Traditionally, Germantown Friends is the last school that comes to people’s minds when they hear the phrase “jock school”. This perception may be founded on the school’s small size, academic rigor, and absence of athletic scholarships, but over the past few years, the school has been morphing into perhaps one of the most scholastically distinguished “jock school”. The athletic program has been churning out elite athletes by the dozens, who can now be found representing DI to DIII collegiate programs from California to Maine.
The process of becoming a college athlete is not one that most members of the GFS community are privy to, however it is a process that is slowly becoming commonplace amongst GFS athletes. More than ten members of the sophomore and junior classes, and members of every sports team, are currently being recruited. The recruiting process can be defined as the way in which college coaches handpick the athletes that they want to represent their university for the next four years. Despite the many disparities in the recruiting process of each athlete, one aspect can be universally agreed upon by all involved: The process is very time consuming for students, and requires years of hard work and unwavering commitment to achieve the end goal of a college coach saying “yes, we want you.”
Junior basketball standout Andrew Aldridge comes from the opposite end of the spectrum in terms of both the process, and his destination. Aldridge is considering a number of DII and DIII schools, including local schools Swarthmore and Franklin & Marshall, as well as a number of West Coast schools such as LA’s Occidental College. Following an impressive first year of varsity basketball in his sophomore year, he decided that he was interested in furthering his playing days at the collegiate level. Since then, he has been doing everything under the sun to raise his profile as a player.
“I simply started by registering as a basketball player on each school’s website, just to let them know I was interested and to get my name in their database.” Aldridge explains. He then joined Philly Triple Threat, a local AAU team that he had heard about from teammates Jamil and Jalil Pines-Eilliot. AAU ball, coupled with a couple of open showcases over the summer, built a solid foundation for Aldridge in terms of exposure, but he couldn’t begin to imagine what his junior year would bring.
It started with the appointment of former Philadelphia University assistant coach Shawn Werdt as the school’s new head basketball coach. “Coach Werdt has connections to colleges all along the east coast,” Aldridge said. “I remember playing in the fall league and seeing college coaches at all of our games, and feeling a huge sense of motivation and excitement.”
Aldridge credits his coach immensely for both getting him exposure and giving him advice on his future.
“He has done so much to help get me connections and give me the opportunity to play in front of people who matter. He’s told me you never want to go to a college just to play basketball, or else it will become a job. You need to find that balance, and that is something that I have taken to heart in this whole process,” he said.
Aldridge enjoyed a break-out year this year, leading the Tigers in rebounding, double-doubles, and field-goal percentage en route to All-League honors and a playoff berth, which raised his ceiling from that of a local DIII prospect, to a potential scholarship athlete at prestigious DII schools. However, with a higher ceiling comes a heavier workload. “I have showcases with Philly Hoop Group almost every weekend, coach Werdt has lined up a number of campus visits and workouts with coaches for me, I am playing in spring and summer league, I have spent the last couple of months editing down game footage from this year to send to West Coast schools that have never seen me play, and on top of all that, I have to be thinking about potential schools that I don’t want to play basketball at,” Aldridge said.
“I have to deal with all the normal academic pressure of colleges but I have far less time to do so because of basketball.”
Aldridge has forgone playing AAU ball again this year because of the time commitment, but even so says that the self-advocating required in the recruitment process feels a bit overwhelming.
“It’s a job in a sense. You’re doing it all the time. I go home, eat, do my homework, email coaches, edit video and go to bed. I even had to set up a separate email account purely for (dealing with) getting recruited,” he said. “When dealing with DII and DIII schools you have to be your biggest self-advocate. You really have to put yourself out there and pursue colleges, rather than them pursuing you. I think that is one of the common misconceptions about being recruited,” Aldridge said. “It’s not like I’m being recruited by Kentucky and have John Calipari flying out here to come see me play or anything. I have worked hard to establish connections and hope that something comes of it.”
Despite the added pressure and workload, Aldridge is looking forward to what he says will be a proving ground of a senior season for him. He is relishing the opportunity of being the team leader. He wants to show his potential future coaches that “last season was not a fluke” and that he can achieve that same level of production. “The process is a tough one,” he concedes, “but I love playing basketball and won’t give up until I know that I can play at the next level.”