Is Travis Ford a good recruiter?

Written by Kyle Porter
Photo Attribution: USATSI

Photo Attribution: USATSI

Travis Ford is a master recruiter, I’m told. He can’t coach a lick (except out of timeouts) and he can’t develop (we kind of debunked that a little bit here), but the man can recruit. That’s the profile, right?

He convinced Marcus Smart to come to Stillwater and his is the back on which Ford’s last two teams have been built. He got Le’Bryan Nash and Markel Brown and Mike Cobbins and…

OK…here are all the players Travis Ford has gotten committed to OSU and what has become of all of them (I used Rivals):


Reger Dowell — Lasted two and half years, transferred to UT-Arlington where he averages 21 a game.

Roger Franklin — Lasted two years, transferred to North Texas where he averaged 11 and six last year.

Fred Gulley — Lasted two and half years, transferred to Arkansas where he averages 5-2-2-1-0 a game.

Karron Johnson — Never qualified, went on to become a D2 star. Got buckets for the Wiz.

Ray Penn — Lasted two years, transferred to Texas Southern where he averages 10-2-4 a game.

Jarred Shaw — Lasted two years, transferred to Utah State where he averages 15 and eight a game.

Torin Walker —┬áLasted one year, transferred to Middle Tennessee where he averages one and one.

My gosh. That’s all of them. Nobody completed three years, much less all four!

I won’t count Johnson in the final tally because that seems unfair but here are the totals…

12 total seasons played (of a possible 24)


Markel Brown — Ford’s only player (so far) to play all four seasons (I expect Forte and maybe Nash and Murphy to join him).

Brian Williams — Career averages of 8-3-1. Redshirted his freshman year.

Mike Cobbins — Career averages of 6-6-1-1-2. Redshirted his freshman year.

JPO — Had already played a season when he came to Stillwater. Averaged 11-4-1 for his career. Redshirted his sophomore season.

Darrell Williams — You know.

14 total seasons played (of a possible 15…so far)


Cezar Guerrero — The Mexican Assassian. I sort of miss him. Transferred to Fresno where he’s averaging 14-3-4-2-0. Wow.

Phil Jurick — Career averages of 2-5-1 and 93 fouls per 40 minutes.

Le’Bryan Nash — Career averages of 14-5-2-1-0.

6 total seasons played (of a possible nine…so far)


Phil Forte — Career averages of 11-2-1-1-0.

Kirby Gardner — Lasted one season (he was JC transfer), transferred to Cal State San Bernadino where he’s averaging 14 a game (they’re a Jordan shool?!)

Kamari Murphy — Career averages of 5-5-1.

Marcus Smart — Career averages of 16-6-4-3-1.

7 total seasons played (of a possible eight…so far)


Jeffrey Carroll — Redshirting.

Stevie Clark — Gone.

Leyton Hammonds — Has lost his confidence (according to Fran).

Gary Gaskins — Not redshirting (I guess?) but probably should be.

3 total seasons played (of a possible three…so far)

So of a possible 59 player seasons of guys Ford has recruited he’s gotten 42 out of them. That’s actually not as bad as I thought it would be.

He has gotten commitments from 23 guys (I’m not counting Johnson) and 10 of them have transferred, or 43 percent. The national average is more like 34 percent, according to this study.

The transfer thing doesn’t bother me as much because I feel like it has stabilized. That 2009 class was an abomination and seems like an outlier. The more troubling thing is that he actually hasn’t recruited that many good college basketball players.

Look at the numbers.

Is Cobbins good? He averages 6-6-1-1-2 for his career. Fred Jonzen averaged 10-6-1-1-0 in his time at OSU. I mean, my gosh, Andre Williams averaged 5-6-1-1-2 a game for his career. Andre was a fine bit player but he wasn’t exactly Greg Monroe down low. Cobbins and Andre Williams are basically the exact same person. And Cobbins is probably the fifth-best player on Ford’s resume.

Smart? Fine. Markel and Nash have been awesome and Forte might be the fourth best guy Ford has recruited. But four good guys in five years?

That’s not going to get it done. And is also why Markel is playing 39 and 54-minute games.

You can point at injuries, you can point at academics, you can even point at people peeing out the windows of cars. But Ford is responsible for recruiting a deep, talented team and despite what everyone keeps telling me, he hasn’t done that yet.

  • Nathan

    You’re an idiot. I love how you were bashing Cedar just the other day and now you kind of miss him?

    • Nathan


  • Nathan

    Also he’s recruited well… The majority of the people you mentioned above has left Or been suspended. That’s development and discipline… not bad recruiting. A lot of these guys come in as a “big shot” and no one settles them down or keeps them from their home boys.

  • Nathan

    Also he’s recruited well… The majority of the people you mentioned above has left Or been suspended. That’s development and discipline… not bad recruiting. A lot of these guys come in as a “big shot” and no one settles them down or keeps them from their home boys.

  • dontcallmebill

    This isn’t really an analysis of recruiting, it’s development and player coaching. To assess his recruiting, you should be looking at the national profile of the people he’s brought in, as compared to other coaches, and to Eddie/Sean. Recruiting is about getting guys to commit who are highly regarded and courted by other programs. It’s also about identifying talent that no ones else sees. Not sure how this info addresses either of those issues.

    You note that you previously debunked criticism of Ford’s player development credentials, but I’d say this post supports that criticism. Seeing the number of players contributing at other schools after transferring is a problem. The fact that Nash has taken 3 seasons to become a somewhat reliable contributor is a problem, especially given that he was one of the most coveted recruits in his class coming in. The number of off-court issues by his players is an issue.

  • Tyler

    If we had some of those dudes that transferred out this team would be solid. Those guys aren’t stars but they would be key pieces for the team we have now

  • Tyler

    Add Cezar, Dowell, and Shaw to this teams bench. And if Cobbins would have stayed healthy? That’s a pretty good team in my opinion

  • OSU-Bill

    Some of this needs to take into account player development. Bryant Reeves was a freshman when I was a sophomore. I remember watching Reeves that year and thinking that the only thing going for that guy was that he was 7 ft.–that was it. They guy could barely run down the floor (slowly) without falling, much less posting up and making a basket. By his senior year, he arguably had the best touch of any college big man that season. I wonder what all of Ford’s players would be like if Eddie and his staff had been coaching them.

  • illinipoke

    Seems like most of those guys did quite well after transferring. Better than many that stayed… that’s bad coaching, good recruiting and bad player development.

    • Blake

      Their new stats, for the most part, reflect the level of competition they are currently playing. You are bound to have better stats playing cream puffs.

      • illinipoke

        True, but you can’t say they are failing at all, and you can’t say its not good recruiting. Bad player retention != bad recruiting.

        Bad evaluation quite possibly.

  • Keller

    I think the real person to blame is the puppet master behind the bench that’s pulling Ford’s strings (see picture above)

    • Randy Cardin


    • J Dub

      Best comment I’ve seen on here in quite some time.

    • Blake

      Nah man, he’s just airing out the pits. GIA gets pretty toasty sometimes.

  • Patrick Richards

    One thing I would like to see ford try, that eddie did pretty regularly, is to bring in guys from other schools. There is obviously a market out there for d1 players looking for a new place. I think we forget that this was a staple of some of our most successful teams during Eddie’s time. Not that we could have gotten him, but is tarik black the only big man that could have been added from another school? I doubt it.

    • Scott

      i just read that our ’04 final four team had 7 transfers on it… Hell that’s more players than we have total. I know Lucas came in from Baylor… The Graham twins were Juco right? That’s 3 – who were the other 4?

      • Nate

        Bobik – BYU
        Grahams – UCF
        Allen – JUCO
        Weatherspoon – JUCO
        Miller – North Texas

  • CBW

    Goodness…. Travis sucks. He needs to go back to Kentucky and make whiskey. Perhaps not…. he would just suck at that too.

    • Kiel Werner

      if he made wiskey it would be MAD DOG 2020

  • Gregory Buck

    Some of you have made comparisons to the Eddie Sutton era. Sutton had experienced former head coaches on his staff. It is possible that is part of what we perceive as a problem. Ford’s players do not develop. Not nearly well enough. Ford’s asst. coaches do not have the same level of experience as what Eddie had sitting next to him. Perhaps Ford should bring in better assts. Because at this time he is not getting the job done.
    As to his recruiting, I am not seeing it. Why is his bench always so short? What is keeping him from bringing in more players? His bench needs to be filled with scholarship players instead of “practice players.” That alone would improve his teams.

    • illinipoke

      Um, his bench is short because guys keep leaving or getting hurt. That was explained above. That has little to do with recruiting though (outside of possibly some character evaluatons).

      Having crappy assistants would be part of being a crappy coach. Its not like someone hired those guys for him.

      • Gregory Buck

        Oh please. One or two yrs you can get away with that excuse. Ford has never had a deep bench. THAT is recruiting. I am not convinced he knows talent when he sees it.

    • Mike

      I agree with this post! As much as I have said; Fire Ford for two years, I have little faith that Holder will pull the trigger. If not, then force Scott, I mean Travis to clean house and hire some quality experienced assistants. We’ll definitely need to consider one for our next head coach in the next few seasons.

  • Kiel Werner

    CAPTION CONTEST!!!! Ford – ” Duhhh”

    • Blake

      I guess you win?

  • Scott

    Some of this i agree with – mainly that the ’09 class was an anomaly.

    Look at that 2010 class he brought in. Brown / BWill / Cobbins – will all be 4 year guys in the end.

    JP was a nice player that likely would have developed in a long term starter. You have to call this a good recruit – a coach can’t tell that at some point in the future a kid will tear his ACL – twice.

    And Darrell Williams – JUCO transfer – averaged 7.1 PPG and 7.3RPG in his junior year. You think we couldn’t use a big dude averaging those kinds of numbers about now? A “he-said/she-said” incident put an end to that – not saying he did or didn’t – but in basketball production only – he was nice. Were there character issues in the past that should have made Ford pass on him? I have absolutely no idea.

    We need more Phil Juricks when they’re coming in out of high school so they can be developed like Country was. Not when you just have 2 years with him.

    Is he a bad recruiter? Not really. The talent he’s bringing is legit.
    But should we have more able bodies to plug in when a starter goes down? Yes.
    Should Ford have let Hammons and Gaskins play the entire 2nd halves when we were hammering Delaware State and Robert Morris? Hell yes he should have. That experience would come in handy about now.

  • Schultzy

    You realize this sort of supports that he’s a pretty decent recruiter, yes? You just showed that more players transfer than the average team. Has nothing to do with recruiting.

  • Keller

    Saying Ford is a good recruiter is similar to the “Brian Williams (Blake Jackson) is so athletic” we hear during every broadcast. It’s a nice way of saying “he’s not really good at doing what he’s supposed to be doing. But man, he’s really good at running fast and jumping high – it just doesn’t translate into success”. If Blake Jackson could catch they wouldn’t say “he’s athletic”; they’d be talking about what an incredible talent he is. Same thing if BWill could make a shot. We hear how great of a recruiter Ford is because if you can’t make comments on television about what a terrible job he does of coaching a basketball team.

  • Tanner

    The most glaring issue is a total of two recruits (Jurick, Shaw) over 6’9. They averaged a whopping 3 ppg combined. How many has KU had over this span?

  • Tyler

    I love how half these people think you’re an idiot yet they still come back to read it probably 3 times a week at least. Listen people, this is a blog, which means it’s opinionated, and for the most part his opinions are pretty accurate. So if you don’t like it, then get off the freaking page.

  • SadCowboyFan

    I think the biggest point you missed is that the 4 biggest recruits (Smart, Markell, Nash, and Forte) were all on a team that finished 7th(8th? I’ve already tried to erase it from my mind) and couldn’t win a single tournament game.