The net has assumed a dual meaning in college basketball during the COVID-19 era.
The ropey mesh that hangs from the hoop is one kind, but the internet has also become a critical tool for the coaches at UCSB. They’re relying on their computers to both run and augment their program while they shelter in place.
“Every one of our coaches is staying home these days,” head coach Joe Pasternack said. “We don’t go into the office at all.”
They’ve been using the world wide web to snare several recruits who have yet to even visit UCSB’s seaside campus. The National Letter of Intent Spring Signing Period will begin on Wednesday even though the NCAA dead period which prevents home and campus visits has been extended to May 31.
“We’ve had our coaches take recruits on a Zoom or a FaceTime tour of the campus,” he said. “We also show them a 50-slide Power Point presentation of how we run program and of the culture here, along with our mission statement.
“It’s how we have to do our recruiting right now.”
It does appear to be paying dividends. A pair of guards from Eastern universities — Georgia Southern sophomore Calvin Wishart and Temple freshman Josh Pierre-Louis — have both announced through Twitter accounts that they will be transferring to UCSB.
“I’ll go running on the beach and Facetime to our recruits what a special place this is,” Pasternack said. “Showing this area through Zoom is an advantage. Quarantining in Santa Barbara isn’t so bad.”
Wishart, a 6-foot-1 guard, led Georgia Southern in three-pointers (59), three-point percentage (38.3%), and assists (79) last season. He averaged 9.4 points for an Eagles’ team that went 20-13 overall and 12-8 in the Sun Belt Conference, finishing fourth among a dozen teams.
Pierre-Louis, a 6-3 point guard, helped Roselle Catholic High win the New Jersey State Championship during his junior season of 2018. He committed to UNLV that September, turning down offers from such schools as Georgia and Oklahoma State.
He reopened his recruitment six months later when the Runnin’ Rebels fired Marvin Menzies as their head coach. He then committed to Temple, where his older brother Nate was a starting guard. Nate Pierre-Louis recently declared for the NBA Draft. Brother Josh averaged 3.8 points in 12.7 minutes of playing time for Temple last season, shooting 37.8% from the three-point line.
NCAA rules prevent Pasternack from commenting about a specific recruit until he signs a letter of intent. He did acknowledge, however, the Gauchos’ need to restock their backcourt after next season.
“We’ll need players to replace our senior guards — Devearl (Ramsey), JaQuori (McLaughlin), and Brandon (Cyrus),” he said. “We’re looking for some perimeter scoring, but mostly we’re just looking for the best players available.”
Pasternack has also been using Zoom to hold virtual meetings with his players every Friday. Gabe Vincent, a 2018 graduate of UCSB who played for the NBA’s Miami Heat last season, joined one recent meeting.
“He talked about his journey from UCSB to the G League to the NBA, and about the game against the Clippers when he hit all those threes,” Pasternack said. “We also had Alex Harris (Class of 2008) speak to the team last Friday.
“His story is unbelievable … about how he went from being the Big West Player of the Year and averaging 20 points a game to playing overseas for 11 years.”
Harris also talked about getting a job with a local company, Procore, after having met a Gaucho booster upon his return to Santa Barbara.
“He told them that by going to UCSB, you’re not just playing basketball but becoming a part of a community,” Pasternack said. “You don’t go to UCSB for four years — you also go for the next 50, that that helps you get a meaningful job after your basketball career is over.
“It was great for them to see an example of someone who’s had so much success in college, both basketball-wise and academically, and who continued to be a pro, and who now has an amazing job in Santa Barbara.”
Pasternack also has each player speak during their virtual meetings. Many of the Gauchos have spoken of how difficult it’s become to train in their hometown because of social-distancing rules.
“Brandon was working out at a park with a hoop in San Diego and said the police came and told him to leave,” Pasternack said. “Other guys have mentioned how they can’t go shoot because the rims have been removed from the baskets in their towns.
“Robinson (Idehen) and Amadou (Sow) are up at their host families (in the Bay Area) and they can’t even get onto a basketball court. These are crazy times.”
He does have someone to address that virtually, as well: Noted sports psychologist Joe Carr will be joining the Gauchos on this Friday’s Zoom meeting.