"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Checking in with Max Ivany, Texas Recruiting Expert

When the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel first published the story of Monterale Clark's commitment on February 4th, most people were shocked at the news. Most people that is, except for the readers of Max Ivany's Texas Basketball Inc. blog where the story originated a day earlier. It may seem a little strange that the story about a Marquette commitment would be broken on a blog about Texas High School basketball, but it's only strange until you find out a bit more about Max Ivany.

For starters, Max is better known to those in the recruiting world as Coach Max for his role as the founder of the Texas D-1 Ambassadors, one of the most successful AAU programs in the country. Coach Max is also the founder of Texas Basketball Inc. a service that specializes in helping talented but unknown players in Texas and Louisiana get noticed by college coaches in the hopes of getting them a scholarship. Further, Coach Max is also a long time friend of Buzz Williams going back to his days at Colorado State.

In short, Coach Max Ivany is one of the most knowledgeable and most well connected people in the business when it comes to Texas recruiting. Who better to give Cracked Sidewalks readers some insight into Buzz and the great state of Texas? We chatted with Coach Max to get his thoughts on Buzz, Junior Cadougan, Erik Williams, and Marquette's future in Texas.


Coach, thanks for taking the time to talk with us. Before we go any further, can you give us a little background on what you do and what Texas Basketball Inc. is all about for our readers that may not follow recruiting that closely?

Texas Basketball Inc. has become an all encompassing one stop place for serious young basketball players to go to for information and opportunities. The mission, quite simply has evolved into "giving basketball in Texas & Louisiana, but specifically in the Central Texas/San Antonio area as much positive publicity as possible to continue to grow the sport". Don't forget that we're football heavy here in terms of the resources being allocated. However, according to most college coaches not only is Texas the most fertile recruiting grounds for ballers in the country, but the CenTex/San Antonio area may be the most under recruited. So, we're trying hard to change that. Our services range from player evaluation, development, travel teams, uniforms, tournaments, and publicity for the kids. We've recently added audio & video streaming capabilities for high school & club games which will continue to put the kids on the map.

You are also the man behind Texas D-1 Ambassadors, one of the top AAU teams in the country. Tell us a little bit about that and who are some players the casual fan might have heard of that have been involved with your program?

The Texas D-1 Ambassadors was the foundation for what has now become Texas Basketball Inc. I appreciate your kind words about the quality of the program. We do it without "shoe money" even though we consistently beat many of those teams. The character and academics of the players are in line with their basketball abilities as well. One does no good, without the other.

Our first graduating class was 2006 with all the players heading to Division 1. They got their first national notoriety on center court in Las Vegas when we were supposed to be sacrificial lambs for the Portland Legends who amongst others had Kevin Love & Kyle Singler. At halftime we led them by 23 points with a packed house of who's who in college coaching. That's when the Ambassadors attained national respect. We've followed that up with multiple teams and now close to 100 players who are either playing at the college level or have committed to do so.

We've had some wonderful guards come through including Bryan Beasley at Rice, Jason Ebie at TCU and Garland Judkins who is at Arizona. However, I'd challenge anyone to match our 5 year run on big men. 2006 6'10" Brandon Webster (Fresno State), 2007 6'8" Carleton Scott (Notre Dame), 2007 6'8" A.J. Hardeman (New Mexico), 2009 6'9" Cory Jefferson (Baylor signee), and 2009 6'10" John Henson (North Carolina) who was recently selected to the Jordan Brand Classic.

We'll follow that up this year with 2010 6'9" Daniel Alexander (offered by Marquette and a slew of others) as well as 2011 6'7" Tre Drye who is the #1 player in Louisiana in that class and 6'6" Mark Nwakamma who is projected to grow to 6'10".

Looking at your blog, one can't help noticing the picture of you shaking hands with Buzz Williams(above left). How long have you two known each other and how did you first meet?

Buzz holds a special place in my heart. In the spring of 2002 when my first group of guys, including my son were freshmen we had just finished waxing the Southern Cal All Stars in the Vegas Easter Classic. On our way out of the gym this guy sticks his business card in my hand as I was walking by. At the time it was the first D-1 coach we'd ever thought were interested in our players. Myself and my sidekick Coach Beasley went back to the hotel room and were so excited I jumped up and down on the bed. (Keep in mind that I was 43 years old at the time...wow, I'm embarrassed...lol) Sure enough Buzz followed up a few days later. It was the beginning of a nice friendship.

On your blog, you've described Buzz as "one of the hardest working coaches in the country" and "a relentless professional recruiter", what in particular leads to those kind of statements?

Like every profession, you have some guys who punch a clock and then you have guys who work until the job is done. That's Buzz. He's relentless. I remember one time when he was at Texas A&M I mentioned some obscure player that I'd gotten a tip on that lived in some isolated Louisiana town. I mentioned it casually to Buzz. The next day I got a 3AM phone call form Buzz waking me and cussing me out that he was driving 6 hours to see if this guy was a prospect. Turns out he was Southland Conference caliber. No stone unturned...lol.

Recruiting is a high pressure business. You're putting your future in the hands of 17-20 year old kids. This causes a lot of the D-1 guys to blow smoke to the kids to close the deal. I have never known Buzz to do this. He's honest to a fault, and he believes in cultivating long term relationship and not just living in the moment. As a man who raised his own son solo I've got to say that the coolest thing about Buzz is that he's done all the above while being dedicated to his family. That's a juggling act that's hard to pull off.

How would you describe Buzz's recruiting style, and do you think that style has changed as he moved to different schools?

I think Buzz would recruit the same way if he was at D-3. He is going to give 100% effort, being completely organized and developing relationships at all times. The people working for him are all class guys too. In fact, the bios of his assistants are impressive in and of themselves including Scott Monarch who is the White Tiger of basketball. He was the first white boy to play at Mississippi Valley State, in the traditionally Black SWAC.

In your experience, when Buzz first starts recruiting a player, what would you say he's looking for? Is it simply skillset and athletic ability? Is it an ability to play a specific position or in a specific system? What about things like a player's basketball IQ or competitiveness, how much do they factor in to whether Buzz will or won't recruit a particular player?

I think the first thing Buzz looks for is a kid's character, integrity, willingness to be coached, his capacity for hard work and a burning desire to be a winner.

Given the high profile of the University of Texas as well as the resurgence of schools like Baylor and Texas A&M, most people would think it would be hard for a coach to come in and get so many players for a school on the opposite side of the country. How is it that Buzz is able to go in and get so many Texas players to come to Marquette?

I don't want to tick off the Big East folks, but the Big XII is as talented a basketball conference as any. More Texas kids are playing at the highest level and you're correct about programs like Texas & Baylor. It's always a battle for top players, but I would not bet against Buzz. As noted in previous questions above, he's going to WORK and stay humble. He's a guy who you can trust your son with. Mine would have played for him, but I was not enamored with sending my son to New Orleans in the aftermath of the hurricane, which is where Buzz was at the time.

Buzz went into Texas and got players for the Classes of 2008, 2009, and now 2010. Should we expect more of the same for 2011 and beyond?

I'm sure Marquette will keep working Texas hard. One of his other Assistants, Tony Benford who I know as well has many ties in the Lone Star State too. I'll leave the specifics of who he's recruiting to them to reveal but yes I'm sure you'll see other big time Texas kids heading up your way.

Lastly, Buzz got two highly regarded recruits from the Houston area for the class of 2009, Junior Cadougan from Humble Christian Life and Erik Williams of Cypress Springs. I'm sure you've seen both of them play, any thoughts on their respective abilities?

I love Cadougan. He's strong, smart and battle tested having represented Canada for several years in international play. He's a little bit chunky (kinda like me..lol) but don't let that fool you. It's rare when he doesn't come out on top regardless of who he's matched up against. Williams suffered a tough injury last year, and to be honest I have not seen him play in almost a year. My guy in Houston, Jimmy Hicks of RCS Sports says he's the man though. If Jimmy says it, then I'm on board with that.


Cracked Sidewalks would like to thank Coach Max Ivany for taking time out of his busy schedule to chat with us. Be sure to check out the Texas Basketball Inc. blog for the most up to date information on college recruiting and AAU news in Texas. Even if it's not Marquette related, its very rare that you get this type of insight into one of the top AAU programs in the country, plus you never know what you might find out.


Andrew said...

OT...why does Buzz always button his top button on polo shirts? It looks awful

Smoove said...

So the squeeze on Coach is that he buttons-up? Coach heard from this adherent that he should lose the practice shorts, because young folk HATE old folks' exposing their body parts, especially when Oldster is masquerading as an athlete. MU sweatpants cover-up spindly legs and knobby knees nicely.
So, life in Dairyland is good when the discussion devolves to whether Buzz is buttoning-up too much, or not covering-up enough.

Smoove said...

With that, Danimal is out to pasture. Move over for Smoove.