In the last several weeks, there have been many rumors, innuendos, falsehoods and unsubstantiated reports posted on the Internet and published in newspapers about the recruiting of Oak Park basketball star Iman Shumpert.
Let's deal with the facts:
The 6-4 guard skyrocketed to national attention with outstanding performances in the spring and summer. One scouting service hailed him as the 15th best player in the country. All agree he is a legitimate candidate for McDonald's prestigious 25-man All-America squad. Quite an impressive move for a youngster who wasn't even ranked among the nation's top 200 after last season.
On July 16, Matt Ryndak, Shumpert's AAU coach and the newly hired coach at Johnsburg High School, called me to announce that Shumpert had narrowed his college choices to five--Bradley, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Marquette and North Carolina--and was in the process of calling other schools, including Illinois and Notre Dame, that he had scratched from his list.
Ryndak, who said he was acting in consort with Oak Park coach Al Allen and the Shumpert family, requested that the news be held for one day to allow for Iman to inform all of the colleges that had offered scholarships. He said the youngster wanted to trim his list at that point "as a gesture of respect to all the schools recruiting him, thus giving them an opportunity to shift their focus on otheer prospects."
The Chicago Sun-Times agreed, then jumped the gun and published the news on his Website. Why? In the very competitive journalism business where the Internet and radio deal in minutes while newspapers deal in hours, even days, it was argued that Shumpert's decision would become public knowledge on someone else's Website if the Sun-Times chose to wait. As soon as Shumpert told one school of his decision, everyone would be alerted. That is the nature of recruiting.
No sooner had the Sun-Times released the information that it had obtained from Ryndak, he called to say that he and the family already had received several calls to inquire about Shumpert's decision. Minutes later, Ryndak called again. The telephone was jumping off the hook.
Ryndak said he and the family wanted the news to be removed from the Sun-Times Website, that Shumpert wouldn't have anything more to say about his recruiting until he narrowed his list to three. Later, Al Allen compounded the problem by claiming that the Sun-Times report wasn't true, that it never happened, that there never was a list of five. He knows better.
Respecting Shumpert's wishes, the Sun-Times pulled the story. It shouldn't have. The story was accurate and the news was out of the bag. You can't put ketchup back in the bottle. The backlash was the Sun-Times took some unwarranted criticism for its decision from some sportswriters and Internet contributors who were clueless.
Later, Shumpert announced his final three--North Carolina, Marquette and Georgia Tech. He plans to make official visits in the next two months, then make a decision.
The Shumpert case serves as an example for all of us. Why make an announcement that you have narrowed your list of colleges from 10 to five, then make another announcement that you have narrowed your list from five to three, then call a press conference to announce your final choice? Why not wait until you are ready to make a final decision and avoid all the hoopla? This is supposed to be an important decision, not an ego trip.
For their part, the newspapers and recruiting services and college Websites won't stop doing what they are doing. In some cases, it's about making money. Some call prospects every day. Everyone wants to beat the other guy for a story. Who will be the first to announce Shumpert's final decision?
You can bet that, no matter which school he chooses, the winner of the Shumpert sweepstakes will be revealed on somebody's Website before he calls all of the coaches involved.