One aspect of Division 1 college sports that is not as prominent in the NCDA is recruiting. Unlike college football, you won’t see collegiate dodgeball teams flying private jets around the country to visit high school athletes and try to persuade them to attend their school. You won’t see ESPN setting aside an entire day of broadcasting to cover college dodgeball’s “National Signing Day”. Maybe someday dodgeball will be that large of a scale, but for now recruiting consists of way less than that.
While recruiting is not as noticeable in this club sport that we all know and love, it is still an extremely important part of what we do. In fact, recruiting is the lifeblood of our club teams. Without new members, a team will eventually die off. Bottom line is this: Having a strong recruiting class bodes very well for the future of your program.
Below I have listed the top 10 recruiting classes in the NCDA for this past season. I ranked these taking into account both the overall quality and the quantity of the groups.
**If a player’s name is in italics upon first reference, that indicates they were one of the top five rookies in the entire nation last season in my opinion.
Any college basketball fan is probably aware that Kentucky basketball is unbelievably good at recruiting. As it turns out that recruiting success is also true with their dodgeball team. I originally was under the assumption that GVSU had the best rookie class in 2014-15, but the truth is that honor goes to the Kentucky Wildcats.
The majority of Kentucky’s varsity roster for Nationals was comprised of freshmen. In fact they had 12 freshmen, 14 overall rookies on the roster when they made the trip to Western Kentucky for the season’s final tournament. While I don’t consider any individual rookie in this class to be a top five rookie nationally, the truth is, this is the strongest group top to bottom in the entire NCDA.
I had the opportunity to see this team play multiple times at Nationals, and it was obvious that their group of newcomers had talent. More importantly in my op9inion is that they are a united group that is able to build momentum easily. This group of playmaking rookies from UK was in my opinion the best in the league, and they will certainly be a bug reason for UK’s success this coming season.
Speaking of teams who brought majority rookies to Nationals, Towson traveled to Bowling Green, Ky. with 14 rookies on their roster! That is an unreal number for a team that made it to the quarterfinals.
I don’t know where to start with this group because so many of them were serious impact performers for the Tigers, especially at Nationals. Mike Hinely may have the most upside in the group. He has an arm that teammates compare to Joe Tobin’s, so that could be bad news for opponents in the future.
Josh Tope is another strong armed rookie who really impressed me at Nationals. I liked what I saw from him in terms of his dodgeball instincts. Nick “Neymar” Cerdeira was one of the four rookies mentioned in the NCDA’s “Rookies of Impact” article this past fall, and he was another solid player for Towson at Nationals.
Beyond those three, Josh Grim, and Jonathon Soward are a few other headliner rookies for the Tigers. As a whole this group is strong in both quantity and quality, which bodes very well for the future of Towson Dodgeball.
My original inclination was to put GVSU as the top rookie class, but when a team makes the elite eight with a roster of majority rookies it is hard to argue with that. I still may be a bit biased with ranking GVSU #3, but the Lakers had a very strong rookie class. Many of these players might not be known throughout the NCDA, but I assure you that will soon change.
Kurtis DeYoung had several highlight reel moments throughout the year, including a last man standing effort against SVSU that ended up giving his team a 1-0 lead in the game. Ben Tubergen was a consistent starter all year for the Lakers, while McCoy Wondergem and Jacob VerPloeg both showed flashes of greatness late in the season, especially at Nationals.
One other rookie of impact was Aaron VanFleteren who transferred second semester from Siena Heights where he was an assistant captainunder Mike McCarthy. Four of these players now hold positions on GVSU’s executive board, proving that the Lakers have a strong foundation for the future of their team.
As many people around the league already know, BGSU had a long list of rookies who made their varsity roster. BGSU might not be a top level team, but with a huge class of first year players in 2014-15, they proved that the future is bright for their squad.
I didn’t get the chance to watch BGSU’s rookies as much as I would have liked to last year, but I heard so many good things about them. The headliners for the Falcons are Tj Wickham, Nick Broyles and Marc Ritzenthaler. Each of these players brings a slightly different skillset, and each will be a big part of what BGSU does the next few years. With a strong class of second-year players and Nationals being held on their home court, things are already shaping up nicely for BGSU in 2015-16.
Here’s an incredible stat: WKU had 17 rookies on the roster at Nationals according to their captain Nick Johnson. That is the most of any team that was in attendance. For an NCDA member school that has been in existence for such a long time, that is a crazy number of new players that made varsity.
Everett Taylor, Andrew Fisher and Vic Pernell were the headliners for this group. Each of them stepped up towards the end of the season and they each have bright futures ahead of them. The truth is, this team did not have the type of success that they hoped for last year, but with a huge returning group of second year players, WKU will likely rebound in 2015-16.
JMU didn’t have a huge group of rookies make the varsity roster for Nationals, but the Dukes certainly had some quality newcomers. The headliner for JMU’s group, and likely for the NCDA’s entire 2014-15 rookie class would be Doug Schilling. I only was able to see a handful of games for JMU, but this guy always impressed me. Schilling has a strong throw with good movement and overall has high dodgeball IQ especially for someone who has only played one season of college dodgeball.
Beyond Schilling, one other rookie worth noting is Conner Forster who actually received a vote for the All American team following Nationals. It is clear that once again JMU was able to find a few solid performers through their team tryouts. The future remains bright for the Dukes despite losing a stellar group of graduating seniors.
CMU only ranks this low on my list because of the lack of quantity in their class. Some teams had over ten rookies making varsity for them; obviously a stacked team like CMU doesn’t have room on their roster for that many newcomers. Also worth noting is that CMU’s 2013-14 rookie class was easily the top group in the nation so a returning group of second year players as strong as that certainly kept CMU from having many open spots on varsity.
What this group of rookies lacks in quantity it surely makes up for in terms of quality. Alex Holzgen caught the dodgeball world by storm last season as he quickly developed into an overtime roster player for the Chippewas. Holzgen was easily one of the best rookies in the nation last year. Expectations are high for him to come back as an even better performer next fall.
Joe Kobus is the other rookie for CMU that I want to mention. This guy joined late in the year and still earned a spot on varsity for the Chips. I can tell you first hand that he has some serious arm strength. Pair his raw talent with more experience on the court, and Joe could soon become a well-known player in this league.
The Buckeyes come in at seventh on my list with a solid group of first year players. In total, OSU brought five rookies to Nationals as part of their 20-man roster.
Ohio State travelled to WKU for Nationals with the following first year players: Jake Hulbert, Nico Wong, Luke Rode, Scott McClure, and Dustin Chandler. The clear headliner of this group was Jake Hulbert who earned a spot on OSU’s overtime roster last season, and was in my opinion a top 5 rookie in the NCDA last year. Jake has a throw that is very tough to block because of how much movement it has. His playstyle is most comparable to that of Noe Galaviz (MSU’s top thrower). Overall, this class of rookies will be a big help to OSU down the road.
To be honest I’m not sure what the number was on how many rookies made varsity for the Cardinals in 2014-15, but they had a few solid players. To start off I think the top rookie for SVSU last year was someone who only played half the season: Bernabe Salinas. This player may have joined the team late in the year but he quickly developed into a great player, and in my opinion he was one of the top five rookies in the NCDA by the end of the season.
Another rookie worth noting is Charlie Ferens who will take over the role as club Vice President for Saginaw Valley next season. Beyond those two, a few other newcomers that I remember on the Cardinals’ Nationals roster are Garrett Fitzgerald and Brad Porter. Both of them played a more limited role for SVSU last year, but will be counted on more heavily in the future.
Penn State gets my wild card tenth spot on this list. I don’t have an exact number on how many newcomers played for PSU in 2015 but they brought some serious raw talent to Nationals this past season.
If PSU is able to keep that group together next year and compete more frequently throughout the regular season, they have what it takes to make some noise in the NCDA in 2015-16. Don’t be surprised if they pull an upset or two next year.