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Blog Entry

Basketball recruiting only getting creepier

Posted on: November 4, 2011 3:41 pm
Edited on: November 4, 2011 3:42 pm
 
By Matt Norlander

I view the recruitment and evaluation of 12-year-old boy basketball players the same way I do giving candy to a high school senior on Halloween. It's wrong, unethical and the parents are surely to blame for it coming to this.

And I have to add the obvious: Organizing national talent-evaluation events/games/trophies for middle schoolers is bleeping creepy. You know it is. You know it is. Sometime in the past decade, that line has been scrubbed away by coaches desperate to keep their jobs, parents desperate to get rich off their children, and middle men disguised as community leaders, working toward an endgame that involves a relationship well after these kids (KIDS) leave college.

Deadspin.com's Emma Carmichael recently attended one of these weekend supercamp events, wherein she saw some of the nation's supposedly best future prospects in hoops. Within the walls of Baruch College's gym, a healthy and naive cluster tweens and teens, who've already been contacted in some way by major programs, played their still-growing hearts out. One player, KeJuan Johnson, perceived by some as the No. 1 prospect in the 2015 class, has already been asked to verbally commit to Kentucky.

That kid can't even verbally commit to brushing his teeth tonight.

But Johnson's already in high school, and I've no real issue with full-blown evaluations of freshmen. There's a nebulous changeover once a kid formally becomes a ninth-grader, but I get it. There are a lot of issues to deal with there, but I get it.

However, the Jim Couch Foundation also held games for boys still dreaming about the goal of taking the next step in education one day. Yep, moving on ... to high school. Middle-schoolers. Oh, it's tawdry, all right.
Today's JCF event also features a middle-school all-star game. While the 13- and 14-year-olds take over the main floor, the freshmen move to the auxiliary gym across the hall for more of their regimen. Over the hollow sucking noise of the air ducts, a team of coaches shouts drill directions. The players jump one-legged from orange cone to orange cone and high-step over mini hurdles. At center court, they stand on a flat-bottomed exercise bubble. Without falling over, they must hold a basketball in triple-threat position while a coach slaps it with boxing pads.

There aren't many people sitting in this gym's narrow stands, but next to me is an older white man in a sweater and loafers, writing notes on a single piece of paper tucked inside a folio. At the top he's written "EVAL," and underlined it. I read the first line: "#11 - white." He's referring to Andrew Fleming, a kid from Tennessee who is white. It is the least debatable assessment I'll encounter all day.

After 45 minutes of drills, a representative from the Knicks' community outreach program hands out blue and white jerseys for the game. Couch says they've been donated by anonymous benefactors. This adds to the vaporous quality of the whole Junior Big-Time operation. All day, the parents of the proto-prospects will say they're not thinking about colleges just yet, and the coaches and organizers and trainers will declare that they're only doing it to help the kids.

Nevermind the fact that nearly every human being in that gym should've probably been doing something more effective with an October weekend in front of them, the insistence that this is for the benefit of the kids will increase in fraudulence as the years go forward.

Those involved in this, particularly the parents and organizers, love to claim it's a grassroots effort to cultivating teamwork and a sense of self for these kids. The process is anything but organic. That kind of development should come the way it did for 50 years: with a kid dominating over other 12-year-olds in gym class, then arriving in high school and letting the process take its natural -- if influenced and flawed -- course from there.

Jerry Love, who owns and operates MiddleSchoolElite.com -- a site whose existence I only offer up for context, not for linking, because I feel like I've hacked into an FBI investigation document upon looking at it -- is quoted in Carmichael's story. He's moved his family, including his son, Jerron, who Jerry ranks among the best prospects for -- God, I don't even want to see what year this is -- 2016, out to California. It's for the purpose of getting Jerron more exposure, and leaving an area where the Love family became alienated over Jerry's ranking practices.

He wants a fresh start, so he's uprooted his maybe-really-talented kid.

Carmichael's kicker is terrific and sad and poignant.

Jerron, who played a consistent but not spectacular game—6 points and 4 assists, one turnover on a failed between-the-legs pass on a fast break—tells me that he likes California, even though "it's a big change" from the Bronx. He's incredibly composed; it's clear that he's had a tape recorder in front of him before.

When I ask him his height, he corrects his posture and stands up straight. He's 5-foot-9, but his doctor has told him he'll be 6-1.

"6-2, hopefully. I haven't balanced out yet. Gotta be careful about what I eat. I'm somewhat careful. But I'm still a kid, you know?"

I know. His father knows. Everyone involved in middle school recruiting knows they're just kids. But where's the evidence that organizers and cultivators care?

Photo via Deadspin, Steven Counts

Category: NCAAB
Comments

Since: Feb 8, 2007
Posted on: November 7, 2011 8:34 am
 

Basketball recruiting only getting creepier

I just want to rehash how Norlander is getting owned. hahahahh  I will as well, add him to my list of non-click purps 
 

I would say the statement about being asked to verbal to Uk is a blaton lie! There are top 5 players that have not been offered by Uk
some of them juniors! This article is complete trash, Matt Norlander should be fired!
ruppman
These "journalists" know that by writing salacious comments about the most prominent teams that they will generate the most traffic. All these clicks mean money and there is no more rabid fan base than UK basketball fans. One wonders why there is no comment from the UK coaching staff regarding this allegation. Probably because it is so ridiculous it wouldn't warrant a response, yet the editor allowed the article to be published.

UK is again tagged to a negative article without any verifiable proof. Where is the journalistic integrity?
-tokyosatchel
 

Matt Norlander's journalistic integrity is pathetic...non-existent.  UK, under Calipari, waits until much later in the game than any other program to make offers b/c we/they can.  It does not make one lick of sense for UK/Coach Cal to offer a 9th grader...NONE whatsoever.  Thanks, Matt, for allowing us to add your name to the growing list of morons from which to immediately skip future articles knowing they will crap.
-maxbps
Norlander, is stooping to a new low here!  I think, he still thinks that Billy Gillispie is at UK, and offering 2-Star, 8th graders scholarships.  This is Cal, Norlander!  He offers scholarships quite late, and has been since being at UK.  I love how sports journalism over the last decade has come to making salaciously false claims, just so they get clicks on their website.  WOW, is their anything that is not driven by the buck, and instead has some honor behind it?
-Rationalcat
I'm just glad that Matt wrote a similar article last year when Trey Lyles committed to Indiana! Only thing is I can't seem to find it anywhere. I hope it's not cuz he's a hater.
-becksultd
The NCAA has already addressed that coaches cannot recruit middle school students. So likely the alleged contact and offer by Kentucky was outed by the player or his dad. It does not mean it happened. I am not a fan of Kentucky but believe in fairness and dislike journalistic innuendos that are unsubstantiated.

-lee3022



Since: Dec 10, 2006
Posted on: November 5, 2011 12:12 pm
 

Basketball recruiting only getting creepier

I have no problem with "elite" opportunities for very young prospects. It is never a bad idea to have the best get together to play with and against each other so they can see what the top level looks like.

I do however have a huge problem with evaluations and projections because it is way too early for that. I have worked with some developmental coaches and you would hear such things as "He will be the best high school player to ever go through our system." At the time the kid might be 11 years old.

Why is this wrong and why is it so hard to accurately predict who will develop and who won't?

Firstly- the accolades sometimes lead to kids not working at their game as hard. They believe their own press. Five years later other hungrier players have passed them.

Puberty is kind to some- nasty to others. There are some kids who are the biggest and strongest in grade 8, then they stop growning. They hit puberty early and LOOK better.

Some kids can be under rated. The variable is how hard they work on their game from age 12 onward. They pass higher ranked players by outworking them.

Finally, some kids develop other interests, other sports. I remember systems developing here in Canada, building a whole program around a handful of elite athletes going through the system. Less athletic kids sitting on the bench or quitting the game because the total focus was on the elites. Then in grade 8 or 9 the elites quit to play hockey. Then the system falls apart because development has focussed on a small group.

Developing players should start broadly at a young age. The goal has to be to develop a LOT of good players and turn them on to the game.  Don't single out anyone as a superstar- let them develop together.Then the kids will weed themselves out as they get older. Start with a few hundred enthusiatic kids playing mini ball, you will end up with a high school varsity 12 you can be proud of.



Since: Jun 1, 2009
Posted on: November 5, 2011 9:29 am
 

Basketball recruiting only getting creepier

Norlander is a liar. He should have to prove his assertion or recant it. And, if honor were involved he would do one or the other. Out of everyone involved Norlander is probably the youngest (at least mentally). What a pathetic little weasel. 



Since: Nov 5, 2011
Posted on: November 5, 2011 4:58 am
 

Basketball recruiting only getting creepier

This article doesnt make me wanna buy john wall shoes. Also does that offer still count if BCG was blacked out at the time?



Since: Dec 5, 2006
Posted on: November 5, 2011 1:33 am
 

Basketball recruiting happens

Organizing national talent-evaluation events/games/trophies for middle schoolers is bleeping creepy. You know it is. You know it is.
You can say this. I agree. Except anywhere public is a talent-evaluation game. It is what it is. The NBA had to bar coaches and scouts from high school gyms. But they still go to summer league games. There is one glaring problem with the idea that middle school players should be only playing in their school's gym. That is an event televised by ESPN every year. An event for 10 yr. olds, 11 yr. olds and 12 yr. olds. See where I am going with this? It is called the Little League World Series.

The NCAA has already addressed that coaches cannot recruit middle school students. So likely the alleged contact and offer by Kentucky was outed by the player or his dad. It does not mean it happened. I am not a fan of Kentucky but believe in fairness and dislike journalistic innuendos that are unsubstantiated.



Since: Dec 13, 2008
Posted on: November 4, 2011 10:58 pm
 

Basketball recruiting only getting creepier

I'm just glad that Matt wrote a similar article last year when Trey Lyles committed to Indiana! Only thing is I can't seem to find it anywhere. I hope it's not cuz he's a hater.



Since: Mar 15, 2010
Posted on: November 4, 2011 10:56 pm
 

Basketball recruiting only getting creepier

Norlander, is stooping to a new low here!  I think, he still thinks that Billy Gillispie is at UK, and offering 2-Star, 8th graders scholarships.  This is Cal, Norlander!  He offers scholarships quite late, and has been since being at UK.  I love how sports journalism over the last decade has come to making salaciously false claims, just so they get clicks on their website.  WOW, is their anything that is not driven by the buck, and instead has some honor behind it?




Since: Mar 27, 2007
Posted on: November 4, 2011 9:51 pm
 

Duped!

These "journalists" know that by writing salacious comments about the most prominent teams that they will generate the most traffic. All these clicks mean money and there is no more rabid fan base than UK basketball fans. One wonders why there is no comment from the UK coaching staff regarding this allegation. Probably because it is so ridiculous it wouldn't warrant a response, yet the editor allowed the article to be published.

UK is again tagged to a negative article without any verifiable proof. Where is the journalistic integrity?



Since: Oct 20, 2009
Posted on: November 4, 2011 8:07 pm
 

Basketball recruiting only getting creepier

I agree.  I would love to see the proof that he has been asked to verbal to UK cuz even Chris Walker hasnt been offered.  That is not how Cal recruits.



Since: Apr 12, 2007
Posted on: November 4, 2011 8:01 pm
 

Basketball recruiting only getting creepier

Matt Norlander's journalistic integrity is pathetic...non-existent.  UK, under Calipari, waits until much later in the game than any other program to make offers b/c we/they can.  It does not make one lick of sense for UK/Coach Cal to offer a 9th grader...NONE whatsoever.  Thanks, Matt, for allowing us to add your name to the growing list of morons from which to immediately skip future articles knowing they will crap.


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