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Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Hoop Dreams and Nightmares

Fellow bloggers have posted some good stuff lately on the world of basketball, and I'd like to point out those posts to you.

Hoop Nightmares

First, if you want a good read on stories about can't misses who became never wases, click here for Dave Sez's post (and the link is a must read). For all of the great stories about Luol Deng's family's escape from the Sudan and how Hakeem Olajuwon only took up basketball in high school and how Michael Jordan got cut from his HS team as a tenth grader, there are many more stories about people like Schea Cotton and Ronnie Fields.

On the one hand, I'm sure that people like Michael Jordan became who they are because they were so focused and they wouldn't listen to anyone who used the words "you can't." And I'm sure that the superstars of today, if they were in middle school, would read an article like the one on the link and say, "that can't happen to me, that's not me." And I'm pretty certain that they'll argue that were they to let any doubt into their minds, they wouldn't be where they are. And my guess is that many benchwarmers in the NBA, who starred somewhere at some time, would say similar things. And, as a result, it's unfortunate that there always will be the Schea Cottons and the Ronnie Fields, kids who were so focused on one and only one thing that they wouldn't listen to anyone else about living a total life, and, when they did listen to advice, they didn't always listen to the right people.

I hope that the kids with talent at any sport first and foremost enjoy the sport totally and soak it all in. Second, I hope that they learn sportsmanship, team work, the value of hard work and many other things that they can carry with them and use in good stead in later life in any endeavor they choose. Third, I hope that they learn the value of competition, the value of stepping up, the value of going for it, because we all will face competition in some form later in life. Lastly, I hope that if they're interested in pursuing athletics as a career, there are many possible avenues to pursue, and not just playing at the ultimate level. They can teach and coach, they can referee, they can work for networks who produce sporting events, they can help run teams or athletic departments some day. In this regard, they can still have athletics play an important role in their lives, but not an "all or nothing" role. Jay Bilas wasn't good enough to be an NBA player, but he's a fine analyst for college hoops on ESPN. Kimberly Belton was a star hoopster at Stanford who later earned critical acclaim as a sports producer for ABC. Steve Mills, the executive vice president for Madison Square Garden Corporation, was a star guard for Princeton. Doug Gottlieb, former Notre Dame and Oklahoma State guard, is an up-and-coming show host for ESPN Radio. There are many options; just look at the middle school and HS coaches who influenced you.

Hoop Pipe Dreams

The second post of interest comes from the College Basketball Website. We all like recruiting services, the websites that offer free and for-pay content about which HS kids are interested in what colleges. For some reason, Americans love drafts, love demographics, love to figure out who is going where. I don't know about you, but on an occasional awful weather day I'll pull out an old Street & Smith's or Blue Ribbon Guide and check to see how many HS all-Americans did well at the next level and how many pre-season college all-Americans did the same. It's great fun, and it's neat to see how your favorite college teams are doing in the recruiting wars.

To a point, however. Click here and here for posts by Yoni Cohen of the College Basketball blog and by Dave Sez on the very detailed efforts of a well-known recruiting service in assessing fourth-grade talent. No, that is not a typo.

How do you respond to that? If you're a shoe company, do you chase these kids and get them to sign a shoe contract? If you're an aggressive DI coach, do you start sending these kids letters? If you're a fan like me, do you run to your local pharmacy for the best over-the-counter anti-nausea medicine? Memo to this particular recruiting service, which has done outstanding work in the past: find a hobby, go into more details of the kids in HS you cover, but leave anyone not in HS alone.

Hoops Dreamboat?

(no, I never wrote for "Frasier")

A brief "get well" soon to one of the classiests acts in all of professional hoops, the Seattle Storm's Sue Bird, who broke her nose in the Storm's playoff win the other night and now needs surgery. The hearty, heady Bird might still try to play in the WNBA playoffs, and for me she's always been a symbol of what's right about college and professional sports.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm always happy to see that the SportsProf reads my site! Thanks for the link.

You may have noticed that I pay particular attention to the excesses and scandals in college basketball. Recruiting is obviously one place where these sorts of things happen the most, particularly in how star prep players are treated. Unfortunately, it seems to be happening at younger and younger ages, although fourth grade is just beyond ridiculous.


10:52 AM  

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