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The recruiting process: Ben Carlson's summer filled with basketball and college offers

Ben Carlson is a forward at East Ridge High School and is 16 years old. This past year, Carlson has received offers from 11 different schools. Photo Illustration by Brian Mozey / RiverTown Multimedia 1 / 3
East Ridge's Ben Carlson has offers from six Big Ten Conference colleges as he's heading into his junior year as a Raptor. Brian Mozey / RiverTown Multimedia 2 / 3
Ben Carlson is heading into his junior year at East Ridge High School. He played with D1 Minnesota for AAU basketball this past summer, allowing him to travel across the country to play in weekend tournaments. Brian Mozey / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 3

The clock struck midnight Friday, June 15, and Ben Carlson's phone became a popular place for many college basketball coaches.

On June 15, college basketball coaches have the ability to contact high school players that will be going into their junior year. Carlson will be an upcoming junior at East Ridge High School starting in September, but he's had a summer to remember.

"I had 14 or 15 different schools text and call me [on June 15]," Carlson said. "It's humbling to get these texts and phone calls from great programs across the country."

Carlson is smack dab in the middle of college recruiting for boys basketball and the process didn't start on June 15. It started over a year ago when Carlson visited Wisconsin on February 19, 2017, to make his first visit for college basketball.

His first offer came on September 16, 2017, when his family made a trip to Nebraska before attending a volleyball match at Kansas State University to watch Carlson's older sister play. The Nebraska offer would be one of many to follow in the next 10 or 11 months until he reached August of 2018.

Since September of 2017, Carlson has received offers from 11 different schools including six schools in the Big Ten Conference. These 11 schools, in no particular order, include Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Stanford, Davidson, Iowa State, Purdue, Northwestern, Kansas State, Iowa and Creighton.

Before June 15, 2018, Carlson was able to text and call coaches, but they weren't able to respond due to NCAA rules. Now that these coaches are able to call and text whenever they want, Carlson's phone is receiving notifications almost every day.

"Every offer and every phone call means a lot to me because it allows me to build my relationships with all of these coaches," Carlson said.

Carlson has visited many different schools and plans to visit more this upcoming month and this upcoming fall. Before he reaches the fall season, Carlson looks back at a summer filled with AAU basketball and his love for basketball continuing to grow more and more with each tournament and each day he's in the gym.

The junior forward from East Ridge is a part of Adidas' D1 Minnesota team, which is one of many different AAU programs throughout the state and the country. There are other leagues like Nike's EYBL teams, which consists of Howard Pulley, a Minnesota team that includes some of Carlson's East Ridge teammates like Courtney Brown Jr. and Kendall Brown.

Under Armour has a league as well to round out some of the popular shoe brand leagues. There are many different AAU basketball programs, but Carlson enjoyed his interaction with the coaching staff at D1 Minnesota and knew that would be a good place for him. He's been on the team for the past two summers and this team has allowed him to play all across the country.

This past month, Carlson played in New York, California and Illinois for weekend tournaments. D1 Minnesota plays against some of the biggest teams in the United States including teams that have handfuls of top 100 players in Carlson's graduating class, and other classes as well.

"It's a great chance to play against some of the biggest players in the country," Carlson said. "I always come out of tournaments with things I learned from other players to improve my game more."

Carlson and the D1 Minnesota team had a successful month of tournaments, which has helped him focus his game on certain aspects to prepare for the high school basketball season.

In New York, D1 Minnesota played in the Adidas Gauntlet, which is one of the most high-level tournaments across the country. Since it has high profile recruits, many college basketball coaches are there to scout out the players.

Due to NCAA rules, the coaches can't speak with the players before or after games, but they can watch each game on the sidelines.

"At first, it was fun to see some of the biggest coaches sitting on the sidelines for our games," Carlson said. "After the first tournament, I made sure to just focus on the game and not who was watching."

Each weekend, there's always a group of parents cheering on D1 Minnesota. Carlson said he and his teammates appreciate these parents travelling across the country to watch their children play.

The trips to California and Illinois were learning opportunities for Carlson and the entire team. In California, the tournament took place in Anaheim, but it was a longer weekend than what most of the players were used to in any other tournament.

The weekend consisted of eight games, including three games on Saturday, which caused more fatigue and a little more pain for players. Carlson said he learned how to manage his time and made sure to get enough sleep and plenty to eat and drink each day to rejuvenate his body.

He also brought foam rollers to stretch before each game and he said that helped him with getting his body in order before and after each game.

The Illinois trip took place in Chicago and it wasn't the best weekend for D1 Minnesota. The team didn't do great and eventually lost two games and ended their tournament and season in a way they weren't hoping it would end.

Even though the objective is to never lose a basketball game, Carlson looked at the weekend in a different kind of light.

"That weekend taught me that the team and I always have to play our best," Carlson said. "I also need to focus on the little things to continue improving my game."

Now that the summer is coming to an end, and the AAU basketball season is officially in the books, Carlson needs to focus on school, the high school basketball season and continuing his relationships with numerous college coaches.

For a 16-year-old boy, Carlson has many different responsibilities to control, but he's grateful to have parents and siblings that support him and help him every day.

June 15 might have come and gone, but the phone calls and interest from college coaches will continue to surround Carlson.

For now, Carlson is going to enjoy the ride and the opportunities he has to talk with each coach.

The one thing Carlson is ready for is the high school basketball season and trying to bring home a state championship to East Ridge High School.

"It's been a great experience so far [with college recruiting]," Carlson said. "Each school has something that makes it special. I'm just looking forward to learning more about each school."

Brian Mozey

I am the sports writer for the Woodbury Bulletin and South Washington County Bulletin. I'm a graduate from the Greenlee School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Iowa State University and have always had a passion for sports since a young age. Whether it was watching or playing sports, I always knew sports would be in my career. I've been born and raised in the suburbs of Minneapolis and look forward to continuing to learn more about the Woodbury and Cottage Grove area throughout my time in this position. 

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