I've said for a while now that off the court, one of the most impressive things Coach Bobby Hurley did with the Bulls was quickly turn over the team into one with mostly his guys.
By the start of his second season, only three players on the squad had ever suited up for Reggie Witherspoon. That turnover helped Hurley succeed - and move on - quickly. But few national reports dig deeper into recruiting than to credit the head coach.
The #NateOatsPipeline joke started because of the trio of players - two JUCO transfers and a walk-on - who came to Buffalo from Oats' uber-successful Romulus program in Detroit. Then he started recruiting. The first time I used the hashtag on Twitter was in discussing the next round of recruits, but UB's newest head coach has had a consistent impact on the UB roster.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>.<a href="https://twitter.com/UBmenshoops">@ubmenshoops</a> recruiting: Nate Navigato, Nick Perkins already on deck for 2015. The <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NateOatsPipeline?src=hash">#NateOatsPipeline</a> is real. <a href="http://t.co/8twrpBdROA">http://t.co/8twrpBdROA</a></p>— Bull Run (@UBBullRun) <a href="https://twitter.com/UBBullRun/status/525617733615235072">October 24, 2014</a></blockquote>
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Start with these three and that magic word: Romulus.
I see a future MAC Player of the Year, and a key part of the forward depth for next season.
But it's not just Romulus. UB's roster has a distinct Great Lakes flavor. Consider:
Diane makes MAC pick - Basketball Recruiting - Scout
The lead recruiter for the Bulls with [Mory] Diane was former Detroit (Mich) Romulus Head Coach Nate Oats.
UB’s Nate Oats uses his Michigan connections - Sports - The Buffalo News
Oats recruits the Midwest for UB and was the lead recruiter for prized freshman guard Lamonte Bearden, from Wisconsin
Milan’s Nick Perkins "not going anywhere" as Buffalo loses coach Bobby Hurley to Arizona State - MLive.com
He developed a strong relationship with [Nick] Perkins as the person primarily responsible for recruiting him over the past two seasons.
Hoops 247 - Buffalo's Nate Oats Leads Way On Pair
Oats was the lead recruiter for both 6'8 Nick Perkins (Milan, MI) as well as 6'7 Nate Navigato (Geneva, IL).
Buffalo Lands 6-4 Wing Frasco as 5th Commit | ZagsBlog.com
"Coach [Nate] Oats and the whole coaching staff made me feel at home," [Bobby] Frasco said of his weekend unofficial to Buffalo.
Frasco is out the door, sure. but that's still seven of next year's 13 players for whom Oats was the lead recruiter. Figuring in some other names, Jarryn Skeete, Will Regan, and Xavier Ford were already here. Shannon Evans had already committed to Reggie and didn't need much convincing despite a few days of uncertainty.
For next year's team, that leaves Rodell Wigginton, Torian Graham, Maurice O'Field, and Ikenna Smart. Smart almost certainly came from Levi Watkins' territory, and Graham's NC State connections probably mean the same for him. I can't find anything on Wigginton or O'Field, but if you remember an article connecting them to Oats, send it our way.
As for the future, UB does have one scholarship available at this moment, and among others an offer outstanding to former Romulan Kris Clyburn, who spent this year at Notre Dame Prep in Fitchburg, MA.
Looking further into the future, you can see UB's offers for 2016 (and beyond) on VerbalCommits.com, and Oats' Great Lakes responsibilities dominate the list. He's most frequently been connected to big man Austin Davis of Onsted, Michigan, who's recently started to draw attention from the Big Ten.
It became clear quickly over the last 48 hours that no coach would keep the team together better than Oats, and looking at his recruiting history, you can see why. Certainly being able to walk in and drop Hurley's name helped his efforts, but Oats has also formed relationships of his own, to the point that Nick Perkins essentially said yesterday "As long as Oats stays, I stay."
I had said privately over the last week that if Oats can keep the team together for the next two years, I'll take that even if it means a dropoff further down the line. Considering how much of the most successful team in program history he's already had a hand in, it certainly seems the talent will keep rolling in.