Former New Jersey Nets player Malik Allen, who spent four years at Villanova from 1996-2000, remembers his recruitment well -- though not fondly. "Back then, it was letters and phone calls, and you're scheduling phone calls. I was on a different scale because I was highly recruited, and I just got a ton of letters."
After Allen left the NBA in 2011, he sought out a way to make that recruitment process easier for high school players, whether highly recruited athletes like Allen was or just your average kid trying to get exposure.
Enter Allen's latest venture, inRecruit. InRecruit is a platform built for youth athletes with the intention of streamlining the college recruiting process. Allen developed the idea with college classmate and longtime friend Joseph Rocco following his retirement in 2011. Rocco and Allen are as close as two business partners can get -- they're lifetime friends, attended Villanova together, and each is the godfather to the other's children.
InRecruit has features for athletes ranging from keeping up on news written about you to social media contacts between coaches and players. It's Facebook, specifically designed for athletes, with less pictures of cats and meaningless status updates.
According to Rocco, who has a background in law and business and graduated from Villanova with a Juris Doctor in 2003, the site has seen an estimated 35 to 40 percent growth each month. While inRecruit is currently only available for basketball, features for other sports are projected for Spring 2014. Football is a priority, but a few other select sports will likely be included.
"The intent of the platform is so that it functions and reads as somewhat of a new-age social network technology system, where kids can have access to more schools and be seen by more coaches," Rocco said of inRecruit. "Conversely, coaches can save more time and money and recruit more kids through inRecruit via the social features."
The social features are one big part of what could potentially make inRecruit successful. Allen notes that communicating on the phone constantly was a burden, even in 1996, and in 2013 it's nearly unbearable. It doesn't take a grad-level course to know that high school kids are on the internet constantly, and it's only natural for recruiting to take the same leap. While in Allen's time, some kids may never have gotten a second look, all it takes it one highlight video and the right connection today to get a phone call. InRecruit can make that happen, Allen says. "I think it definitely helps and as far as going out there and potentially making connections with a school that may not be on your radar."
"It modernizes what is what we found to be a little bit of an archaic industry," Rocco adds.It's not just for athletes, though. InRecruit has logins for players, coaches, sportswriters, but also for fans and legal guardians, the latter a crucial part of the process in Allen's eyes. "Parents, or legal guardians, they're a big part of the process, and they should be a big part of the process in terms of who you're connecting with, who's involved in your recruitment, and able to help you as an athlete," Allen said.
Allen has seen the importance of parenting in recruitment first-hand. His mother was in charge of his recruitment in 1996, handling letters and phone calls from colleges. "It's no different. We're just trying to make the process a little bit easier and a little bit more familiar."
The process can also help familiarity with the NCAA, who Allen and Rocco contacted roughly a dozen times to ensure compliance with the NCAA's rules on recruitment.
InRecruit is a private company and not governed by the NCAA's regulations, but they keep track of all interaction data on the platform and relay it to team compliance officers upon request. They also shut down communication between coaches and players at certain points of the season as regulated by the NCAA, just in case some particularly *ahem* entrepreneurial coach decides to take matters into his own hands. "We designed (inRecruit) so that we put our users that are governed by those regulations in the best position possible to comply with their regulations," Rocco adds.
In what Rocco calls an unexpected benefit, InRecruit already has a few professional fans. NBA players Kyle Lowry, Marreese Speights, Marcus Teague, and rookie Eric Murphy have signed up as "fans" to offer guidance and advice to kids who sign up. "They're answering questions through inRecruit and dedicating their time. They're really stand-up guys. We hope to get more guys like them to join inRecruit and put some time in to help out youth and give back to the sport that they love."