This month I'm excited to bring you Jerry Meyer. Jerry is the Director of Basketball Scouting for 247Sports, the leading platform for tracking top prep basketball recruits and where they decide to go play college basketball. Where a recruit decides to go to college is a billion dollar business, and everyone from coaches, NBA teams, shoe companies, and diehard fans live and breathe the latest news and updates from 247.
So let's get started!
Ben Smith: When I look at 247Sports, what really impresses me is the real-time speed and succinct manner you guys put out recruiting news. Recruiting is a murky, dark area by nature. 247 is mind-blowing to me because you guys are putting out accurate information way before everybody else.
And whether you know it or not (and it's clear you do know it), you have the formula. The formula applies not just to basketball recruiting, but also to the rest of the web.
Jerry Meyer: Yeah it makes total sense. I see the application. Out of everything, I think our crystal ball feature is really what people love. (Ben: the crystal ball feature on 247 has Jerry and others making bold player recruiting predictions).
The crystal ball has made me a much better recruiting analyst because I've had to put my money where my mouth is. My predictions are all documented and there's no hiding it. It’s even taught me so much about human psychology.
I've had to develop thick skin and believe in what I'm doing to be good at it. It’s also great as we’ve befriended just about everyone in our industry and brought them on the platform. We're become the platform people in our industry want to be involved with. I get phone calls, intelligence, and help on what's going on from random newspaper guys and scouts because they want to feel useful, and help us. It has really expanded my network because people see it as a platform. Even if their name is not mentioned on the site, they feel like they are part of the game.
People in today's world are looking for authenticity. I know this is just an odd little weird subculture basketball recruiting culture, but I've been amazed to see how people have gravitated to our platform in our field. It has given people a sense of authenticity and identity.
Ben Smith: Tell me more about how 247 formula works.
Jerry Meyer: We created a brand new technological platform, all from scratch. Everything was very organic, holistic, and seamless. If a player commits to a school we put it in the database, the algorithm takes over and the class ranking for that team changes, all in real time. I'm not looking at eyeballing everything on paper, and doing it manually. We're so much faster than everyone else, so that helps us get sourced by newspapers and print media. We have the data they want while the news is still fresh.
Our CEO Shannon Terry has given me 3 or 4 bits of incredible advice, and the one that has really sticks with me is: "Cut through the noise." Our technology allows me to cut through the noise. In our business, it's so easy to develop false narratives based on inaccurate gossiping.
Ben Smith: On the web, recruiting rumors become true the second anybody tweets them.
Jerry Meyer: You have a monumental change in basketball recruiting due to Twitter. There is so much noise and false narrative out there. In essence, I'm trying to conclusively answer 3 basic questions: how good is the player, where is he going to go to school, and how will he fit in when he gets there?
At 247 we try to keep it really simple, keep it concise, give people what they really care about. And you better be hard-hitting and succinct, because the internet is such a huge place. You better make it count when readers come to you, or you will lose them.
Ben Smith: Speaking of Twitter, do you think the best young high school players today utilize formal marketing plans?
Jerry Meyer: Yeah! Whether the kids know it or not, they sure do. Part of it is that every kid has an entourage or crew. I don't say that derogatorily at all. It's a business and I think athletes get treated unfairly in this regard. I think it’s such a misconception about recruiting. If people logically think about it, it's not right. If you have a child star in the arts, or an academic star, musician, writer, actor, or gymnast, they're going to have people around them managing them. People try to paint basketball recruiting like it’s a dirty thing. Why shouldn’t these 15, 16 year olds have a plan? Why should they not have control?
Ben Smith: I think some of this is perpetuated by the emergence of AAU summer leagues. I see massive parallels to the tech industry. In your industry, you call it “AAU”, and in my industry we call it “accelerators” for all of our young thoroughbred startups.
Jerry Meyer: I love the term! You get these teens as startups and then they're part of an accelerator. They get exposure, "education", and guidance for better or worse as they graduate to the big leagues.
Ben Smith: Do you support the emergence of accelerators (AAU) in your industry?
Jerry Meyer: I'll put it this way: AAU is not the negative that it's portrayed to be. These kids have to play somewhere. It's capitalism. It’s money. Why are the shoe companies sponsoring teens? Because they can financially benefit.
Ben Smith: It feels like not so subtle racism is involved.
Jerry Meyer: Unfortunately I feel there's a huge racial component to a lot of it. It’s unfair. Most of your very top basketball players are African-American. That's not a controversial statement, that's reality. Most entourages and AAU teams are the uncle or the guy who lives down the street with a little bit of money. We portray them as hustlers, pimps, and drug dealers. I'm not saying they are always great guys but it's not as it's portrayed. I think there's a real racial bias there.
Ben Smith: Do you maintain direct relationships with the players or do you work through other contacts?
Jerry Meyer: It’s really changed. I used to have direct contact with the actual players. Now I can just read them on Twitter. Today, I follow the next level of information and deal with second level contacts, such as AAU coaches and other scouts who are tied into grassroots basketball. They are a stepped removed from the player, so I’m more likely to get truth and accuracy from them. If I talk to the player directly, I'm going to get PR spin.
Ben Smith: Fascinating.
Jerry Meyer: To use your term, I primarily work through the accelerators of our industry. For example, I have a guy who works for Nike and he hears a lot of what’s happening with a player or perhaps I hear from another agent at another shoe company. Maybe it’s not the Nike guy, but another guy who coaches them or trains players down in Florida. That's primarily the level that I work at now.
I'm trying to break through the noise. The players will all say "Oh, I have 5 schools, they're all even." We all know they're not even. All players have a favorite, but they have been told not to say. So I use buddies in the business who are close to players to get much more accurate information.
Ben Smith: Who is the last player to give you goosebumps?
Jerry Meyer: Probably the last player is Josh Jackson. He's the number one guy in the class this year. He had a game this summer that was Kobe Bryant-esque. When he plays at the top level of his game, he reminds me of Kobe. Goosebumps.
Ben Smith: What are you personally betting on over the next 18 months for you?
Jerry Meyer: I’m betting more sites try to become more like 247. Less noise, and less fluff. I see so many companies going with all video and I don't know if that's the future. I know when I post articles that are primarily video, I get less views. I know people primarily want information. In basketball recruiting, people want to know where a kid is going to play college basketball.
Ben Smith: Are you reading anything cool right now?
Jerry Meyer: The book I always like to talk about is Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. It's describes the importance of the mundane, and how to tie it to the more esoteric, more abstract way of thinking. I’m interested in the ability to fuse diverse worlds that are on the opposite ends of a dichotomy.
As a reminder, the purpose of QTime is to learn how talented people in our industry and beyond are great at what they do. No one ever asks the really unique, fascinating people in our space these types of questions. So I decided to find these people and share super short profiles. They are meant to be a small, happy part of your day.
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