College basketball is not an even playing field. Some schools have the history, the giant program with all the booster funding and the national spotlight. Other schools struggle to break into the limelight; forever behind the schools that did basketball first.
That’s why I love watching college recruiters work. The good ones can take a program and move it from obscurity to fame. A good recruiter can outmaneuver the big schools for the best high school talent in the country. They also have a keen eye for how a young man will develop into a program to create a unified team capable of winning the big games.
Yanni Hufnagel is the best underdog recruiter in the country. One of the first things that stands out about Yanni Hufnagel is that he is Jewish. There are very few Jewish people involved with high-level sports, especially basketball. He is also incredibly young as he is only in his early 30s.
Yanni Hufnagel was not even able to make his own high school basketball team. He became that team’s announcer and stayed close to the game by interning for the New Jersey Nets while attending Cornell University. He went on to become a graduate assistant at Oklahoma where he helped the basketball team with practices and on-campus recruiting.
He took those recruiting skills and experiences to Harvard University where he put together an incredible team. Harvard won its first Ivy League championship, which is saying something because Harvard is the oldest school in the country. The team went 79-24 during Yanni Hufnagel’s four-year recruiting stint.
Yanni Hufnagel has since recruited for Villanova and UC Berkeley. He has a knack for identifying future NBA draft picks. He is now the assistant coach and recruiter for the University of Nevada at Reno where he continues to do good recruiting work.