Evaluating high school football and basketball players and trying to determine if they are good enough to play at Notre Dame or Northern Illinois or Wisconsin-Whitewater is like predicting tomorrow's weather or playing the ponies.
Take Cully Payne, for example.
The Alabama-bound point guard from Schaumburg once was a Jay Leno joke after committing to DePaul as an eighth grader living in Burlington. Nobody took him seriously until last month, when he put on a Derrick Rose impersonation at the Pontiac Holiday Tournament.
Now recruiting analysts who used to waste a lot of space bragging that they are more knowledgeable than their Internet competitors--I've seen more games than you have," nah, nah nah--are falling over themselves by claiming they knew all along--or before anyone else--that Payne belongs in the same sentence with Jereme Richmond, Brandon Paul and perhaps Reggie Smith and Darius Smith.
Does it matter? Do they matter?
The fact is no one has a patent on evaluating. It is an imperfect science. No matter how much experience you have, how many years you've worked in the business or how many games and players you have seen, you still get some right and some wrong.
You don't have to be an "expert" to know that Kevin Garnett is a big-time player. If you saw him once as a senior at Farragut, you knew it. The same could be said for Derrick Rose or Isiah Thomas or Mark Aguirre or Doc Rivers or Cazzie Russell or George Wilson.
But Rashard Griffith never played a minute in the NBA. Did you predict that in 1993? Jamie Brandon didn't make it, either. Did you predict that in 1990? After seeing Ronnie Fields execute his spectacular high-wire act in 1995 and 1996, did you think he'd spend his best years in the CBA?
How about Deon Thomas, Marcus Liberty, Jerry Gee, Kiwane Garris, Sherrell Ford, Tom Kleinschmidt, Russell Cross, Bruce Douglas and Raymond McCoy?
Did you predict that Hersey Hawkins, a 6-3 center at Westinghouse, would have a successful career in the NBA? Did you project a long and distinguished career for La Grange's Jeff Hornacek?
The trick is not to take yourself too seriously, fans or analysts. We are all critics. We see the same movie or eat at the same restaurant or drive the same car or read the same book or watch the same player and our reviews often don't agree. The fun is in agreeing to disagree and not getting your nose out of joint while doing it.