Life on the Recruiting Trail with Chester Nichols

Sept. 2, 2009

By Andrew Gavin

When talking to Chester Nichols, the conversation normally does not go in too many directions before landing on one of his biggest passions - recruiting. The first-year assistant coach on Joi Williams' women's basketball staff also serves as the recruiting coordinator, and after being hired in June, Nichols did not waste any time before hitting the recruiting trail.

Like most college basketball coaches around the country, Nichols and the rest of the UCF staff spent most of July out of the office and at NCAA certified events around the country, evaluating and identifying some of the top talent in the nation. With so much to do so quickly, the Florida native says he is just now "getting out of the boxes" after moving back to the Sunshine State after six years as an assistant at West Virginia.

He has no complaints about the transition, however, praising Williams and her staff for making things go smoothly.

"[The staff] has been phenomenal, and that is probably the biggest reason my transition has been smooth. The four of us are all working together, and I would say that recruiting here is not so one-dimensional. It is a collective effort."

Williams knew she was getting a coach with a proven track record of success in recruiting when she hired Nichols earlier this summer. In his six seasons at WVU, Nichols signed five top-20 recruiting classes.

With all that success, it is no wonder Williams was quick to make a hire and send Nichols on the road with the confidence he knew what he was looking for in future Knights.

"Probably the biggest key is identifying your needs. You have to get good people and good players. The biggest thing of all is you have to get people that love to play basketball," Nichols said. "Everyone in the gym knows from a skill point and a talent standpoint who can play, but from a mental toughness standpoint, you are looking for who is going to step up and take the big shot. Who is going to do the little things and the dirty work?"

With numerous key players returning from a UCF team that won the Conference USA tournament title in 2009, Williams signed just one player, Gevenia Carter, to join the Knights this fall. The 61st-ranked player nationally, Carter was a top-notch signee.

As the July recruiting period came to an end, Nichols turned his attention to welcoming the current Knights back on campus while also getting ready for in-home visits and official visits later this month. Despite being at UCF for only a few months, Nichols knows what is important to stress to prospective student-athletes during those visits.

"Just getting a quality education. Not only a good book education in the classroom but a good people education," Nichols said. "They have an opportunity at UCF to really grow as a student-athlete. Most kids don't have an opportunity to interact with the press on a daily basis or get a chance to go out and do community service. For our players, that is all a part of the education process. When they come out of the classroom and they come to our program, it is still part of that education. We are trying to prepare them for life after basketball."

Nichols is a passionate person. He is passionate about basketball, passionate about recruiting, and without even coaching a game at UCF, it is obvious he is already passionate about UCF women's basketball.

"I love [recruiting]. It is something you have to enjoy doing because your passion is going to show and it is going to carry over to the product that you put out on the floor," he said. "You have to find kids that are going to be enthused about playing for Joi Williams, and you have to find kids that are going to be enthused about playing for UCF and representing this university."