“Who do you write for?”

It was 2012, and I was in Charlottesville, Virginia, standing in a hotel lobby talking to a stranger. I had never been asked that question, so it took a moment to answer.

“No one,” I said. “I’m here to watch a kid from Nebraska compete against the top players in the country.”

In hopes of fitting in, I asked back: “Who do you write for?”

His answer: “Delaware Preps.”

Moments later, I again found myself explaining that I didn’t write “for” anyone, this time to a security guard and the event director of the National Basketball Players Association Top 100 camp.

The rules were clear: Without a media credential, I was not allowed to speak to any players or parents, but I had to sit with the media.

Fine by me.

I took a seat and soon met Dave Spahn, a college-age journalist who wrote part time for SLAM magazine. He was young, but he was as knowledgeable as anyone in the gym when it came to any given player’s recruitment.

That’s not all I learned while visiting with my new friend. In fact, I had what might be considered a minor epiphany.

“Hey, Dave, did you know Delaware has a website dedicated to high school basketball?” I asked.

Yes, he did know.

“Nebraska doesn’t?” he asked.

And I learned that, with no media affiliation, I was lucky to be sitting in this closely guarded gym, filled with amazing athletes.

My head was overflowing with thoughts of what kids — and fans — in Nebraska were missing, from recruiting updates to player analysis. But I had a full-time job and gathering, organizing and sharing all that information would take time. This passion project would have to be a side project.

Over time, a journey that started in a gym halfway across the country — where I went to see Omaha Central star Akoy Agau compete against the best — eventually blossomed into what Delaware and other states had: an outlet for accurate and well-sourced high school recruiting information with a focus on in-state kids.

It started with a Twitter account — now @NebHSRecruits — and would soon include a larger social media presence, a website and an events business. I expanded into football coverage, and soon it was hard to imagine how big it might grow. Maybe someday it could be a “real job.”

Now, it is.

In April, 2017, I officially started my new role as a preps recruiting specialist for The World-Herald, the state’s largest and most trusted news source. It is exciting to join an organization dedicated to providing top-notch journalism focused on Nebraska and western Iowa. While I don’t consider myself a journalist in the same way a lot of my colleagues do, I have proven adept at gathering and sharing information on up-and-coming athletes from around the state. Call it on-the-job training, as in I mostly trained myself because it was a fun second job. I spend hours and hours doing it, and now, by joining forces with The World-Herald, I do it even more. Together we’ve built a new website, NebHSRecruiting.com, which focuses on offering unmatched high school recruiting news, and you can now find that coverage on Omaha.com and NEPrepZone.com, too.

I’ll continue to break news there and on social media — just follow @MikeSautterOWH or @NebHSRecruits on Twitter. And we’ll continue to put on events that showcase talent from across the state.

With this new role, my mission of shining a light on the state’s high school talent will be magnified. You will be able to read recruiting analysis, comprehensive player rankings, breaking news or live coverage from wherever the job takes me, whether that’s a gym in Omaha, Des Moines or Dallas. Wherever Nebraska kids go — and they go just about everywhere — I follow.

Looking back, I am grateful for the relationships that I have built along the way, from one end of the state to the other. Looking forward, I hope to keep building on those relationships and making new ones as I move into even more sports, including girls basketball and volleyball, for instance.

Although the website where you find my work has changed, you can expect the same dedication to covering Nebraska high school recruiting that I’ve always provided.

A handful of years, thousands of tweets and countless stories later, I’m no longer wondering why Nebraskans can’t have what other states have.

Now, when asked who I write for, I have a clear answer. I write for the Omaha World-Herald, and I write for the people of this state.

I still be sitting in gyms, but I also have a place to sit in The World-Herald for my “real job.”

Mike is a prep recruiting specialist for The World-Herald. Follow him on Twitter @MikeSautterOWH. Phone: 402-444-1335.

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