By Joe Henricksen

Richardson departure continues new wave

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By Joe Henricksen

Rumblings last week were that Peoria Central's D.J. Richardson, fresh off a terrific spring and summer and arguably the top prospect in the state of Illinois, was leaving Peoria for a prep school. The rumors became a reality as Richardson is off to Findlay Prep in Nevada for his senior year.

Anytime there is movement such as this - a high-profile player leaving town and heading elsewhere - immediate alarms sound. Is the player going to qualify academically? Is the player listening to others and is it in his best interest to be making the move? Is the player still firmly committed to the college he verballed to? But as it happens more and more, particularly in the state of Illinois for the second straight year (DeAndre Liggins leaving Washington last last season for Findlay Prep), it is slowly evolving into a common practice.

With Richardson, it would be shocking - as long as he ends up as a qualifier - if he didn't end up playing for Illinois. He's been a solid commitment for nearly a year. He has the Illinois/Peoria ties, with his dad having the utmost respect for Illinois assistant Wayne McClain, the former Peoria Manual coach. And he has a strong relationship with the staff in general, which obviously includes another Peoria native, assistant Jerrance Howard. Plus, Richardson has been one of the pied pipers in terms of doing his own recruiting for the Illini as a committed player.

What is of more concern is the trend we're seeing. While all situations are different and some of the moves to prep schools may very well be warranted and what is best for the student-athlete, prep basketball in the state of Illinois does take a hit. You would hope the trend would be that these prospects take care of business right from the start when it comes to academics. We have seen academic casualties in the past as well. But the trends don't seem to be changing.

There are several players in the Hoops Report's top 30 in the Class of 2009 that have some serious academic woes. Many of them may not (will not?) qualify. And then there is the Class of 2010, where a few of the truly elite players have already dug themselves a big hole academically. Who knows just where those players may be 12 months from now. Could they, too, be prep school bound to help them get things in order?

This is just another reason why players like Lenzelle Smith of Zion-Benton is such a valuable commodity. The day Smith, who is the Hoops Report's No. 3 player in the Class of 2010 and a terrific student, commits to a school, that college coach can be at ease. Smith's academics are one less thing the college coach will have to worry about. Throw in the fact that Smith will in all likelihood be a four-year player in college instead of a one-and-done or two years and out, and it's easy to see why he is so coveted. Smith, who already enjoyed a magical season last year in leading the Zee-Bees to the Class 4A state championship game and a state runner-up finish, can enjoy his final two years as a prep player. He can receive individual attention and success, play with his friends and play for something (tournament, regional, sectional titles, etc.), live at home and enjoy the high school life. Too bad all prep players can't do the same.

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4 Comments

For the second year in a row, the state's (arguably) best player is transferring to a Nevada prep school to improve their chances of qualifying. It is fitting that these two players (Liggins and Richardson) come from the Chicago Public Schools and from Peoria, two perennial hotbeds of basketball talent and tradition in the state of Illinois.

The responsibility for good grades lies with the player, his family and high school staff. But there are other people who could affect the situation in a positive way.

First, GBOA, Nike and Reebok could make participation in their summer programs contingent upon meeting the academic standards needed for NCAA approval. It's one thing to invite kids to a camp or tournament where people remind them that they need to meet academic standards. It would be far more effective to deny them entry to camps or tournaments if they don't meet those academic standards. Right now you have kids failing academically who spend their summers mingling with NBA players at camps and playing in Las Vegas and Orlando tournaments. GBOA, Nike and Reebok have the kids' attention and could change this situation instantly if they wanted to.

Second, college coaches shouldn't be offering scholarships to underclassmen if those kids aren't meeting academic standards. In the case of both Liggins and Richardson, it appears that nothing was done until after their junior years in high school. Everyone involved (and a lot of people are involved) failed to notice the problem until it is perhaps too late. In the case of Liggins, Kentucky is still awaiting word from the NCAA on whether he has qualified or not. In the case of Richardson, he committed to Illinois before his junior season but it sounds like he won't qualify unless he is able to raise his ACT score.

These are high school kids. If they are going to NBA player and shoe company camps, if they are traveling to Las Vegas and Orlando for tournaments and if they are spending weekends hanging out on college campuses then it's not asking too much that they be passing their classes.

YOU ARE GRASPING AT STRAWS, THESE COACHES GET PAID TO
WIN, YOU NEED TO WATCH HOOP DREAMS!
HIGH SCHOOL YOUNGSTERS, COLLEGE COACHES ARE RECRUITING
GRADE SCHOOL YOUNGSTERS, HOW DO YOU THINK THEY KNOW
ABOUT THOMAS HAMILTON, JR.!
YOU ARE TRYING TO RE-INVENT THE WHEEL, WHY DO YOU THINK
THE YOUNGSTER BRANDON JENNINGS JUST WENT OVERSEAS TO
PLAY RIGHT OUT OF HIGH SCHOOL, HE SAID I'M NOT PLAYING
THE PREP SCHOOL, JUNIOR COLLEGE GAME, I'M GOING TO GET
PAID RIGHT AWAY!
THE SHOE COMPANIES ARE GETTING MORE RICH, WHY SHOULDN'T
THE PLAYERS WHO HAVE BEEN SUCCESSFUL NOT GET PAID AS
WELL, ANDRE IGUDALA JUST SIGNED A CONTRACT FOR 80
MILLION DOLLARS FOR 5 YEARS, HE PLAYED COLLEGE BALL FOR
ONE YEAR!
SOUNDS LIKE YOU ARE ENVIOUS OF HOW MUCH MONEY THESE
YOUNG MEN ARE MAKING, ONLY A SELECT FEW GO TO COLLEGE
AS REAL STUDENT-ATHLETES!
YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO DENY THESE PLAYERS THE RIGHT TO
EARN A LIVING AT SOMETHING YOU CAN'T DO!

YOU THINK THESE YOUNG MEN DON'T WANT TO QUALIFY FOR A
FREE EDUCATION, THAT'S WHY THEY GO TO PREP SCHOOLS,
SOME PREP SCHOOLS ACTUALLY EDUCATE THE BALL PLAYER,
THAT'S THE ONE THE PLAYERS SHOULD ATTEND!
QUESTION- DOES ANYBODY KNOW OF ANYONE ATTENDING THIS
FINDLAY PREP SCHOOL IN NEVADA AND THEY ACTUALLY
QUALIFIED FOR A DIVISION 1 SCHOLARSHIP?

You say I'm grasping at straws and tell me to watch a movie from 1994 that I already have a copy of. Then you leave reality completely behind in yet another screaming rant.

College coaches know about Thomas Hamilton Jr. because he is 13 years old, 6'7" tall and the son of a Chicago high school basketball legend. He spent his summer playing a nation-wide schedule of club ball games.

Brandon Jennings went overseas because the NCAA denied him entry to Arizona and he didn't want to stick around to answer the NCAA's questions about the suspiciously large jump in the SAT score he received on his second SAT attempt.

You misspelled Andre Iguodala's name and he played two full seasons of college ball. What does this four year NBA veteran signing a new contract with the 76ers have to do with DJ Richardson?

You then conclude by saying that I am denying high school senior DJ Richardson the right to earn a living. How am I doing this? By suggesting that Richardson be passing the classes he needs in order to qualify for college.

God forbid that kids ever pay you any mind. You'll have them out on the corner panhandling for chump change in no time.

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This page contains a single entry by Joe Henricksen published on August 11, 2008 3:43 PM.

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