Coach Jamion Christian just completed his 5th season as the Head Men’s Basketball Coach at Mount St. Mary’s University and it was a special one. Recently named the 2017 Ben Jobe award winner which is presented annually to the top minority coach in division I men’s basketball. Jamion led the Mountaineers to the Northeast Conference Regular Season Title and the NEC Tournament title for the first time in school history. He followed that up with a win in the NCAA’s first four match up over New Orleans in Dayton, OH. The First Four win was the Mount’s 2nd NCAA tournament victory in program history and it propelled the Mount into the field of 64 with the right take on reigning NCAA Champions Villanova Wildcats. The Mount played hard controlling most of the first half but would eventually fall in the second half. But “The Mount” , Coach Christian and his “Mayhem” style caught the attention of the nation. Jamion helped put The Mount, a small, catholic, liberal art school in tiny Emmitsburg, MD on the basketball map.
Jamion, a 2004 graduate of Mount St. Mary’s got into coaching immediately after playing. He spent one season at Emory & Henry before joining the Bucknell staff as Director of Basketball Operations. In 2008, he moved on to be an assistant at William & Mary for three seasons before a one year stint at VCU to work along current Texas Head Coach, Shaka Smart. He helped guide the Rams to the Third Round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament. VCU won the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament title and finished with a school-record 29 wins that year. VCU led the NCAA in steals and steals per game. Christian worked hand-in-hand with VCU starting shooting guard Troy Daniels, who broke the school record for three-pointers made. In March 2012, Jamion was named Head Coach at Mount St. Mary’s. In his 5 seasons at The Mount, he has been to 3 NEC Championship games, winning twice in 2014 and in 2017.
In an interview with Jamion I wanted to discover how he identifies and evaluates talent and what qualities he looks for in his recruits and what other intangibles are important in identifying prospects.
What is your recruiting philosophy?
We have a philosophy here that is built upon bringing in student-athletes who are peaking at the right time, both on the floor and in the classroom. We are in a very competitive business in terms of looking for the best and brightest and we have found that if we do intense research into each of our potential recruits that we can find those who have the best mental makeup to make an immediate impact. Physically, we want those who are younger in age, this allows for more likely the chance to a growth spurt and chances that we can maximize their potential while under our guidance. We are always looking to have a bigger stronger athlete for the longest duration of time within our program, We can do this by being attractive to talented players who are a bit undersized but also younger than their competitors. Competitively, we also want players who have shown they value winning and who have done so by playing right away. Character is also important in identifying prospects. Character means everything when you are projecting on how good someone will be down the road as a college senior. Those with strong character have tendency to help improve a program in some way before they graduate. We want those who are passionate about being an important part of our program. When we are passionate about our university or our team we have a tendency to go the extra mile to make sure that we leave a lasting impression. Passion for achieving greatness makes your team and organization better.”
How important is academics in your recruiting?
The academic quality of a student-athlete is extremely important. The recruiting process is very difficult one because neither party truly understands what the other is completely looking for. The academic history of a student tells us a lot about how you are going to operate on a daily basis. Those who have a tendency to to do well in class, have great relationships with the staff at school, and who have shown consistent improvement in the classroom most times will continue to do so at the college level. That’s not to say that if you struggled as a freshmen that we won’t recruit you but if you show improvement in those areas it shows us that you have a personality type that wants to be challenged and improve. We are looking for student-athletes who are on the rise and who are fearless in their pursuit for perfection in all walks of lives
What qualities do you look for in prospective student-athletes?
- Unconditional Buy In
How important is the psychological attributes of a PSA?
Mental toughness is extremely important when trying to evaluate potential student-athletes. Seasons come and go quickly and because of that pressure the moment rises. Being able to handle the pressure and continue to be a productive team member will be the majority of a student-athlete’s experience. The sooner that a coach can understand the mental make-up of a player the sooner they will be able to coach them into becoming the best version of themselves a person.
What advice can you give to a PSA about the recruiting process?
Go to the place where you are not only loved but wanted and needed. I’ve seen it too many times where student-athletes choose a school where they don’t really want to go but do because of the level. Happiness cannot be measured if you have a burning desire to play. Choosing the wrong school may result in not playing and not fully enjoying your college experience. Student-athletes under estimate how much they want to play or the impact they can make. Look at the teams depth chart. What year are the players at your position? Do they have any players similar to you on the roster? Does the teams style of play fit your style of play? If you write down five things that are currently important for your in college then stick to your game plan that you know will work for you.
It is evident why “The Mount has been so successful since Coach Christian took over the program in 2012. I was fortunate to work with many of the players during my time as Coordinator of Student-Athlete Academic Support.” They all seemed to buy-in to Jamion’s philosophy. In addition, they were good kids who worked hard and wanted to be the best they can be.
Take out a piece of paper and write down 5 things that are extremely important for you in your college search and don’t waver from the plan. Keep that piece of paper with you at all times during your recruiting process.