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RaptorsHQ Talks to inRecruit Co-Founder Joseph Rocco

Social media and technology are changing the way coaches approach recruitment, and the way potential athletes look to market themselves. One of the leading companies behind this paradigm shift is inRecruit, and I recently had a chance to do a quick Q and A with co-founder, Joseph D. Rocco, about his company's progress, and his working relationship with the Raptors' Kyle Lowry.

Tom Szczerbowski-US PRESSWIRE

RaptorsHQ:  Tell us a bit about inRecruit Joseph, and your involvement.

Joseph Rocco: Malik Allen and I founded inRecruit in 2011 after Malik retired from the NBA. We set out to make a difference in the world of sports which is an industry that we both love. We came up an idea about how we could revolutionize the entire recruiting and athletic talent evaluation process through technology and hence, inRecruit was born. To sum it up in one sentence, inRecruit is a unique sports social network featuring technology geared towards digital relationship building, networking, recruiting and speedy dissemination of news that is relevant to the interests of its users.

RHQ:  Very interesting.  Once you had the framework set up, who were some of the first people you reached out to, to help spread the word?

JR: In the beginning we reached out to all the college and high school coaches that we knew. Malik has a pretty robust network in that respect so we were able to spread the word pretty quickly throughout his network.

RHQ:  How did Kyle Lowry get involved in the project, and what's his role been in growing the site?

JR: Kyle Lowry and Malik Allen have some of the same friends since they both are from the Philadelphia, Pa area and both played their college ball at Villanova. Kyle Lowry heard about inRecruit through a mutual friend of his and Malik's and he immediately took and interest in the project as a way to give back to youth athletes. For those who don't know Kyle Lowry that well, he is not only a great basketball player but he is a terrific person as well who loves giving back to his community.  Kyle Lowry's involvement with inRecruit has been instrumental for inRecruit's early growth in terms of developing the youth athlete side of the inRecruit network.

Being one of the best guards to ever come out of the Philadelphia Pennsylvania area, there are tons of young basketball players in the Philadelphia area who look up to Kyle and strive to have the same success that Kyle had both on and off the court. Kyle serves as a resource on inRecruit for youth athletes who need some extra help and direction with the youth athletic recruiting process. Some kids lack guidance in this area so Kyle offers up his time and encourages youth athletes from all over to reach out to him with questions and for advice. The fact that young kids can reach out to a pro athlete like Kyle Lowry on inRecruit  is a special, unique part of inRecruit product and Kyle has been instrumental in developing this part of the network.

RHQ:  Talk a bit about the growth of inRecruit so far.  Has it been mostly Philly-based to date, or has it spread well beyond the borders of even the US?

JR: The growth of inRecruit has been remarkable. In just over 3 months we have athletes, coaches, sportswriters and fans on inRecruit from 28 different US states and 4 different countries including Canada. If I had a crystal ball, I would tell you that I foresee our next big user group will come from Canada as we have some things in the works with some Canadian youth athletic groups.

RHQ:  That was actually my next question, the footprint of inRecruit in Canada.  Sounds like indeed the site is reaching Canadian youth.  Have any of the other members of the Toronto Raptors aside from Kyle been involved?  And can you give us any examples of Canadian-specific inRecruit work?

JR: Former Toronto Raptors player and scout Alvin Williams has also helped inRecruit grow its user base in United States and in Canada. Alvin Williams is another terrific person who I have gotten to know well recently through his involvement with inRecruit. Alvin was the person who encouraged us to bring inRecruit to Canada as a way to help Canadian youth athletes enhance their exposure not only to CIS Universities but also to United States schools. The Canadian sports recruitment process is similar to the process  in the United States as even the premier CIS coaches have limited financial resources to recruit youth talent which reduces the number of kids that they can see and touch.

inRecruit has conducted in depth studies on the Canadian sports landscape by surveying dozens of CIS coaches and youth athletes and parents fromCanada. Our data reveals that, for example, a top basketball recruit in City of Halifax will likely not even be recruited by a coach at the University of Victoria in BC even though he or she is good enough to play there simply because he or she is almost 4000 miles away and it is just "too far". The great distance creates too much of an financial expense in terms of traveling and it takes too much time for an out of area coach to form a meaningful relationship between with a local player who typically interacts with local coaches quite often.  Our surveys indicate that most CIS coaches feel that it is "not worth it" to recruit players far from home for these reasons. Conversely, local schools have a strong advantage with players in their backyard because it costs them less and takes much less time to watch the player play and to form a relationship with the player and his family. Now, take that same top athlete in Halifax and you can pretty much forget about the top U.S. NCAA Division 1 programs recruiting him or her.  There has been limited to NO traction whatsoever in this regard.

inRecruit'stechnology  will change all of that by shrinking the world and levelling the playing field. It will no longer be "too far" or  take "too much time" to recruit a player 1000, 4000, or even 20,000 miles away. Coaches can establish meaningful relationships with players virtually and vice versa. Lets face it, with technology platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin, corresponding this way is what most people are used to anyway especially the younger generations. inRecruit is really just modernizing the sports recruiting and scouting industry when you think about it.

RHQ: really fascinating information Joseph, particularly in terms of the CIS data you're collecting.  In terms of monetization, is there a cost to the players for the use of the service, or is the fee only applied to coaches who wish to use the tool?

JR: Right now inRecruit is free for everyone to use. Eventually we will likely move to a monthly/yearly subscription based service for coaches, teams and universities to use the inRecruit. We anticipate that it will always remain free for athletes and parents to use the inRecruittechnology with a small upgrade fee for a "premium" service that contains more bells and whistles, similar to that of LinkedIn.

RHQ:  It seems like a number of companies are trying to move to models like this.  Recently I spoke with Lamond Murray who's doing work with NCSA.

What would you say inRecruit's competitive advantage is?

JR: There are other companies trying to help kids with the recruiting process and trying to help coaches discover kids. inRecruit big differentiator is its technology product. inRecruit is not a service business like some of the others. inRecruit is a technology company which has developed a superior technology product for the market. Even all of communication and interaction between pro players like Kyle Lowry and youth athletes occurs within the inRecruit technology product itself. In developing the inRecruit technology, we interviewed dozens of college coaches, youth athletes, parents and fans.

We engaged social media experts and some of the world's most successful digital media and software entrepreneurs to assist us in a building a revolutionary technology product that is easy and intuitive to use and which will change the industry completely.

RHQ:  What's your ultimate goal or vision then for inRecruit Joseph?

JR: A The main goal of inRecruit is to give kids more options from an educational perspective with respect to which colleges and universities they play sports at. The ultimate vision of inRecruit is one where the entire global sports recruiting ecosystem is using the inRecruit technology to conduct their business.

RHQ:  Great stuff Joseph, best of luck and thanks for taking the time to chat with us!