Success of Oswego State men’s team starts with recruiting

Ever since Jason Leone took over as Oswego State’s men’s basketball coach in the 2010–2011 campaign, the Lakers haven’t lost more than 10 games in a single season.

According to the Oswego State athletics website, Leone has also led his group to the playoffs in his first four tries, including two SUNYAC conference championships along the way, with one coming this past season in 2015.

The team’s success, however, didn’t happen overnight. It all starts with what goes on behind the scenes: recruiting; something that Leone has become quite good at.

To begin the process, Leone said he first looks at his current roster at the end of each season to see what areas need to be focused on after noting which players are leaving.

“Also, what I like to do is see our team play during the current season,” Leone said. “We start out during the junior year of that particular class recruiting every position and after we see our team play, based on the number of kids we lose that year off our roster, that will ultimately determine the end amount of who we bring in.”

Leone stressed the importance of beginning to watch potential players during their junior year of high school in order to see as much of them as possible and start to build a foundation with them. While some coaches at other schools will promise high school players they will start right out of the gate, Leone takes a different approach.

Brian Sortino takes a shot in a game against Elmira. (Photo by David Armelino)

Sophomore starting guard Brian Sortino reflected on his recruiting process and said it was Leone who stood out amongst other coaches that were after him.

“Coach Leone would come to my high school practices and games and also just pick up in the offseason to come watch me and talk to me about Oswego.” Sorting said. “He promised me a great education for a cheap price here and also that Oswego had a great basketball program which went to the NCAA tournament the year before I got here and he wanted players with a winner’s attitude.”

Sortino has since gone on to win a number of individual awards under Leone, according to Oswego State’s athletics website, including First Team All-SUNYAC for the 2014–2015 season, Most Valuable Player of the SUNYAC championship and NABC First Team All-Region in 2014–2015.

Junior starting guard Kyle Covley had a similar experience to Sortino’s, which would ultimately boil down to why he decided to attend Oswego State.

“Leone is a persuasive and persistent recruiter. He is very good about calling once or twice a week to see how I was doing with school and basketball,” Covley said. “This enhanced my interest in playing for Oswego because it showed me that he was interested in having me play for him and also helped build a good relationship that I didn’t have with other schools I was looking at.”

Leone’s said his reasoning behind not guaranteeing players playing time as soon as they step on the floor is because he prefers to have them see the advantages of playing for Oswego State first and foremost, along with what type of people they can expect to be around on a daily basis.

Watch Jason Leone talk more about recruiting here:

“What the promises sometimes deal with are the type of experience they’ll have here,” Leone said. “I promise them that they’ll have a coach who will care about them probably more in terms of what goes on off the court than what goes on on the court. I promise them that they’ll be surrounded by other players in our program that value the right things, they don’t get into trouble and they’re here to get a degree first.”

Leone’s philosophy stems from players getting out what they put in. Covley said his coach has been true to this and every other promise he’s made since coming to Oswego.

“The extra workouts that not just myself, but the whole team does outside of practice is what enables our program to succeed,” Covley said. “Last offseason, he told our team that if we work hard in the gym and weight room, we will have a chance to win the conference.”

Kyle Covley with his teammates during a game. (Photo by David Armelino)

Any team that has ever won anything has had great players to carry the team along the way. Leone said that while coaches create an infrastructure and a plan for a group, the players also play a large role in how well the team does. The way a team gets to this point primarily begins with recruiting.

“[The players] have to have the discipline to execute that process and that vision every single day,” Leone said. “It all does start with recruiting. That is a very crucial piece in determining the results of a program.”

It seems as though Wake Forest’s recruiting begins and ends with this photo of former student-athletes Tim Duncan (left) and Chris Paul (right).

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