to financially make up the difference between what a school can offer by OUA guidelines and cover close to all their tuition and board.

Q: What kind of travel do you typically do for recruiting?

A: Generally, it will be in a 100 mile radius, but we have extended beyond that.

Q: Does having cheaper or free healthcare benefit recruiting in any way?

A: For Canadian citizens it would be no, as they are covered from province to province. International students would not be covered by our healthcare system.

Q: I noticed that your active roster is full of players from Ontario. Obviously being located there gives you an advantage, but do you primarily recruit in that area, or do you try to delve out into other Provinces?

A: We recruit primarily in Ontario. At times, out of Province players have sent us letters of interest, which we will follow up on. We do not have a limitless recruiting budget, so careful planning on which direction and who we feel we need to recruit is always a prioity.

Q: Do you try to sell coach Burns’ 20+ years of coaching experience? That certainly seems like an asset. 

A: Absolutely! Coach Burns is a veteran coach who has continually grown and sustained the basketball program at McMaster University. Over the span of her Coaching career, the school has experienced success at both the National and Provincial levels under her guidance. Coach Burns is a well-respected coach amongst her peers, as reflected by her recent invite to join the Canadian National Team in China as a guest coach this past summer. Coach Burns also competed as a player in the OUA league at the University of Toronto. She also represented Canada on our national team for four years. One of the reasons that I joined the staff was to be mentored by her, and I am a better Coach today because of it. She's had the same affect on a number of alumni who are  currently in the coaching ranks ranging from the high school level right up to our national team head coach. She is very impressive and influential I'd say.

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Ed Grosel