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Chicagoan’s mission is to help prep athletes land college scholarships

Chris Krause has names 400000 student-athletes his database. | For Sun-Times

Chris Krause has the names of 400,000 student-athletes in his database. | For the Sun-Times

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Updated: September 24, 2011 12:22AM

Afather recently had been diagnosed with cancer and wanted Chris Krause to help his daughter realize her dream of playing college golf, but there were two major obstacles: Her average score was 108, and her grade-point average was a mediocre 2.5.

‘‘I called the 50 worst golf programs and sent her information out, and 20 programs came back and said they would look at her,’’ said Krause, whose Chicago-based National Collegiate Scouting Association has tripled its membership during an era when recruiting scandals have rocked college sports. ‘‘She ended up getting a golf scholarship to a Division II program in North Carolina. She played all four years and graduated with golf on her resume.

‘‘She broke 100 finally, too.’’

Matching student-athletes with college coaches and recruiting coordinators long has been Krause’s passion. With the help of former Bears players Doug Plank and Tom Thayer and former Bears executive Ken Valdiserri, Krause’s fast-growing company shepherds high school athletes through the recruiting process. The service, which combines education, technology, in-house athletic evaluations and a vast network of college coaches, has helped about 40,000 high school athletes continue their careers in college.

‘‘Parents have to understand that it’s not the coach’s obligation to get their son or daughter recruited,’’ said Thayer, a former Bears guard and their current radio analyst, who sits on NCSA’s advisory board. ‘‘To put that obligation on the coach is unfair. When you have a service like NCSA, you can touch every college across the board and get a reflection of who’s interested.’’

A black-and-white photograph of the 1980 North Chicago freshman football team sits in Krause’s Old Town office. Although his is the only white face in the photo, that isn’t what stands out to him. While he was neither the best athlete nor the best student on the team, he was the only one to receive a college football scholarship.

The photograph illustrates his mission: He wants to make sure prospective student-athletes don’t end up like his former teammates.

‘‘The colleges didn’t know who the players were, and the players didn’t know there were opportunities at Division II and Division III,’’ Krause said. ‘‘I don’t think anyone encouraged them. No one said, ‘Hey, you’re good enough to play somewhere.’ ’’

Krause has the names of 400,000 student-athletes in his database, which equals the number of student-athletes competing collegiately in the United States today. Coaches are able to browse athlete profiles and watch recruiting videos. Athletes with custom memberships work directly with NCSA staffers, all of whom played college athletics themselves and have been through the recruiting process.

Corporate sponsorships and grants ensure that Krause doesn’t have to turn anyone away for lack of funds. The average scholarship offered to NCSA members in 2011 was worth $17,023.

Jay Straight said Krause helped him make the most important decision of his life. The former Dunbar High basketball standout was raised by his grandmother in the Robert Taylor Homes. He played on AAU teams with Dee Brown, Eddy Curry and Luther Head. Although he was highly recruited, he was unprepared for the recruiting process.

‘‘He taught us how to speak with college coaches,’’ Straight said of Krause. ‘‘We didn’t know how to do that. We didn’t know the right questions to ask. I’d ask coaches how long they were planning on being there. If he got an offer from Florida, would he take the job? How many points guards are you bringing in? Coaches were stunned that I was asking the questions I was asking.’’

Straight wanted to play immediately, so he turned down offers to schools such as Boston College and Marquette and signed with Wyoming, where he finished his career as the third-leading scorer in Mountain West Conference history. Now he is playing in Europe and helping to do for kids in his old neighborhood what Krause did for him.

‘‘The top 300 kids in the country don’t need help,’’ CBS College Sports recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said. ‘‘It’s the borderline Division I and Division II and III guys [and girls] that need help, and that’s 95 percent of the kids nationally. Parents think colleges are going to find them, and that’s hardly ever the case.’’

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