The evolution of recruiting chronicles the recruiting journeys of USSSA Pride players. Each player narrates their own story and how they ultimately made the decision on where to play college softball. Watch how recruiting has changed through the years from the stories of each player. The evolution of recruiting begins in the 1990s and ends with the recent processes of our Pride rookies.
The next recruiting story is from Keilani Ricketts who eventually led the University of Oklahoma to a National Championship in 2013. While at Oklahoma, Ricketts rewrote record books and took home almost every individual award possible in college softball—Honda Sports Award, Collegiate Player of the Year, Big 12 Player of the Year, WCWS Most Outstanding Player. Head Coach Patty Gasso said it took a while before Keilani grew into “the greatest player to come out of” the Oklahoma program!
“Needless to say she has come a long way and definitely got over the shyness to become one of the most social, goofiest and funniest kids I have ever coached, besides being the greatest player to ever come out of our program!” Patty Gasso
How old were you when you committed?: 16
How many official visits did you take? 1
How many unofficial visits did you take? 6
Did you make a recruiting video? Yes but I think I only sent it to one coach
How old were you when you first learned/thought about playing getting a scholarship to play in college?
KR: I was in 8th grade when I first learned about getting a scholarship to play in college and that was because my older sister Samantha was going through the recruiting process at the time. I didn’t really think about myself getting a scholarship until my sophomore year of high school.
When did you first start getting serious about the recruiting process? Explain the steps you took (videos/emailing coaches/camps/tournaments/showcases/visits).
KR: I started getting more serious into the recruiting process when I was 15 and had just moved up to 16U. That’s when my travel ball team started to go to showcases. I would make a list of between 15-30 schools and email them my schedules of the games for the weekend. I went to a few of the showcase camps that they had before tournaments (I think mainly because my mom wanted to see how fast I was throwing because they always had radar guns at the camps!). I didn’t start taking unofficial visits until I started getting invited by the college coaches. I started taking the visits the Summer going into my junior year and took my last visit at the end of the Fall of my junior year.
Describe how you committed to your school.
KR: I had taken an unofficial to Oklahoma during Gold nationals in Oklahoma City that my sister Stephanie was playing in. It was one of my first visits and was in the middle of the heat of Oklahoma summer with school not in session yet. I was planning on visiting a few more schools that Fall and making a decision at the end of the Fall. Coach Gasso talked me into scheduling another visit out to Norman at the end of November for Bedlam Football weekend (Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State). After I was done with all of my unofficial visits I took about a week or two to talk with my family, friends, coaches to decide. Although I loved so many things about every other school I visited, Oklahoma was where my heart was. I called up all of the coaches of the schools I had taken visits to so I could tell them I was going to Oklahoma (which was so much harder than I anticipated!). I then called up Coach Gasso and committed to her!
“The thing I remember most about Keilani in the recruiting process was how painfully shy she was. I would call her on the phone and she would not elaborate on any of her answers. One word replies. I remember when she had just gotten her drivers license and I think she was a senior in high school and she was going to start driving the family beat up van and she was scared to death. On her official visit I took her to lunch and she would never look at my face….always around me or above me….zero eye contact!” Head Coach Patty Gasso
Why did you commit to this school and why at that time?
KR: I made a list of things I wanted in my future school which included things such as: great academic support for student athletes, going out of state, and joining a great team that I could help bring to the WCWS and win a title with. I felt that I had committed early at the time, but there were some schools on my list that already committed pitchers in my class and/or were asking for me to commit by the winter of my junior year. My family and I felt that taking 5-6 unofficial visits to schools both in state, out of state, and different conferences was going to give me a good enough measure to go off of before committing.
I committed to Oklahoma because it marked everything off on my list of things I wanted in a school, and it was always the one school and one team I thought about when comparing other schools. Obviously my sister Sam attending OU while I was going through the process was a big influence as well. I always looked up to her growing up and followed her footsteps in anything school or sports related so when she had nothing but great things to say about Coach Gasso and OU, I knew I wanted to follow her to Norman, Oklahoma as well. Having her there as a Graduate Assistant my first two years was so beneficial for me as a student athlete and my parents for when they wanted to come visit us.
What happened from the time you committed to the time you stepped on campus?
KR: I remember being so relieved that I finally committed and didn’t have to worry about it anymore. I don’t think much changed as far as my work ethic because my main goal as a softball player was never to get recruited or get a scholarship but to be the best player I could possibly be. I noticed some girls had a hard time transitioning their goals once they committed to a school but if your main goal is to be the best player you can be than you are giving yourself a better chance to play at the next level whether its being recruited or as a walk on.
Looking back on your recruiting story, what stands out the most?
KR: The biggest thing that stands out to me from my recruiting story was all of the support I had along the way. It helped tremendously that my three older siblings were Division 1 athletes and had gone through different variations of the recruiting process so my whole family was there to help me every step of the way. It also was a big help that both my high school basketball and softball coaches were former college athletes so they were always there at school to give me advice and my basketball coach was understanding of taking my unofficial visits during basketball preseason. My travel ball coaches were also a huge help with communicating with coaches and knowing a general idea of what I was looking in a school and what was best for me. I did feel stressed out at times during the process but I couldn’t imagine going through it without everyone there to support me through it all.
What’s your advice to athletes now on the recruiting process?
KR: One thing is when you’re emailing coaches, double check to see if you put the right coaches name in the email and didn’t leave the last coaches name from your previous email on it! I did that and it was embarrassing. I’ve heard some coaches say they’ll ignore an email if they see that too! But also, I think its a great idea for when you are making a list of schools to include a wide variety of schools to choose from. From local schools to schools far away from home, smaller schools to bigger schools, etc. I understand if it’s your absolute dream school to commit on your first visit but I’m so fortunate my parents were there to tell me to make a list of 5-6 schools and flew out with me to the schools to visit. I know I ended up choosing Oklahoma which seemed like an obvious choice to a lot people that I committed there but I probably wouldn’t have committed there if I didn’t take a lot of visits to compare and contrast with.