Lacrosse being both the most attractive aspect of college and also one of the most misunderstood, Sacred Heart’s Coach Jon Basti weighs in on the demands and realities of playing for a Division I college program.
Coach Jon Basti is in his second season as the Sacred Heart men’s lacrosse head coach.
In his first season as head coach, he and the Pioneers went 6-9 and were 4-2 in Northeast Conference play, earning a berth to the NEC Tournament for two seasons in a row.
Being a 2002 graduate of Fairfield University, a member of the Stags’ 1996 and 1997 MAAC championship teams, coaching at Fairfield in the 2005 NCAA tourney and then again with Hartford in 2011, Coach Basti understands first-hand what it takes to compete and more importantly, be successful at the Division I level. With that said, we sat down with Coach Basti to hear about what to expect when aiming to play and study at the Division I level.
1. What advice do you have for players interested in Division I schools?
Look beyond lacrosse, lacrosse is a huge commitment and there are so many options available now. Your decision should be more about the school, academics and the atmosphere, not solely your lacrosse experience. Furthermore, you’ve got to love lacrosse, Division I is the best full-time job you’ll ever have, but a full-time job nonetheless. It is a battle and you have to understand that you may not see the field the first year or two and that you’ve got to forge through and take your licks because everyone surrounding you is just as talented. Do your research and make sure to have questions for the coach when speaking with them; one of the most important things as a coach is players and parents having questions about the program and the school to ensure both are the right fit.
2. What is the best way for players to get on your recruiting radar?
Email. I read every email that comes across my inbox and so does every other coach. Regardless of how old you are, make sure to include your highlight film and your schedule so that we know where to see you play live and when. Going to the prospect days of schools you love guarantees you being seen by the coaches of that school compared to going to one showcase. In regards to knowing the details of the prospect day such as, is that prospect day full for your position, simply reach out to the coach or contact listed for that camp / clinic. Regardless of your age, you are allowed to reach out to the coach and we can respond, as long as it pertains to the clinic only, not recruiting. One last tip is to include your number, year, position, and team in your email signature, it’s good habit and also useful for coaches.
3. What type of players do you primarily look for, a raw athlete or refined lacrosse player?
Depends on the year and what guys we have on the team already. We recruit very slowly to ensure each player is the right fit for our family and minimize the chances of transfers or a player not being successful. The biggest thing for us is consistent compete level, a player who keeps on fighting. We look for the “battle level” of a player, what does he do in the weight room, how is he in the locker room, how does he handle the difficult situations versus the easy situations. We want a grinder, regardless of how talented the player is because someone who is a hard-worker has developed good tendencies, which are molded over years of dedication.
4. What areas of player development would you recommend players focus on to elevate their game?
Three things: First and foremost, stick skills because we will teach you a system. Practice playing in tight spaces, picking up ground balls, communication and moving / focusing off-ball. I can’t stress enough the fundamentals are what will help to strengthen you as a player, the wall is your best friend and the number one way to improve your stick skills.
Number two and maybe even more importantly is watch Division I lacrosse, watch all the different styles of teams and players. Watch a Denver-style, Cornell-style, Albany-style, every school you possibly can so that you can see which team matches your style of play. In addition to watching each team, find a player that plays like you play and that you can emulate. Think to yourself, “this is a player that is similar to me that I want to be like.” Not every player can be a Mikey Powell or a Paul Rabil, not because of lack of talent, but more so the style of play is just different. If you are a shifty player, find a Division I shifty player that you can follow, if you are a big, strong dodger, find a big, strong dodger.
Lastly, make sure to maintain your consistency on the field. We can tell when someone is playing hard or just “going through the motions.” No matter who you’re playing, give it your best because you never know who is watching.
5. How has the accelerated recruiting landscape impacted your approach to recruiting?
For us, it is somewhat of a myth since we recruit so slowly, but for certain programs it is very real. Certain players are looking for certain schools and that works to our benefit. A lot of players find their friends committing to schools and they get nervous, but again, we go very slowly to make sure they fit into our family and minimize the chances of them transferring halfway through their career. Making sure that a player has done their due diligence also helps with combating the early recruiting fears that some people have. If you’ve done your research, you know that there are plenty of options for programs to play great lacrosse at. Your decision to go to college is the most important decision of your life because it sets you up for the next forty years.
Early recruiting is what it is; you shouldn’t feel pressured and have to remain patient. Researching the majors, types of student body at the school, what internships are available, the alumni base, what study halls are available, what the city is like (country or urban), all of these things are just as, if not more important than the lacrosse aspect.
ConnectLAX is a third party recruiting service and not affiliated with or endorsed by Jon Basti or Sacred Heart University