Williams’ Duncan Robinson Mulls Transfer


“Robinson 2 Mich?” Thus read the text I received from David, my fellow grade A NESCAC basketball junkie (and current card-carrying member of the Tortured Williams Basketball Fan Society) at roughly 9:30 AM yesterday morning. Once I recovered from being awakened at such an ungodly hour, I did my best Chris Broussard impression and reached out to my other sources, in hopes of distinguishing truth from the various hysterical rumors. The most updated news I’ve found maintains that, as Duncan Robinson ’17 himself told The Wolverine, a Michigan-focused branch of Rivals.com, he is heavily leaning towards transferring, and is weighing interest from Michigan, Davidson and Creighton, all noted Division One schools. However, he will not make a decision before meeting with new Williams coach Kevin App. He has already visited Davidson and Michigan, and is planning to visit Creighton next week.

Robinson’s announcement comes on the heels of three other major stories involving Division One and NESCAC relations. Matt Hart, last year’s leading scorer left Hamilton for George Washington, Amherst was able to snag two Division One players for themselves in Jayde Dawson from Fairleigh Dickinson and Eric Conklin from Arizona (cue Lord Vader’s March). Finally and most notable in regards to the Duncan Robinson decision, Williams coach Mike Maker accepted an offer to take over the program at Marist. It seems like a safe assumption that the departure of Maker, a former assistant of Michigan coach John Beilein, was a major factor in Robinson’s decision to explore transferring. Maker’s system at Williams was heavily derived from the principles he learned under Beilein, namely a focus on ball movement and outside shooting, two things in which Robinson specializes. Throw in the personal connection between Beilein and Maker, and it becomes clear that Maker’s departure set up that of Robinson, and possibly Michigan’s interest in him. Robinson is first visiting Davidson this weekend and Michigan early next week.

There will be no shortage of speculation over the next week or so as to where Robinson will choose to go, and how he will fair, but the effects that his departure will have on the NESCAC if he does indeed transfer are equally intriguing, and that is what I would prefer to focus on, at least until there is a concrete place for that speculation to center on. In the short term, Robinson’s departure creates a fascinating paradox in NESCAC. On the one hand, it creates what appears to be a top two in the league. Amherst will be in the mix as usual, with the Division One players joining talented junior Connor Green ’16 and rising sophomore David George ’17. The newcomer to the upper crust would be Tufts, with an experienced returning class, including last year’s Rookie of the Year (non-Robinson division) Hunter Sabety and the possible return from a year off of 2012-2013 NESCAC Rookie of the Year Tom Palleschi ’16.

Yet, Robinson’s departure also greatly opens up the league, with teams like Middlebury, Bowdoin, Colby, and Trinity all having somewhat equal chances to contend for the spot at the top that Williams will presumably forfeit. And, even Amherst, with lots of unproven commodities, and Tufts, who were only 13-12 last year, could lose their presumed spots at the top to one of the younger, upstart teams that were previously swallowed by the Williams-Amherst juggernaut. The idea of a NESCAC top three without Williams is hard to fathom for those of us who have followed NESCAC basketball over the last ten years, but it seems like it could be the case next season, and possibly for the next few years as Coach App tries to launch his program without its wings. A good amount of talent including Dan Wohl ’15, Hayden Rooke-Ley ’15, Mike Greenman ’17, and Dan Aronowitz ’17 will return to Williams no matter what Robinson decides, but the amount of talent they lose is huge. Besides Robinson, Michael Mayer ’14 and Taylor Epley ’14 were the first and third leading scorers respectively and both have graduated.

The long-term ramifications of Robinson’s move are naturally more difficult to project. However, depending on his success in Division One (if he does indeed choose to transfer), we could see a continuation of the high levels of Division One-Division Three interaction we’ve seen this offseason. This would hopefully benefit both leagues, with players ideally transferring back and forth, as Division One teams see the value of Division Three players, and Division One players who aren’t stars opt for the playing time and better educational experience that Division Three schools can offer. However, this could also increase the level of shady recruiting tactics. Regardless, this is an incredible opportunity for Robinson to play at a Division 1 level.

This will certainly not be the last piece we post about Duncan Robinson this year. In fact, it probably won’t be the last one this week (Editors Note: It won’t. Expect another article after Robinson makes his decision). But wherever he ends up, his progress and the effects it has on NESCAC will be fascinating to follow and cover, and all NESCAC fans should be rooting for him at his new home. Unless, of course, he somehow ends up at Amherst.

One-on-one with Bowdoin College’s Joe Gentile ’18

Today I sat down with Bowdoin College outfielder, and a good friend of mine, Joe Gentile ’18, about academics and athletics at Groton School and what’s in store for the Bowdoin program.

Joe MacDonald: Hey, Joe, how you doing today?

Joe Gentile: Good, Joe, how are you?

JM: Great. Thanks for joining us. Let’s get started. First off, how was playing baseball at Groton School?

JG: I’d say playing at Groton has been the biggest learning experience for me overall. Especially in baseball, being on the team since eighth grade, I got to learn the game from a lot of older guys, and as I got older really started to take on a leadership role. When I first got there, in terms of skills, I was a pretty rough player, and then as I got older, being under Coach [DiSarcina] and the older guys, started playing the game a lot smoother, started honing my mechanics in hitting and in the field.

JM: What was it like playing for somebody like Glenn DiSarcina, a former Major Leaguer?

JG: Like I said, great learning experience. He really holds his players to a high standard, which really helped me. Doesn’t let anyone slack off. As a hitting coach, he’s probably the best hitting coach I’ve ever had. He really taught me to have a good approach at the plate. Really turned me into a line drive, gap-to-gap hitter which I really wasn’t before and that’s really transformed my game a lot. The fact that he was in the Major Leagues, he can show you aspects of the game that you wouldn’t otherwise see, little intricacies. He knows the game better than anyone else I’ve ever played under.

JM: At Groton you played three varsity sports, you were captain of two of them, hockey and baseball. What do you think are the merits of playing multiples sports in high school?

JG: Each sport taught me something a little different. Football is definitely a strenuous game, a lot about grit and determination, overcoming adversity. So that was new. I had never played football before going into high school and that was a huge experience for me, growing up and getting bigger and stronger for football. Hockey I’ve been playing my whole life and I couldn’t picture not playing hockey. It just came so naturally. And that, once again, taught me other things about sports; competition, flow of a game, having to stay positive throughout a whole game, momentum and all that, very important parts of sports. Then baseball of course just teaches you the mental side of the game, just having to overcome certain things, stay focused. So I think combining the three really just taught me a lot about competition and what it means to play sports and I wouldn’t have done it any other way.

JM: Do you ever wish that you had given up one or two other sports so that you could have focused on baseball more?

JG: I thought about that during high school, for sure. Either giving up football to work on strength and conditioning in the fall, having some more time to get bigger and stronger, but looking back on it now I don’t think I’d give up any of the experiences. I think being a teammate for all those years has really taught me how to be a leader and to be a good teammate. It taught me how to win, how to lose, and all the things that come along with it, so I wouldn’t change a thing.

JM: At what point did you decide that you wanted to play baseball in college?

JG: I started playing in the summer showcase circuit after sophomore year, and that really just got me into the whole culture of it, and after that I knew that baseball was the route I wanted to take, and I started getting more passionate about the game. Before that I had kinda split my time between hockey and baseball which were my two main sports, I’d say, and playing hockey my whole life it was tough to make that choice, but I think I made the right one.

JM: Groton’s one of the top academic prep schools in the country. Was it tough to balance your academics and your athletics and how do you think that experience will prepare you for your future in college?

JG: Definitely the tough academics and playing sports really taught me how to balance my time effectively. Trying to get into the weight room after practice just for as long as I could and then getting right out and doing my homework and trying to get down early for extra reps and all that. It teaches you to use your time effectively, not to waste any of your time. I know Bowdoin is academically rigorous as well. I think I’m prepared. I think I know how to manage my time well and get everything that needs to be done, done.

JM: A couple questions about your on-the-field game. What would you say are some of the areas that you still need to work on?

JG: I think I still could use some work in the outfield, getting good reads on the ball, getting my breaks on the ball better, coming around it, throwing the ball to the cut off men. At the plate, having a full-field approach, mostly. Hitting line drives to all fields. I really try to focus on hitting the ball gap-to-gap. Just hitting line drives. I’ve been trying to focus on that for a long time now. Baserunning is another thing, I think Coach Connolly wants me to be a threat on the basepaths, so I can always get faster and more explosive on the basepaths, so that’s another aspect of the game that I want to improve on.

JM: And you haven’t always been an outfielder.

JG: No, I made the transition from first base to outfield after my freshman year. It just seemed like a more natural position out there after I shed some baby fat and gained a little more speed. I felt a little bit like my tools were better used in the outfield than at first base.

JM: What do you think some of those tools are?

JG: I think speed’s one of my good tools. I have a pretty strong throwing arm. Overall sense of the game, I don’t really have to think about the flow of the game, it kind of just comes naturally to me. I can hit line drives. Pretty good approach at the plate, rarely strike out, just make good contact, contact hitter, put the ball in play, try to get on base as much as I can.

JM: And how has your summer ball experience been different from your school experience?

JG: I’d say at school I was more responsible for the bulk of the run production and the leadership, especially as an older player, but now, on my summer teams, I’m surrounded by such good players, playing for Northeast Baseball, I feel like my role has kind of changed to more of a role player, like I started batting leadoff in the summer as opposed to batting third for high school, so I kind of have a different approach from the leadoff position, just trying to get base hits, get on base rather than driving in a lot of runs. And as far as being a teammate goes it’s kind of more laid back in the summer, people kind of coach themselves. But I feel like in school I was kind of more responsible for my teammates, trying to watch out for them, mentor them as much as I could.

JM: Can you take us through the recruiting process and how you decided that Bowdoin was the place for you?

JG: I knew starting off the process that I didn’t want to sacrifice the academics for the baseball experience, so I started looking at Ivies and NESCACs early on. Talked to a few Ivy schools, that didn’t really work out, then Bates and Bowdoin were the top two NESCAC schools on my radar. I talked to both coaches and talked to Coach Connolly. I think Coach Connolly got a connection from my 16u summer coach, Matt Petherick, who told him back in 16u that he had a kid for him to watch and Connolly kind of knew about me going into the 17u summer season, and he saw at a tournament early on in Worcester, and he liked what he saw, and he emailed me after I came back from my summer trip to Georgia [to the Perfect Game World Wood Bat Association Championships]. We got talking on the phone and I came up to campus and I instantly fell in love with the place. I could tell that he ran a great program and I loved the school right away, the campus, the academics, it just seemed like a great fit right off the bat. It was kind of an easy choice as soon as  I got up there.

JM: Are you excited to play for Coach Connolly next season?

JG: He seems like a great coach, very disciplined. Lots of knowledge of the game. He’s been around baseball for a long time now so I know he’s knowledgeable about the game, and everything I’ve heard from current players, they say Connolly is a great coach, that they’d rather play for no one else, and he really holds his players accountable which I like. He runs a tight ship up there.

JM: How do you feel about the opportunity to play fall ball and prepare all year for baseball season?

JG: It’s definitely going to be an advantage now, going from the spring to the summer to fall ball without any gaps. I can work on more, focus on my game more, just keep hitting. You tend to lose some of your hitting mechanics in that gap between the summer season and the spring starting up again in high school so I feel like this extra time for practice is going to be great, especially for the strength and condition aspect.

JM: Where do you expect you’ll be playing in the field?

JG: Really anywhere in the outfield. Centerfield was my natural position in high school the last two years, but I’m pretty comfortable in the corners. Anywhere that I fit in out there would be great. I know that they lost a couple of outfielders this year.

JM: How do you feel about your chances at playing time this season?

JG: Coach Connolly did mention that he was graduating two senior outfielders, but I know there are other kids up there and I know that I’ll be competing for a spot right away, I won’t just be walking into a job and I know that it won’t come easy but I’m ready to prove myself up there and earn a spot in the starting lineup right away.

JM: How have your interactions been with your future teammates thus far?

JG: When I went for my visit in the fall they were very accepting. I’d already committed by then so they said it was more of a celebration than them trying to wine and dine me, but I love the guys up there, they seem like a great bunch of guys. Even outside of baseball they seem like they’re all best friends on the team, they all hang out with each other, so it seems like a great culture that I’m walking into up there and very welcoming and a tight-knit group.

JM: What do you expect will be the biggest difference between high school and NESCAC baseball?

JG: Definitely the pitching that I see day in and day out will be much stronger than I saw in high school, so that will be an adjustment. The speed of the game, just having a good player at every single position, as far as your opponents go, always gotta be on your toes. There’s never going to be an easy out up there, which is an exciting thing, I’m looking forward to the quality of play up there.

JM: One more question, Joe, what Major League player would you say your game is most like?

JG: Well I would say that I try to model my game after Mike Trout. Obviously, those are huge shoes to fill, but watching him play, he gives his all on every play. He utilizes his speed and his power and runs the bases well, plays a great outfield, so if I can one day be a fraction of how good he is, I’d say that’s who I want to model my game after.

JM: Thanks a lot for sitting down with me.

JG: Any time.

Thanks again to Joe Gentile for giving us his time, and best of luck at Bowdoin in 2015 and beyond.

Football Recruiting Summer Camps

While Division One football recruiting is a ballyhooed process that plays out in the public eye today, NESCAC football recruiting remains one that happens in relative anonymity. More than a million high schoolers play football at their school, and many of them harbor dreams of playing in college. Most of them haven’t heard of NESCAC schools or would not consider playing at the Division 3 level. NESCAC coaches have to identify from this vast crowd of candidates those who qualify academically and athletically. A crucial part of that process happens in the summer at camps all across the country. Coaches spread out over the country to go to as many camps as possible and catch a glimpse of players in action.

Most of the camps happen in the northeast and are hosted by colleges. Every NESCAC school holds a camp over the summer which differ from most of the other camps out there. All of them are one day camps that are usually just in cleats and shorts. The camps are very specific in the sense that there are only coaches there from that particular school. The Amherst camp is run exclusively by Amherst coaches and players, for example. Camps at non-NESCAC schools run for multiple days and have many different college coaches there. Camps at Ivy league schools are multiple day affairs that have many hundreds of kids in attendance.

The amount of football that happens at these camps varies, but given insurance concerns, none of them are full contact. Linemen camps are built around drills and competitions that often carry little relevance to games. Skill players do drills and also play games of 7-on-7 which reward players who are comfortable in space. In general, summer football camps are better as vehicles for recruiting than improving yourself as a football player. Primarily, these camps serve to show off an individual’s athleticism above all else. While the instruction can be very good, most of the camps have too many athletes for the coaches to concentrate for too long on any individual. The amount of repetition is also not nearly as high as at regular practices because of the amount of athletes. In my opinion, based off of personal experience, the NESCAC camps were the best at football instruction. Each position group worked exclusively with one coach so that he could start to get an idea of each respective kid’s strengths and weaknesses. Most NESCAC camps are capped at much lower numbers so each athlete gets to play more than at bigger camps.

While coaches are the ones tasked with finding players, the onus is almost always on individual high schoolers to reach out and make first contact. Even if you go to one of these camps, getting noticed by a coach is hard to do just by your play. Consider that while the New England Elite Camp had 150 coaches there, there were also 1200 players. Unless somebody make an incredible play or possess exceptional speed, a coach is not going to come up to him. In the NESCAC recruiting process self-promotion is crucial. Letting a coach know by email or Twitter that an athlete will be at a camp beforehand will allow him to concentrate on him and gain a fuller perspective of that person’s ability. Talking to coaches after the camp is over is also considered good operating procedure. Coaches are just as interested in how you are as a person as how you play on a hot summer day.

All of this adds up to the fact that camps are not really going to make you a much better football player. Essentially you are paying money for access to coaches. This is truer the bigger the camp. The biggest camps will give each individual almost nothing in terms of instruction, but the benefit of them is that if a kid is proactive, he can meet with many coaches and express his interest. Camps are especially useful for players from around the country who will not be able to visit many colleges during the school year for overnight stays. Being able to go to the school for a day and meet some coaches can tell a kid a lot about a school. For a prospective college student-athlete, these events can help you achieve your goal of playing at the next level. But the preparation for the camp – i.e. notifying coaches – is almost as important as your actual performance on the day itself. So, recruits, do your homework if you want to make the best of your opportunity.

While it sounds funny that camps really aren’t about the actual football, the camp structure makes sense. Football coaches understand games are won not by the best looking athletes, but the best football players. In the NESCAC they know that they have to recruit the best possible person and not simply the best football player. At camps they prefer the kid who shows good attitude, hustles, and comes across as a put-together young man when they have a conversation. Not many kids will become NESCAC students because of their performance running around in July playing something reminiscent of elementary school football at recess, but going to camps is a critical step along the road of recruitment.