By Roy & Harv Schmidt
While nothing that occurs in the Chicago Public League surprises us any more, the recent wave of activity surrounding the high school basketball scene in the Windy City during the past two weeks has been more than we can take. From the Troynell Adams saga to the rash of fights at games to Wayne Blackshear's recent decision to transfer from Curie to Morgan Park, the situation is out of control. There is no question that something needs to be done, and once again we believe that we have the answer--in fact it is the ONLY answer--when it comes to fixing the problem.
In a blog that we wrote just after Thanksgiving, we expressed concern about the potential danger of AAU coaches becoming high school coaches. We said that it could lead to an increasing number of transfers with the top-tier players all wanting to play for the school where their AAU coach is at. In addition, we also noted that it was an issue that the Illinois High School Association and the Chicago Public League need to address immediately.
Sure enough, what we noted in November has already come to fruition, as Wayne Blackshear, one of the top high school basketball prospects in Illinois from the class of 2011, has decided to leave Curie and transfer to Morgan Park. In all due respect, it didn't take a rocket scientist to see this coming. With that being said and without mentioning any names, anyone who is in the know when it comes to high school basketball and the Public League knows the people who are behind Blackshear's decision.
Before we go any further, it is important to sort out fact from fiction in the Blackshear case. First of all, we knew that we would hear some type of excuse from someone in the Blackshear camp as to what prompted the transfer, and the first one came yesterday from Kevin Thomas (Blackshear's stepfather) when he said that he was worried about his son's daily commute to Curie on account of the recent violence that has occurred. Sorry, but that is baloney and an easy way to skirt the real issue. We have been to Curie numerous times to see games and the bottom line is that the area around Curie is probably less violent than the one at Morgan Park. Anyone who questions this only needs to be reminded of an instance last season in which some of the players on Simeon's team were jumped by other students as they were walking to the team bus after a game at Morgan Park.
There really is only one factor that drove Blackshear's decision to transfer and it is a simple one at that. Others won't tell you this, but we have it from two reliable sources that the people who wanted Blackshear at Morgan Park told Blackshear's mother that if he didn't make the move he would not land another high major D1 scholarship. This is funny considering that Blackshear is rated as one of the top three prospects in Illinois from the class of 2011 by just about every recruiting service out there and already sports scholarship offers from two quality high major programs in Illinois and Texas. It is therefore no wonder that Carolyn Blackshear (Blackshear's mother) was brainwashed into thinking that her son has no choice but to transfer to Morgan Park and as a result is taking steps to establish residency within the Morgan Park school district. As we think everyone can see, there is no question that the transfer is being made solely for basketball reasons.
Blackshear's transfer is quite similar to the situation that occurred eight years ago involving Najeeb Echols, who transferred in mid-season from Whitney Young, then spent a week at Leo and after learning that he would never be eligible there, transferred to Morgan Park. Ironically, Echols ultimately ended up being declared ineligible to compete at Morgan Park as well, and was on Morgan Park's bench in street clothes throughout the 2001 Class AA state finals, in which Morgan Park ended up with a third place trophy. The one notable difference between the two cases is that Echols, unlike Blackshear, was nothing close to being a student, which makes the Blackshear situation even more bizarre.
In light of all of this, we have come to the conclusion that there is only one solution to ending all of the garbage that exists in the Chicago Public League when it comes to transfers and recruiting involving high school basketball players. Calvin Davis, the Director of Athletics for Chicago Public Schools, needs to implement a new rule which permanently outlaws all athletic transfers within the Chicago Public League. If any athlete transfers schools for any reason whatsoever (it doesn't matter what the circumstance), he automatically forfeits his right to compete in high school athletics. Yes, we know it sounds harsh, but we are convinced that it is the ONLY way to eliminate the sleaze and the unsavory influence of handlers and others who simply think that they rule the roost when it comes to basketball in the Public League. Hopefully, it would send a loud and clear message that going to high school is about getting an education, not solely about playing basketball or any other sport.
Davis is saying that he will make a ruling regarding Blackshear's eligibility at Morgan Park in ten days and with it being a high-profile case there are several factors that he needs to take into consideration. However, with the way the rules are currently set up governing transfers in the Public League, we see no way that Davis could prevent Blackshear's transfer from taking place, nor would he be able to declare Blackshear permanently ineligible.
In all likelihood, under the current Public League by-laws Blackshear would probably have to sit out a year at Morgan Park and would be eligible beginning the second semester of his junior year (right around this time next season). Which leads to our next point: does Blackshear even realize how much time he will end up losing as the result of this decision and how it could end up affecting his recruitment as well as his future development? Obviously those people who influenced the transfer move don't care, as they are already building for next season at Morgan Park.
With that in mind, and as we have hinted at in the past, anybody with any ounce of integrity also has to be worried about the dangerous precedent that could be set as the result of Blackshear's transfer. Again, without pointing fingers at any individual in particular, remember the AAU team that Blackshear plays for. That is why we believe that unless someone in a position of authority prevents it, that there is a good bet that more players (most all of them high-profile) could attempt to transfer to Morgan Park as well, in fact we are almost willing to guarantee it. One player who has already been rumored to be among the candidates is Mike Shaw from De LaSalle, who along with Blackshear is one of the top prospects in the state from the class of 2011.
And then there are the possible ramifications that Blackshear's transfer could end up having with respect to his recruiting. There is no question that with Blackshear now at Morgan Park instead of Curie, it very much changes the recruiting landscape with respect to the college programs that are contenders for Blackshear's services. In fact we know two schools who have been recruiting Blackshear from the beginning whose chances are now probably diminished greatly.
The individual that we feel badly for and who did absolutely nothing whatsoever to deserve the fate that befell him was Curie head coach Mike Oliver, a good person who does things the right way. Oliver has handled Blackshear's decision with class, saying that he and the rest of his players have accepted it and that it is time to move on. That being said, did he really have a choice?
All of which cries out for an appeal to Calvin Davis. Again, for anyone who thinks that our proposal to outlaw all transfers is extreme, simply remember that Davis already acted in a most extreme fashion when it came to dealing with the increased violence that has been taking place in gyms throughout the Public League, as he decided to ban all visiting fans from attending Public League basketball games. We would argue that this decision is an even more controversial one because 1) it is difficult to enforce and 2) it runs the risk of infringing on the rights of innocent fans. However, if it results in providing a permanent solution to the problem, then so be it.
It is the same thing when it comes to putting an end to the transfer problem. Simply put, it is time for some law and order. By disallowing any athletic transfers whatsoever, it sends a loud and clear message that priorities are going to be put in order and that basketball (or any other sport) is not the end-all when it comes to a student's success at a Chicago Public League school. The one person who is capable of implementing this and making it a reality is Davis. Therefore, we are making one last request. Mr. Davis, you are the one who can clean up this mess once and for all. Let's make it happen!