Tag:Ryan Marks
Posted on: September 9, 2011 3:48 pm
Edited on: September 9, 2011 3:50 pm

Texas-Pan American's Marks lands Crane star

By Jeff Goodman

I'm fairly certain Tom Izzo still hasn't received a commitment since he was forced to spend a few days with my colleague, Gary Parrish.

But my sidekick for the first few days of the July recruiting period, Texas-Pan American head coach Ryan Marks, has landed a pledge.

And it's a big-time get for the Broncs.

Crane High (Ill.) star guard Willie Conner, who averaged 20 points per game last season, committed to UTPA on Friday. The news was first reported by ChicagoHoops.com.

Crane is the same school that has produced Will Bynum and Sherron Collins. 

I wanted to reach out to Conner just to make certain that my story on Marks and UTPA was the difference-maker.

"That was it," Conner laughed.

"Actually, I felt like it was a great situation for me," he added. "One that I didn't want to pass up. Coach Marks is a real nice guy."

The best part of Conner's decision.

On the surface, it looks like a package deal.

I've been told that Marks - a Chicago native (remember, I spent two nights on his mother's couch in her downtown Chicago condo) - had been recruiting Conner well before he hired former Crane coach Tim Anderson. Conner provided confirmation and also said Marks' hiring of Anderson was an integral part of his decision.

But I'd much rather spin this one as a package deal. It makes Marks and UTPA sound big-time.

This was a significant get for Marks, though, as he was able to land a strong wing who is able to finish and can also shoot the ball from deep. Conner, who spent his first two years in high school at Chicago Hope Academy, was also recruited by Eastern Illinois, Bradley and UIC.
Posted on: July 9, 2011 6:58 pm
Edited on: July 11, 2011 2:54 pm

2011 Recruiting Trip: Not a single regret

By Jeff Goodman

I’ll admit. I was regretting my decision for a while there.

I was the new guy at CBSSports.com, needing to prove my worth -- so I wanted to come up with innovative new ideas to the best bosses in America, Mark Swanson and Craig Stanke (kissing you-know-what can never hurt).

So, on my first official day with the company, I proposed a unique idea for beginning the summer recruiting period. One of us traveling with a high-major coach, living the life, flying on private planes -- while the other slums it for a few days in July on the recruiting trail with an anonymous low-major guy.

I opted to take one for the team -- and handed Parrish a plum opportunity, one that every writer in America would yearn to experience. Follow a guy like Michigan State’s Tom Izzo for 96 hours or so, everywhere he went.

My choice was UT-Pan American’s Ryan Marks, who had won a half-dozen games in each of his two seasons as the head man in the Division 1 ranks. A chubby (I’m sorry, Ryan) 40-year-old single man who coaches about 10 minutes from the Mexico border.

As the days drew near to the start of the July recruiting period, I started to wonder whether I’d made a mistake. Parrish would be sitting watching the elite high school players, schmoozing all the high-major coaches and even seeing many of the best returning college basketball players at the LeBron James Skills Academy.

On the flip side, I’d be watching a bunch of fringe Division 1 players and hanging with a variety of Division 2, junior college and low-major coaches.

Maybe I’d made a mistake. I mean, I’d get a lot more done talking to heavy hitters like Coach K, Roy and kids like Jared Sullinger in Akron.

But I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

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I saw the “other” side of college basketball, without the glitz and the glamour -- the guys who truly do it for the love of the game and the kids who play for the right reasons.

I’m not saying that Izzo, Coach K and Roy Williams don’t love what they're doing, but this is different.

Many of these guys struggle to make ends meet, move from spot to spot in an effort to remain in college basketball coaching.

It was fun -- and enlightening.

They accepted me as if I was one of their own.

Lamar coach Pat Knight wasn’t the only one to jab me for finally “roughing it” when he saw me at the junior college event on Friday. That was a common theme among the low and mid-major guys.

I also heard plenty of “What the hell were you thinkings?” throughout the three-day trek that took Marks and me from Indianapolis to Chicago to Milwaukee, then back to Chicago and finally to St. Louis.

I spent two nights on the pull-out couch of Marks’ mother in her downtown Chicago condo, where she honestly treated me like her son. She spoke glowingly about her 95-year-old husband, who passed away months ago, and it nearly brought tears to my eyes.

She showed me picture of her son, who I barely knew before the trip -- and now can say with conviction is one of the best human beings I’ve ever been around.

This is a guy who reaches into his own pocket and pays for his assistant coaches flights the entire month of July. The $10 a day for food doesn’t quite cut it, so Marks helps on that end as well.

When he got the job two years ago, the interim athletic director told him he’d get to put a decent percentage of the money the team earned playing “money games” against big-time teams back into the basketball program.

However, current AD Chris King, who Marks raved about for a good portion of the trip, told him that after doing more research on the financial situation of the athletic department, that wouldn’t be possible.

Marks never complained once.

"That’s life," he said. "I understand."

"You won’t find a better guy," UT-Pan American assistant Nick Bennett told me while we were sitting in Milwaukee on Thursday.

If I had a nickel for each time I heard that line, well, Marks wouldn’t have been sharing a room on Friday night at the Drury Inn with Andre Cook -- the guy who replaced him at Division II St. Edward’s.

We talked about just about everything on our trip, from family to work to relationships. We even shared string cheese, a snack preference of a guy who somehow maintains his physique despite only putting down one meal per day.

Now I can say I’ve stayed in a Drury Inn, a place where I saw two guys come down the elevator at 8 a.m. with open beers in each hand.

That I’ve ridden in a Sol, one of the most hideous-looking vehicles I’ve ever laid eyes on.

And that I’ve lived the life of one of the best coaches in America. 

Posted on: July 9, 2011 9:05 am
Edited on: July 11, 2011 11:29 am

2011 Recruiting Trip: heading home

By Jeff Goodman

ST. LOUIS - When I woke up this morning in room 302 of the Drury Inn beside the airport here in St. Louis, it was with mixed emotions.

I’m excited to get back and see my wife and daughter for a couple days before taking back to the road again for the Peach Jam.

However, I was sad – sad to leave UT-Pan American’s Ryan Marks after three days of being his sidekick on the recruiting trail, sad not to be able to awake to a third consecutive breakfast prepared by Mrs. Marks  - and disappointed to leave my peeps.

It’s almost like breaking up with a girlfriend – except that Marks and I will definitely stay in constant contact after this separation.

You see, I didn’t really know Marks going into this deal.

I had met him twice. Briefly.

Once was in the parking lot out in Las Vegas – and the other was at the Final Four a couple years ago with my nephew.

But, honestly, I didn’t remember much about him.

I had heard from his peers that he was a heck of a coach, that he had an infectious personality – and was a terrific man.

I witnessed all three personality traits – and much more over the last few days.

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When I first thought of the idea for this story, I was pumped. It was unique and something I would be able to do now that I’ve got some help in the form of Gary Parrish (yes, sometimes he can also be a hindrance).

I pitched it to Parrish – and he loved it.

With one caveat.

He would be the one to ride the coattails of the high-major coach.

C’mon, Gary. Let’s face it: You wouldn’t have gotten to Day 2 in Milwaukee before taking your meticulous haircut back to your high-major peeps.

I knew I was going with the low-major guy, the grinder. That was me when I broke into the basketball recruiting game a decade ago, so this was going to be a breeze.

Parrish came up with Izzo in a matter of seconds. For me, it took longer. The requirements were fairly simple:

1) My guy had to start in the same spot as Izzo in Indianapolis.

2) He had to be at one of the most difficult jobs in America.

3) He needed to be on a tight budget.

4) Personality – My guy couldn’t be a bore because I was going to be on his hip for the better part of 72 hours.

5) He needed to have a semi-crazy and unique schedule over the first three days.

So, I sent out an e-mail to the bottom 100 programs or so searching for the ideal candidate. I must have gotten back 75 responses, but the one from UT-Pan American assistant Nick Bennett sold me.

It had both he and Marks’ schedule. It included how Marks would be staying at his mother’s home in Chicago and also how Marks basically pays for his assistants flights the entire month.

Marks was the choice – and this low-major recruiting thing, as I said, was going to be easy.

It wasn’t.

I was overwhelmed when I walked into the gym yesterday in St. Charles, Missouri – the site of Jerry Mullins’ junior college events.

Yet guys like Marks have to somehow navigate these deals and try and come up with a team that’s able to take their programs to the next level.

Last night was one of the most enjoyable dinners I’ve ever had on the recruiting trail – and there’s been no shortage of those. There we were – six of us in all – sitting around a table telling stories at the Outback in St. Charles.

Marks, with New Orleans assistant Bill Lewit next to him. There were two of Lewit’s former players when he was a Juco coach at Cecil in Maryland: Jareem Dowling, in his first season at Morehead State, and Azeez Ali, who has been at IPFW the last couple of years. The final one, like Lewit, was one of Marks’ closest friends in the business and the guy who replaced him at Division II St. Edward’s in Austin: Andre Cook.

There were no egos.

Well, except maybe my own.
Posted on: July 8, 2011 8:04 pm
Edited on: July 11, 2011 11:33 am

2011 Recruiting Trip: welcome to the Jukes

By Jeff Goodman

ST. CHARLES, Mo. – I’m sitting at Brad Soderberg’s desk as I write this.

Yes, the same Brad Soderberg, the former Saint Louis head coach -- who is now the head coach at Division 2 Lindenwood, which also happens to be the site of Jerry Mullins’ Junior College Showcase.

I’ve now run the gamut of events in the three days that I’ve been with UT-Pan American coach Ryan Marks.

We started in Indianapolis for an Adidas event that had something for just about everyone -- the high-majors, the mids and the lows.

Then it was to Milwaukee Thursday for an AAU team event primarily suited for the mids and lows.

Now it's Friday, and today I witnessed something new -- a JUCO event.

There must be nearly 300 or so college coaches jammed in the bleachers in the gym at Lindenwood to watch about nine hours of primarily low-major junior college kids, most of whom paid their own way to attend this showcase.

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First things first. This event is exceptionally well run.

"Nobody runs them any better," Marks said.

It actually reminded me a little bit of Sonny Vaccaro’s ABCD Camp.

Just without the talent.

There were plenty of last-chance kids in attendance, guys who have concluded their two years of junior college ball and are waiting and hoping for someone to take a chance on them at the D-1 level.

New Lamar coach Pat Knight is here. Quinnipiac head man Tom Moore is also in the building. So, too, is UT-Arlington’s Scott Cross, Austin Peay’s Dave Loos, UIC’s Howard Moore and a bunch of other head coaches.

And this place is inundated with assistants.

"It's difficult to evaluate unless you've seen the kid a bunch before," Marks said. "That way you have some context to what you are watching."

But Marks sits in one chair in the bleachers -- one in which he can view all three courts at the same time -- and continues to scan in hopes of finding a kid that can help him get UT-Pan American a few more victories.

"It's hit or miss at an event like this," Marks said. "You never know."

I still haven’t seen a single post move, and I’ve been watching since the event tipped off at 2 p.m. There's not much ball movement, just a bunch of athletes that, to be honest, look similar.

It's not pretty basketball, but it's fitting since it's a spot where many of the "grinders" have come. Nearly every coach in this building makes less than $100,000 -- many in the $30,000 or $40,000 range -- and hopes to move up the coaching ladder.

And the kids are just looking for a chance.
Posted on: July 8, 2011 12:50 am
Edited on: July 8, 2011 9:28 am

2011 Recruiting Trip: NBA nearly Book-Marked

By Jeff Goodman

CHICAGO – Yep, I’m back on my couch in the Marks household – for the second consecutive night.

I’m going to ask Mrs. Marks at breakfast in the morning if she offers some sort of points system comparable to Marriott because, frankly, the accommodations have been spectacular and I’d like to book another reservation.

My room has a gorgeous view, there’s a complimentary buffet breakfast (don’t tell my wife, but it’s a major upgrade from the one I receive at home) and my bed was even made up.

Ryan Marks and assistant Nick Bennett left the gym at the NY2LASports event in Milwaukee around 4 p.m. earlier this afternoon. Bennett was in attendance for the second consecutive day and Marks got a look at just about everyone he wanted to evaluate.

Then it was off to see a couple of old friends.

John Hammond and Jeff Weltman.

Forget about those high-major coaches that my colleague, Gary Parrish, was schmoozing with all day long over at the LeBron James Camp.

Marks, Bennett and I were at a different level.

The big boys.

You see, Hammond is the general manager of the Milwaukee Bucks and Jeff Weltman is his right-hand man and holds the official title as the assistant GM.

Marks’ relationship with Hammond and Weltman stems from two decades ago when he was an intern for the Los Angeles Clippers while he was also a journalism major at USC (I haven’t told Ryan this yet, but I think there’s a guest blog on the horizon).

``Every job I’ve ever gotten, Josh Hammond and R.C. Buford have either made a phone call or helped me,” Marks said.

So there we were sitting around Hammond’s desk when the guy who just drafted Tobias Harris (a terrific pick, by the way) dropped the bombshell.

``If I had taken the Portland general manager job years ago, I was going to hire Ryan as my director of scouting.”

He was completely serious.

It was back when Marks was the basketball and baseball coach (he was 3-52 in his tenure on the diamond) at Southern Vermont.

``I remember when he called me and told me that he was going out to meet with (owner) Paul Allen,” Marks said. ``I was washing our uniforms.”

Days later, Marks received another call.

``John told me he wasn’t taking the job,” Marks said.

Sure, Marks wonders what might have happened. But when he goes to sleep tonight on a couch in the living room of his mother’s downtown Chicago condo, it is with no regrets.

``I love every second of what I do,” Marks said. ``There are only about 1,100 Division 1, 2 and 3 head coaching jobs – and anytime you can have one of them, you’re beyond fortunate.”

Marks signed a four-year deal worth $91,000 per year when he took the UT-Pan American gig a little more than two years ago.

He hears it from people all the time, about how difficult his job is –- and how he needs to win so he can move to a higher level.

``They are all tough,” Marks said while at what he termed a high-major dinner at Wildfire in Chicago. ``Coach Izzo has his own set of challenges at Michigan State.”

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Like the current one of having to deal with that colleague of mine for three consecutive days.

But Marks, who his mother maintains has wanted to be a college coach since he was a toddler, loves where he is at -- 15 minutes or so from the Mexican border, working for whom he calls one of the best athletic director in the country in Chris King.

``I don’t need another job,” Marks said. ``I just want to keep the one I have. I love it and don’t want anyone to tell me I can’t do it anymore.”  

Tomorrow morning Marks will do his best to further ensure he sticks around a while longer as we leave Chicago for St. Louis and a big-time junior college showcase.

(For more of our college basketball recruiting road trip, click here.)

Posted on: July 7, 2011 2:41 pm
Edited on: July 7, 2011 8:16 pm

2011 Recruiting Trip: Marking Day 2 in Milwaukee

By Jeff Goodman

MILWAUKEE – It wasn’t necessary for Ryan Marks to knock on my door at 5:15 a.m. this morning. I was already awake and rearing to go.

You see, I’ve grinded it out before – back in the day as a recruiting guy.

This was going to be a breeze for me.

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I took a quick shower after four hours of sleep on the pull-out couch in his mother’s downtown Chicago condo – and then walked out to the kitchen.

His mother had prepared a buffet breakfast – fruit, cereal, bagels, etc.

Eat your heart out, Parrish.

This was clearly an upgrade for whatever Parrish threw into his gullet this morning.

Then we got in Marks’ mother’s 2002 Lexus and headed to Milwaukee, where we walked into the gym at the NY2LA Sports event around 8 a.m.

It was then that Marks realized they had switched the schedule – and the player we had rushed to see for an 8:15 a.m. game was actually playing an hour later.

There were literally a handful of coaches in attendance when we got there – and Marks and Drake’s Mark Phelps were the only D-1 head men in the building.

The building slowly began to fill up with coaches – nearly all of them of the low-major, mid-major and even of the Division 2 and Division 3 variety.

There were even a few more head coaches that showed – Mike Young (Wofford), Brian Wardle (Green Bay), Rob Jeter (Milwaukee), Tim Jankovich (Illinois State) and Kerry Keating (Santa Clara).

But there wasn’t a high-major head coach in sight – and few high-major prospects.

Most of those guys are where I just left – in Indianapolis – and also where Parrish has stationed himself today and tomorrow for the prestigious LeBron James Camp.

Marks met his assistant, Nick Bennett (Tony Bennett’s cousin) and watched a bunch of games this morning involving Midwest teams.

This is basketball at its purest form, including many teams that actually share and move the basketball.

It’s about 1:30 local time and I just downed a plate of pasta in the hospitality room, but Marks still hasn’t gone for lunch.

He remains in the bleachers – where I’m heading back now to watch more guys trying to earn a scholarship.

For more of our college basketball recruiting road trip, click here.
Posted on: July 7, 2011 1:48 am
Edited on: July 7, 2011 10:49 am

2011 recruiting trip: Marking off day one

By Jeff Goodman

CHICAGO – When Ryan Marks turned the key to his mother’s 2002 Lexus in the North Central High parking lot at around 8 a.m. and the only sound was that of a click, someone should have taken a picture of the cringe that appeared on my mug.


This was going to be a long three days.

The last time I saw Gary Parrish and Tom Izzo was around 8:45 a.m., at halftime of the first game of the adidas tournament in Cincinnati.

Then Marks, The UT-Pan American coach I have opted to follow for the next three days, and I went our separate ways from the Spoiled Duo (yes, that’s what I’ll refer to Izzo and Parrish over the next couple of days.)

I’ve come up through the recruiting ranks, working with current ESPN guru Dave Telep at Scout.com for a few years – and most of my time, admittedly, was spent sitting next to high-major guys like Izzo.

Those guys have it easy.

They run around from gym to gym just to show their face. They text and talk more than they watch.

It’s a joke.

Guys like Marks have to actually work.

Let’s face it: My 7-year-old daughter (who has recently, by the way, developed a sweet 8-foot jumper) can identify the Andre Drummond’s, the Shabazz Muhammad’s and the Perry Ellis’ – the elite players in the country.

The most difficult aspect of recruiting is what Marks has to do: truly evaluate.

Here’s a guy who has been a Division 3, Division 2 and now a D-1 head coach – so he’s got a feel for watching prospects and determining what level they will likely play.

``It’s still not easy,” Marks said on Wednesday, the first day of the July recruiting period.

Marks, clad in a green polo with the school name across his chest, grey shorts and highly unfashionable sandals (sorry Ryan), bounced from gym to gym virtually all day. It wasn’t all that different than Izzo. However, instead of signing autographs and making idle chatter with his colleagues, Marks was all business.

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Much of the time, Marks sat alone in the bleachers – opting to evaluate rather than make small-talk.

He watched his share of Texas teams, but also made certain to follow Minnesota and Wisconsin teams.

``There are a ton of Minnesota natives who live in south Texas in the winter, so we decided it made sense to start recruiting the state,” Marks said. ``And my assistant, Nick Bennett, is from Wisconsin – and has a good feel for those teams.”

He got two kids from Minnesota in last year’s recruiting class.

Marks spent time in the main gym, sitting alongside the big boys, and also got in his mother’s Lexus and took the drive out to the smaller gyms.

He went so hard and so fast that, unlike the Spoiled Duo, there was no time for lunch or dinner.

In fact, Marks didn’t have anything until we stopped at a gas station and we picked up a couple drinks and some snacks when leaving Indianapolis around 9:30 p.m.

That’s when we left the gym bound for Chicago and the beautiful Marks Abode, a high-rise condo that sits in downtown (you can have your Akron hotel room, Parrish). In a cost-cutting measure, Marks has opted to stay with his mother – on a cot – while I got a comfy pull-up couch in one of the bedrooms.

Eat your heart out, Parrish.

It’s now almost 1 a.m. local time and we have to be up in four hours to beat the traffic in hopes of arriving in Milwaukee for the 8 a.m. game.

I’m on the grind, baby!

I’ll try and blog more on the drive in the morning, but for now, I need to get some sleep.

For more of our college basketball recruiting road trip, click here.
Posted on: July 6, 2011 1:12 pm
Edited on: July 7, 2011 10:51 am

2011 recruiting trip: Intro Ryan Marks

By Jeff Goodman

When I initially thought of the idea for Gary Parrish to follow around a high-major coach and live the life for the first few days of the recruiting period and for me to travel with a low-major coach on a budget, I wanted to find the right guy.

I needed a guy on a budget.

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I had to have someone who was entertaining, because let’s face it, who wants to spend the better part of three days with someone who has no personality? 

Plus, this ongoing three-day project -- in which Parrish opted to trail Michigan State’s Tom Izzo -- needs to be fun for you, the readers.

And I also wanted someone who could coach.

Thus, I introduce you to my cohort for the next three days: Ryan Marks.

No, not Sean Marks -- the former big man who played at Cal.

This is Ryan Marks, who has spent the past two seasons as the coach at Texas-Pan American -- one of the most difficult jobs in the country.

Marks has won six games each of his two seasons at the helm, but talk to most guys in the business and they’ll tell you that he can coach.

He was 91-54 at St. Edward’s in the Division II ranks and went to three NCAA tournaments. He also won at Southern Vermont, compiling a 57-29 mark in three seasons and taking the school to its first-ever Division III NCAA tourney.

Marks can coach, and he has plenty of roadblocks to turning this thing around at UT-Pan American.

One is recruiting.

Right now I’m with Marks in a gym in Indianapolis, watching him identify who he hopes are the future studs in the Broncs program.

And trust me, you’re going to want to follow along over the next few days, because this should give you a peek at what it’s like on both sides of the recruiting trail.

The highs and lows of summer recruiting -- brought to you by CBSSports.com.

For more of our college basketball recruiting road trip, click here.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com