Folks you would have to be up in the Pocono's to believe the bad weather in one part and one mile away in another part the weather is mild. 6 inches of snow in MT. Pocono and down the hill no snow. This weather situation gives me an opportunity to sit back and reflect about life and college basketball teams.
I think of three extremely knowledgeable basketball people that write on the various internet boards. HallDan, SPK, and NJ4Life are really great fans of basketball who happen to root for two different teams. I had the pleasure of meeting Dan for the first time on Sunday at Rutgers. SPK is a longtime friend as is NJ4Life. These 3 represent what is right with attending school locally. All really want to see their teams do well the right way as they support the kids that participate. SPK is a great example of this based on his support of The Walker Foundation. He would run through a wall to support this group that does so much for inner city kids in Jersey City. He does it because he wants to help and because of his commitment to assist a former Seton Hall Athlete. They provide the type of support and on occasion guidance that many current and former players could use.
College and Universities are supposed to prepare all students for life after college. College basketball players fall into that category. In no way should ex players not be supported and cared for after their college eligibility is over. Schools such as Duke, North Carolina, Notre Dame, and Georgetown have done tremendous jobs in that area. After all it is the REAL reason a person should choose a college as opposed to how much they are paid under the table to play, or preparation for the professional ranks.
This is one of the reasons I push so hard for area young men and young ladies to look hard at local schools. By local I mean NYC and NJ and on occasion I mean Conn, to DC as well. But if a local kid wants to really make sure he or she gets maximum exposure while developing great alumni contacts for the future, they need to look at RU, SHU, and SJU locally on the BE level, Fordham, St. Joe's, Temple, LaSalle, etc. on the A10 Level, Manhattan, St. Peters, Hofstra, Delaware, Drexel,Monmouth, FDU, Rider, etc. on the mid major level.
Why in heavens name does a kid need to sign with Iowa State if Seton Hall really wants him? Why go to Missouri, Kansas State, Indiana, Texas, and the list goes on......... If you can sign and play for a PROGRAM near your home that would provide great resources, alumni contacts for when basketball is over, and a chance for your friends and family to see you and support you without a financial hardship in regards to driving 400 miles to games every week? This is why I endorse kids going to certain schools based on ability and potential. Nothing like going to school in Mississippi and having no support system in place. Still remember my son being in his dorm room at a Big 10 school eating a grilled cheese sandwich on Thanksgiving because they were flying out to Alaska the next morning. They gave him $100 or so to eat, but he was alone and did not want to go to a restaurant alone. If he was local, he could have run home and been back that night on campus.
No matter what happens basketball wise this season at Rutgers, JR Inman, Griffin, and Farmer will get assistance from alumni when it is time to get a job in the future. Ask Shayle keating. No matter what happens at SHU this season or next, seniors that participate will benefit from connections if they choose to use them. St, Johns also has some of the same stuff available as long as the players work hard academically and are not caught up in the Athletic Administration stuff that players majored in years ago. Heck there is even a SJU alumnus who rode the bench now making millions on Wall Street (well at least he was).
There are many players who never really look at the whole picture when being recruited. Will they get the type of academic assistance needed to become successful? What are the basketball alumni doing now? Is the program really a factory? Do players graduate? Most kids think they are going to the NBA. Even kids who sign with low major programs. At the least they think they are going abroad to play for $100,000. Little do they know that those salaries reported are so false. Most players are making in the 20-35,000 category. A few make in the high category based on height, and/or NBA experience. So the best true option remains getting the degree and allowing it to work for you via alumni and other contacts.
I am really writing this because of a few sad stories that I heard yesterday. It involves a few ex players we all know. I will only name one of them and he will be last. The first story is about 2 players who played HS ball locally at the same HS but at different times. Both are now in their 50's. Both were stars and even had commercials. Unfortunately both went through millions of dollars at different times. They both also used the NBA pension fund up. Lastly, both attended college far away from the NYC Metropolitan area. One I am sure was given such star treatment all he had to do is play ball. Now I wonder if any of these two people had went locally, would the contacts for them have offered more assistance and helped them through some stuff. I hear one lives in a room, and another just moves around. Long way from the top. This is not written to poke fun or put these guys down. It is just done so that kids can understand how important certain life decisions are. By the way, both are GREAT People and deserving of much more than they have received.
Lets look at a guy by the name of Pearl Washington. WE all know Pearl was an outstanding High School and College player. Problem is he has done everything right and still he has not been given the opportunities others have received despite not having anything close to the legacy he has at both Boys HS and Syracuse University. he went to Syracuse University and helped them alot more than they have helped him. No he is not down and out. But after all he did for the Coach there you would think he would get a position for life! I even heard he asked numerous times for a position working on the Syracuse staff. From what I hear the coach told him he would be hired the next time there was an opening. Well they have had many and he has yet to be hired. He is doing well working at Carnarsie HS in Brooklyn NY. If you ever had an opportunity to talk to Pearl Washington you would walk away very impressed. Guy is smart, engaging, and a great role model with all kids.
I now come full circle on what I am trying to get across. The summer leagues are full of playground legends. Most attended college and were looked at as stars. It is interesting how folks in the inner city embrace these playground legends as if they were Michael Jordan or Patrick Ewing. I even remember walking into a park years ago in NYC for an ESPN special game with NBA players only. Dick Vitale was doing the color and it was going to be great. They must have turned away 2000 people who were trying to get in. Oddly the loudest cheer was not for the NBA guys, it was for a playground legend who was a star in the Entertainers league when he was not at work at the super market. This player was just walking in to watch the game! Not knocking the playground legend, just showing how some folks think. The tri-state area is full of these legends. Summer league stars who have great basketball ability but not quite good enough for the NBA. Oddly, most never received degrees despite attending D1 colleges. If we did a study I am sure 95% of these kids attended college far away from home and yes they were stars in HS and even in college.
In closing I again urge all kids being recruited to strongly consider attending a college close to home. If it is not Stanford, ND, Cal, Northwestern, etc., local kids should be looking at schools from New England to DC. I might even throw in North Carolina, and Duke to the mix. But other than that, I think kids are only looking at basketball as opposed to where they will be at 40 years old.