There's no such thing as an "off-season" for a college basketball coach. Michelle Clark-Heard is someone who knows this well. Clark-Heard is the head coach of the WKU women's basketball team. Since she was hired in late March, the Louisville native has been evaluating her roster, hiring assistant coaches, scouting potential recruits, and attending tournaments with traveling all-star teams.
Coach Clark-Heard has signed three new players since her arrival in Bowling Green: Louisville Dupont Manuel guard LeAsia Wright, who helped lead her team to this year's Kentucky high school championship, junior-college transfer Biana McGee, and Kentucky All-State guard Kendall Noble of Perry County Central.
Coach Clark-Heard, who played her college ball at WKU from 1987-1990, recently sat down with WKU Public Radio to talk about recruiting, how her staff prepares before they makes home visits to potential recruits, and why women's college basketball is so much better now than when she played.
On what type of prep work her staff does ahead of visiting a potential recruit:
"It works in different ways for different situations. If it's a kid we've already recruited, and who has been on campus...some of the preliminary things we might not do. But if it's a recruit where we're going in and this is the first time we've sat down and had a chance to talk about WKU, we're going to take in a portfolio. We're going to show her pictures of campus, show her different things that show what WKU is like.
It's basically explaining what the university has to offer. So you talk about everything, from academics to the trips that you'll take.
I'm not a "script" type coach. The assistant coaches who are along on the home visit, we all kind of flow off of each other. They know that naturally I'll be in the lead. But they have different areas that they talk about.
It's a chance for the players to really get to know you as a coach and who you are as a person.
On what it will be like to be in recruiting battles with Jeff Walz, her former boss who is head coach of the University of Louisville women's team. Clark-Heard spent five seasons as an assistant to Walz before being hired at WKU:
We are going to compete, and we'll see each other on the road, and we'll go after some of those same kids. But at the end of the day, WKU, U of L, UK--we don't have 30 scholarships. So we'll be competing for those top kids, but there might be a kid that Louisville doesn't need at that moment because maybe they don't need another point guard. At the same time, we might need that position.
On how recruiting the best high school girls has changed since when she was a recruit:
One of the things I mentioned at my introductory press conference is that AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) ball is huge right now. We recently went out during what's known as "evaluation weekend" to see a lot of these AAU teams.
AAU basketball is basically where high school players--or even younger--from a city or region are put on a team, and they travel around and play in different tournaments. There are often three or four different teams from several states competing in the same place at the same time.
So as a coach, it's an awesome opportunity for us. Because we can go to one venue, and watch a ton of talent over the course of one weekend. That's a major reason why things have changed (regarding the recruitment of high school girls), because you used to have to go to individual team camps. Now, you get more bang for your buck.
On how women's college basketball in the state of Kentucky has improved since she was at WKU. Now, U of L and UK are seen as top national programs:
It's also about what the Universities of Louisville and Kentucky decided to invest in their women's basketball programs. There's no way we don't have the ability in this state to have three top 25 programs. That's what I'm shooting for, because I know we have the ability to do it.
It's like President Gary Ransdell said: we have three Final Four trophies sitting in our locker room, and I want to have the opportunity to bring another one home--or more. We have to think that way, because we have everything we need here to have the opportunity to do that.