The decision by Wayne Blackshear, one of the nation's leading sophomore basketball players, to transfer from Curie to Morgan Park has been a source of conversation in the court of public debate in recent days. In my view, it shouldn't have been permitted.
There have been some notable transfers in the past...Fred Riddle from Madison to Collinsville, Bumpy Nixon from Quincy to Galesburg and Nick Anderson from Prosser to Simeon. Each stirred up considerable controversy at the time. But the moves, for one reason or another, were approved.
I remember the Anderson case very well. He was an All-Chicago Area player at Prosser as a freshman and sophomore. Then he chose to transfer to Simeon because he wanted to play with Ben Wilson. At the request of Prosser coach Gene Ideno, I went to the Anderson home on the West Side to meet with Nick and his family.
I didn't think it was a wise decision. In those days, the Illinois High School Association actually had a rule that stated boys and girls weren't permitted to transfer to another school for the sole purpose of playing sports. Later, of course, the IHSA was pressured into changing its position and now transfers are as plentiful as flip-flops.
Call me naive but I have always thought, like some educators who refuse to buy into the idea that high school is a developmental league for the NBA and NFL, that the purpose of high school was to educate students and prepare them for college, that sports was a privilege and not a right, that the job of coaches was to teach fundamentals and not produce scholarship athletes.
I guess I was wrong. In 50 years of covering high school sports, I've seen just about everything you can imagine...changing grades to allow athletes to remain eligible or qualify for college, firing coaches because they didn't qualify for the state playoff or produce enough scholarship athletes and schools recruiting athletes so they can win a state championship. Remember when coaches who exercised "undue influence" were penalized? Now the term "undue influence" is an obsolete as a Corona typewriter.
Now people don't want to play by the rules. In fact, they don't want rules at all. And it's almost coming to that. The IHSA seemingly has become powerless. How will the Chicago Public Schools deal with the Blackshear case? Who's next? Will everybody be satisfied if five McDonald's All-Americans transfer to the same school?
Blackshear, like Anderson, should have stayed at home. Mike Oliver is a good man and a good coach and he has developed a good program at Curie. Blackshear, like Anderson, doesn't need exposure in another program to attract college recruiters. His academics need polishing, not his jump shot. Somebody should be thinking about that priority. He has two years to decide where to go to college.
Contrary to some opinions, Blackshear and anyone else with good hops doesn't have a constitutional right to play basketball at any school of his choice. He will have a year to think about that as he watches other kids play the game he says he loves from the bleachers. Is it worth the sacrifice? I don't think so. A year from now, I hope he agrees with me.