Recruiting: When the Local Star Doesn’t Stay Home

When the Local Star Doesn’t Stay Home
November 6, 2013

Minnesota’s “Big Three” of Tyus Jones, Rashad Vaughn and Reid Travis are among the dwindling list of uncommitted stars from the 2014 recruiting class. Staying in the Twin Cities and playing for the hometown Gophers remains a possibility for each of them although most people believe only Travis is strongly considering Minnesota. He plans to announce his decision this Friday.

When a recruit’s commitment isn’t in agreement with a fan’s desire, responses from the fan often range from disappointed to disrespectful. This is true across many fan bases.

To be disappointed is understandable. To be disrespectful is disgraceful. Fortunately most kids and their supporters aren’t going to be overly bothered by numskulls who act a fool.

Freedom of speech is a wonderful thing and everyone has a right to say what they would like to. With that said, I’ll offer a few thoughts from my perspective.

There is no checklist
Like many decisions in life, choosing a college is largely subjective and each individual is are different. Whether it’s choosing a car, a house, a job, a mate, a political candidate or a toothbrush, what is important to one person is not necessarily important to the next.

In the case of a college the reality is often a final decision comes down to a “feel”.  It’s a big decision and there’s not a right or wrong answer. In hindsight there may be regrets, but that’s true about any big life decision.

What I believe most kids should do is go to school where they believe they’ll be most happy. Whatever they think will work best for them is where they usually should be. That is a decision for the recruit to make with help from those close to them.

Reasons to get mad
If a recruit states that, “I hate ABC University because it’s a horrible place and all of their fans are dumb”, criticizing that recruit may be in order (indirectly only – fans having direct communication with prospective student-athletes is generally a bad idea no matter if you’re giving them praise or a hard time).

If a player from your city is committing heinous crimes, flunking out of school, etc. while in college, go ahead and criticize (again, indirectly). 

Disappointment in a recruit’s decision can be understandable, but publicly lashing out at them for their decision on which college to attend is usually a disgusting and disgraceful act. Even making comments that you believe they made “a bad decision” would require knowledge and insight that you probably don’t have.

For those who need to spew negativity, I’ll give you one more acceptable reason to speak out about a player: if a kid thinks Drake is a dope mc, criticism is in order.

More than #blessed
As much as the “#blessed” hashtag on Twitter might seem overdone, the intent by most kids is to express their humbleness and appreciation for the position they are in.

There are a lot of kids who are naturally gifted and great basketball players, yet never see high level high school basketball or beyond. For many, they are truly in a disadvantaged position (i.e., socioeconomic status). Others just don’t work as hard as they can. Whatever the case, most kids who are entertaining D-I scholarship offers have reason to be grateful and therefore the use of “blessed” is fine by me. 

However, kids often won’t stress this when talking about their accomplishments so I will: being blessed or fortunate can be a big part of the equation, but the overwhelming majority of kids also have to put in a ton of work. Even those who are born with amazing athletic gifts have to work every day or risk losing ground relative to their goals and potential. Most young basketball players aren’t achieving based on natural ability alone.  It’s work, dedication, commitment, etc.

The amount of time and energy that so many of these kids put into basketball is amazing. Staying humble and saying you’re blessed is a fine gesture by young basketball players. But understand that most of these kids work their tails off so that their blessings don’t go to waste.

Whether they’re high in the national rankings or just hard working basketball players at the high school level, most of these kids deserve some respect for the work they put in.

Again – it’s true that many young basketball players are fortunate to be in the positions they are in, but remember that high-level accomplishments have to be earned. Such accomplishments include receiving scholarship offers from D-I schools. They’ve also earned the right to decide what is best for them.

Not just the kids
When fans make rude comments to or about high school kids “picking the wrong school”, it’s also an insult to those who have helped them. Traditional media loves to highlight story of occasional dirty business in recruiting, but most adults involved in youth basketball love helping others.

Sure, there’s some money in grassroots basketball here and there for a select few. But for most, it’s a labor of love. Many basketball coaches have “normal jobs” and young families of their own, yet commit much of their time to helping young people.

Parents, guardians, other family and friends are often involved. Some put on hundreds or thousands of miles on the car each year to support their kid. Others pay for camp, tournaments and trips. Many are staying on top of their kid’s schoolwork and discipline. You’ll often see special bonds between parents of players, or a parent of one kid with some of the other kids on the team. An extended family is something special.

My simple summary
If you’re disappointed that a student-athlete is not coming to “your school”, I understand.

If you’re disrespectful toward the student-athlete and his supporters, I probably find it disgraceful. It’s a slap in the face to them (albeit a weak, pansy-smack probably incapable of leaving even a slight sting).

When the local star leaves town consider thinking, “Congratulations on your decision. Good luck, work hard and be a good representative of Minnesota.”

When a positive light shines on Minnesota basketball – even if it’s a thousand miles away – it can be a #blessing for those involved with basketball in Minnesota both currently and in the future.


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