“We always look at how they perform academically, first. We have to make sure they will be able to succeed academically here."
Mike Tokarz

For the past few decades, Wayne State Athletics has seen some great success. Much of the successes are due to the recruiting process designed for each sport.

Women’s basketball recruiting coordinator Joel Whymer, who has spent the last two years with the team at WSU, said recruiting is a year-long process because he looks at both high school and travel teams.

Whymer said he spends the majority of his time in looking at players in Michigan.

“We try, within an hour radius, to know who all the good players are and try to recruit those kids, and we recruit western Michigan pretty hard,” he said. “Right now, we have two kids on our team from the Toledo area. We’ve been in contact with kids out of state, but sometimes it’s a little tougher but we are always looking.”

How many recruits come to the women’s basketball team in a given year tends to vary. This year, Whymer said the team is welcoming three incoming players.

When looking for the right fit for the women’s basketball, he said many factors come into play.

“We always look at how they perform academically, first. We have to make sure they will be able to succeed academically here. Do we have their test scores? Do we know what they want to major in?” Whymer said. “And then, even before the talent, are they good kids? Do they get along with their coaches and their teammates? And then, obviously, we look at talent.”

He said the women’s basketball team also offers walk-on tryouts in the fall and offers interested players to test their skills on the junior varsity team, who can play up to 10 games with limited travel.

Like women’s basketball, Men and Women’s Swimming and Diving Head Coach Sean Peters said over the past 20 years, he’s learned recruiting is year-long because he is not only recruiting seniors, but also high school juniors to sign in November.

“Recruiting is a big part of this process. I want it where a swimmer or diver comes in here and they know that they got the best experience,” Peters said. “They constantly improve from their freshman year to their senior year and they know that they came to the right place. It’s a process, but it’s one that I really enjoy.”

Peters has learned that in recruiting, the program cannot always win.

“It’s fun when it goes well, but when it doesn’t go well, it’s hard. You spend a lot of time trying to encourage a swimmer or diver about why our program is great, and you are going to get people that buy into it and people that say ‘thanks, but no thanks; I have another opportunity.’ When you get the latter, it’s hard,” he said. “You put a lot of yourself into it. It’s part of the nature of the beast. I believe in this program so much and I just feel like everyone could benefit from being here.”

Unlike basketball, WSU’s swimming and diving teams recruit both in Michigan and worldwide.

“I recruit worldwide, but most of my swimmers are from the state of Michigan and that’s where I first look when I start the recruiting process. There are so many good, untapped swimmers in the state. We have had such a good reputation of developing swimmers,” Peters said. “We also look at international talent. On the men’s side, we have a higher percentage of international swimmers than on the women’s side, but there are excellent swimmers all over the world and they fit into what we think of as a Wayne State athlete. If they are committed to things in the pool and in the classroom and in the community, then we got ourselves a hit.”

Because swimming is mainly about top times, Peters said he mostly recruits online and skips going to watch meets.

On average the men and women’s swimming and diving teams bring in about 12 to 15 students to their program a year.

While Peters does not offer walk-on tryouts, he said if interested swimmers email him and he believes they have what it takes, he would give them a shot.

“I have to make sure a swimmer can develop within the program, and it’s a goal of mine, especially if they get the door shut by a division one school, to make sure that division one school regrets that decision. We enjoy that,” he said. “To me you have to have the heart for it and if you do, I’ll give you a chance. We want the people with the heart and the people who are driven to do great things.”

For those who are interested in joining Wayne State Athletics, the athletic department allows interested students to fill out recruit questionnaires that will be sent directly to the coach. 

This story was featured in the summer 2017 New Student Survival Guide print edition.

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