By Joe Henricksen

Disturbing? Out of control? Yes, but don't blame the kid

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By Joe Henricksen

I opened my Time magazine this week to find yet another article on the hot topic in basketball recruiting:

courting eighth-graders. East Aurora's Ryan Boatright was the featured athlete in the story, with

two full-page pictures of the 138-pound 14-year-old in this national magazine. When the Boatright-to-

USC commitment was announced last June, more than two months prior to even taking a high

school class, I looked at it as a sign of the times. Heck, it wasn't that bad, Arizona offered

Matt Carlino of Scottsdale, Ariz. two years ago when he was just in 7th grade.


We'll start with whose at fault. I suppose it's the fault of the media and the countless number of basketball talent

evaluators--some real, some self-proclaimed--that continues to feed this frenzy of overhyping young players at an

early age. I could blame the college coaches, who have picked up on the trend of offering junior high kids

scholarships. Or how about the AAU coaches who roll out their young, teen-aged prodigies like runway models in

New York and Paris, looking to be noticed? The parents probably need to take a little of the blame as well. The point

is, it's difficult to blame the kids with so many adults feeding them nonsense, non-binding promises and all the glory

typically reserved for a professional athlete.


College coaches are feeling more and more pressure to find, attract and secure early commitments for fear of

losing them when they could have had them early on in the recruiting game. Prospects are feeling the weight on

their shoulders of securing a scholarship as early as possible, hoping it eases some of the pressure they would

certainly face as the recruiting race heats up to a feverish pitch down the road. You know, under the

circumstances of the current culture of college basketball and recruiting, I get it. I don't necessarily like it, but I do

understand it and can sympathize with both sides. It is what it is: high stakes (coaches being fired, players being

overlooked), big money (coach's salary/player's scholarship) and high-dose pressure.


But what I find so disturbing, especially in this case, is the mindset that develops due to the early commitment,

media coverage and all the fanfare and hype that comes with it. What I hate to see are the quotes I read in the

Time article, where Boatright states the following: "The plan is to go for a year, then go to the NBA. The

sooner I can take care of my family, the better."


As I said, I had no problem with the verbal commitment from Boatright if that's truly what he and his family felt was

the right thing to do at that time. After all, it's a verbal commitment that either side--the player or college coach--can

basically back out of, although the last thing a college coach wants to get into the habit of is breaking his word on a

verbal commitment. That trend can kill a coach's credibility quicker than anything.


I have sat down and spoken with Boatright and his dad, even featuring the player and his early commitment in the

summer issue of the City/Suburban Hoops Report. All things considered, they have a pretty good grasp

on things, are likeable and open-minded. I am pulling for him as I know the pressure that will follow in the next four

years. But that aforementioned quote---the dream of a one-and-done college career and taking care of the family---

that's the mindset that develops. When the scholarship is offered, the commitment is made---all at the tender age of

15, 14 and even 13 years old---the next goal is often beyond reality. And that's when you start to worry.


To subscribe to the City/Suburban Hoops Report publication, call (630)-408-6709 or e-mail hoopsreport@yahoo.com. The first issue of the year is due out in late November.

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1 Comment

Thanks for the great post this was exactly what I needed to read

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Joe Henricksen published on September 30, 2007 12:24 AM.

Pingatore, Goers more than just the wins was the previous entry in this blog.

Terrific trio a start for Illini--and just what the doctor ordered is the next entry in this blog.

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