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.
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