Thursday, February 18, 2010
The question of being "too young"
These 7th grade, middle school basketball players in South Bend are already receiving contact from women's college coaches. One of them recentely "committed" to Rutgers. (She hopes to date in 2 years and get her driving learner's permit in 3...) And, no..the one on the left is NOT wearing a UofL letterjacket...
The college women's basketball recruiting process doesn't draw nearly as much attention as men's college hoops or the granddaddy of them all (college football) but national attention was recently drawn to a 7th grade girls' basketball player who "committed" recently to Rutgers University and C. Vivian Stringer. Kalabrya Gondrezick has made up her mind that she's headed to Rutgers.
After she's cleaned her room and helps Mom do the dishes.
I know what you're thinking. A great publicity piece for the middle school, the girl and a chuckle that C.Viv surely must be the greatest women's basketball recruiting analyst in the land.
I know this neighborhood girl...she's maybe 10 or 11...that can make three pointers in her parents backyard. Someone get on the phone to Jeff Walz or Matthew Mitchell. She's a can't miss prospect.
It's happened before. Current Notre Dame freshman sensation Skylar Diggins was sold on Muffett McGraw and Notre Dame before she entered the 9th grade. Must have been the leopard skin scarf that McGraw occasionally dons for games that did it.
Class of 2010 Louisville signee Antonia Slaughter told anyone that would listen that she was headed to Louisville back when she was a freshman. Probably helped that her older sister Toni was playing for the Lady Cards...but Tom Collen, not Jeff Walz was the current Cardinal coach then. Fortunately, she turned out to be an excellent player for Christian Academy and the Cards have a good one coming in next year.
How early is too early to decide where you are going to spend your four years in college? There is a commercial on the radio, maybe you've heard it, where a young boy is telling his father that he's going to play for the Cardinals..that he's going to be able to play basketball because of some sort of medical miracle that has happened for him. I'm sure Edgar Sosa and Samardo Samuels had UofL and Rick Pitino in their headlights when they were approaching puberty. Childhood dreams are one thing. Holding press conferences to discuss your college recruiting process and progress updates when you're 12 yrs. old is another.
In all seriousness, the increasing amount of authority and pull that AAU ball and the coaches who run it have...now make the skills of young players a year round factor now. I have a friend who has a daughter who plays on a "club" travelling volleyball team and area high school volleyball coaches are already making contact with her parents about her enrolling in their schools.
She is 11 years old.
The fact is this. There are very few women's college basketball programs that make money for their universities. UConn, Tennessee, Stanford, Notre Dame...maybe a handful of others. A lot of the others without the national name recognition are out there shaking the bushes and scouring the nursery schools for the next Angel McCoughtry, Maya Moore, Candice Parker or bionic women that will get fans into the seats, raise the program to a national recognition level and secure the coach's job for the next four years.
It is good that athletics and competition are being stressed to the youth of America...don't get me wrong. I'm all for healthy youngsters. Great skills that will help one later in life. But, there is a seamy side to it, also. A local high school assistant basketball coach recently told me that AAU and Club coaches are "warlords..mafia bosses" when it comes to the talent they posess 8 months a year. He went on to say that these coaches "attend the high school games, sit within earshot of the bench and the huddles and shout out instructions to their stars whenever they get the chance."
Coach Bob says dribble drive to the hoop. Coach Dave says rotate the ball and set up a good shot. Player John is confused.
When I was a kid, we used to play backyard basketball and would occasionally get up a team and ride our bikes to a neighboring subdivision to play kids from that neighborhood. Sometimes, the janitor of the local high school would let us "sneak in" and play on the court on Saturdays. There were no "maximum performance skills camps" or "all age, high hopes potential sports academy enrollments" around. Or the exorbidant fees associated with attending one. Is $2,000 too much to pay for a preteen to participate with other preteens in a 3 month league not associated with any school? Are those days of purity and innocence are gone for youth that want to play and get good at a sport?
I remember a quote from the late, great professional baseball coach Casey Stengel. He was asked about the future potential of one of his young ballplayers on the New York Mets. Casey wowed them when he said:
"Let's see...he's 19 years old now. I think in ten years, if all goes according to plan...he's got a great chance to be 29."
I'd expound more on that loss of innocence, but I've got to hit the door and catch the long awaited, highly anticipated hoops tilt between Miss Mary's Kinderschool and Bright Futures Daycare. I'll twitter, facebook, text and send up smoke signals with the results later.
These 4 year olds can flat out ball.
Written by Paul 2/18/10