The Face-Off: Recruiting siblings for sports teams stirs mixed reactions

In a Dec. 25, 2006, article titled “At Rider, the Big Picture Is a Family Portrait,” The New York Times reported that Rider has 11 pairs of siblings playing on the same teams in intercollegiate sports.

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By Paul Szaniawski

After eight seasons as the men’s basketball head coach and two years of being the man who steers the Rider Athletics ship, Don Harnum knows a bit about recruitment.

It was under Harnum’s leadership that the team recruited current leading scorer Jason Thompson, and the man who ranks second in points and fifth in assists in Rider history, Jerry Johnson. Harnum is more than qualified to say a few words about the University’s recruitment in a New York Times article. He was talking about recruiting siblings of current players, which is not a poor strategy.

For example, men’s basketball did not settle for subpar recruitment when it signed guard Ryan Thompson. After the success his brother Jason showed in two years, it was wise to recruit out of the same gene pool. While playing together at Lenape High School, the brothers led their team to two division championships.

Now just for a second, take the sibling aspect away. When Ryan was a senior at Lenape playing without his brother, he was ranked among the best 150 players in the nation. So, Jason or no Jason, Ryan would have been an excellent pickup. But without his older brother, Rider would have never signed Ryan. It was sibling recruiting that got him here.

With starter Terrence Mouton playing in possibly his last Rider season, signing Ryan was an intelligent strategic move.

Let’s not forget the Broncs have not excelled at point guard since 2005 when Johnson, 2,047 career points, graced the floor of Alumni Gym.

According to ESPNU college basketball analysts, Rider only recruited Johnson because he was heavily under-scouted by larger Division I programs. Getting this lucky is rare.

Harnum was also correct when he said Rider wasn’t a high-profile school. In recent years, our wrestling, men’s and women’s track and field, field hockey and men’s and women’s swimming teams have been successful in their respective divisions. This success seldom makes a national splash.

In the grand scheme of college athletics, the cranberry color of Rider isn’t well-known among many other Division I schools. I am sad to admit that, despite all that we have to be proud of.

Our small institution doesn’t have the same attraction as big name schools. Lacking a football program and an NCAA basketball tournament qualifier, we’re under the radar. With the exception of our wrestling team, Rider cannot stand strong against North Carolina, Duke, Iowa and other programs when it comes to recruitment power.

Harnum was right in admitting sibling recruiting is a powerful ally for our programs.

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