Internationals can be a gift
Verlin rewarded beyond court
Christmas will be a little different at the Verlin household this December.
Idaho basketball coach Don Verlin has invited foreign players over to his house the last four Christmases because there wasn’t enough time for them to travel back home. Verlin’s previous rosters have included Brazilians Luis Augusto, Luciano de Souza and Luiz Toledo, and Canadian Djim Bandoumel, but the current roster doesn’t have an international player.
“This will be the first year we haven’t had a foreign kid for Christmas,” said Verlin, the fifth-year coach. “It’s always fun when they were here. The Brazilians loved to play games, dominoes, Yahtzee, Mexican Train. They’d laugh and giggle and play games all night.”
Verlin has no reservations about recruiting foreign players, but it takes a sizable commitment.
“We probably haven’t done as much as some schools, and the main reason is finances,” he said. “If you’re going to recruit foreign players, you have to make a commitment to going over there on a yearly basis and building relationships. That’s something some schools have made and it’s paid off.
“We keep an ear to the ground and if there’s a guy we check him out.”
Augusto, de Souza and Bandoumel were junior-college transfers. Augusto was at UI when Verlin arrived. Verlin knew about Toledo when he played at Modesto (Calif.) Christian High, and heard from a contact when the Brazilian decided to transfer from St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, Canada.
“Every one of those kids was very appreciative of their opportunity,” Verlin said. “They were well-mannered, polite kids, very respectful of the coaches. They were a lot of fun. I always think it was easy to talk with them because we’re inquisitive about what they’ve done and how they grew up and they’re the same with us.”
Travelling overseas is more expensive, whether it’s a coach visiting a promising forward in Europe or a prospect flying to visit a U.S. college campus.
“If it’s a guy that we like and we think we can get and all the stars align, we’ll spend the money and go,” Verlin said. “If we can get the same caliber player from the Northwest, we’re going to stay in the States.”