Two hundred and fifteen of the nation's best high school
basketball players spent four days last month scrimmaging at the
Adidas ABCD camp in Hasbrouck Heights, N.J. All were aware of the
throng of major-college coaches that lined one side of the gym,
but few players realized that the opinions of a gangly man
standing alone on the other side might be just as important.
"These are probably the most difficult evaluation days of the
year for me," says 6'6" Tom Konchalski, a renowned talent scout.
"In a high school game it's two or three players I need to watch;
here it's everybody on the court."
Camps such as ABCD and Five-Star in Honesdale, Pa., are the only
opportunities each year for the 56-year-old Konchalski, who has
been evaluating players for more than 25 years, to see, in
person, a whole crop of players from outside the Northeast. His
usual focus is from Maine to West Virginia, where his keen eye
has earned him the respect of college coaches. "When Tom starts
talking about a player, it's like those E.F. Hutton
commercials--I listen," says North Carolina coach Roy Williams.
Says Connecticut's Jim Calhoun, "The difference with Tom is that
you know he's spent a great deal of time thinking about a
player's basketball, academic and social skills."
How did Konchalski become the sage of college hoops recruiting?
The answer starts with the HSBI Report (the acronym stands for
High School Basketball Illustrated), the recruiting newsletter
that Konchalski has produced full time since 1980. Sixteen times
a year Konchalski hunches over his Swintech 1146 electric
typewriter in his Queens, N.Y., apartment, punching out the
scouting report that rates the top players in the Northeast. The
newsletter, which costs $375 a year and has a circulation of just
225, is sold only to college coaches. Konchalski personally
addresses each envelope before mailing the reports. He gives his
phone number to coaches, though in July, six months after getting
his first answering machine, he pulled the plug. "I was spending
my life returning calls," he says.
Konchalski, who attends as many as 300 games a season, writes
almost exclusively about players he sees in person, and he makes
a point of introducing himself to every kid he evaluates. If the
player has college potential, Konchalski rates him from 1
(Division II or III talent) to 5+ (future major-college
superstar). Of this year's incoming freshmen from Eastern
schools, only Duke-bound 6'7", 220-pound forward Luol Deng got a
Konchalski's love for basketball dates to 1959, when he and his
brother, Steve, followed Brooklyn high school star Connie Hawkins
from playground to playground as the high-flying Hawk wowed
crowds. After graduating from Fordham with majors in political
science and philosophy, Konchalski started teaching grammar
school and coaching CYO basketball while spending summers helping
at the Five-Star camps. Noticing that Konchalski showed a
remarkable knack for remembering the names and abilities of
campers, Howard Garfinkel, Five-Star's impresario, hired him in
'77 to help him with his HSBI Report; seven years later
Konchalski bought him out. Now a subscription to the newsletter
is considered a must for major-college coaches. "Tom wants to
help kids and help programs get good kids," says Duke coach Mike
Krzyzewski. "He has no agenda."
Says Konchalski, "I've always been just a basketball junkie.
Fortunately, I've figured out a way to make a living from it."
COLOR PHOTO: DAVID BERGMAN EYEWITNESS Konchalski attends some 300 games a year for a firsthand look at the players included in his newsletter.
COLOR PHOTO: DAMIAN STROHMEYER McGee
Five from '05
Here are Tom Konchalski's top prospects among players who will be
high school juniors this season.
NAME POS. HEIGHT WEIGHT
Andre McGee PG 5'11" 175
Canyon Springs High (Moreno Valley, Calif.)
Laser-quick, with almost intergalactic range on his three
Greg Paulus PG 6'2" 185
Christian Brothers Academy (Albany, N.Y.)
Bobby Hurley revisited; scrappy and aggressive
Louis Williams PG-SG 6'2" 170
South Gwinnett High (Snellville, Ga.)
Combo guard for whom scoring is like breathing
Tasmin Mitchell PF 6'7" 235
Denham Springs (La.)
High Co-MVP of underclassmen All-Star game at ABCD camp
Tyler Hansbrough PF 6'8" 215
Poplar Bluff (Mo.)
High Mr. Second Effort; extremely athletic; skilled around basket