Sunday, November 9, 2008

College Basketball.......Do they really care?

I continue to think about the many HS basketball players who started playing the game at a very early age dreaming of wearing a St. Anthony's, Rice, St. Patrick's, Lincoln, or Mount Vernon jersey one day, and developing into star players participating in great AAU tournaments and travel team events as a blue chip recruit. These kids have huge dreams as they play in events and look into the bleaches and seats eyeing College Coaches who they have seen on television and read about in the newspaper. Yes it is a dream for many, and that dream can become a reality with hard work.

Unfortunately those same dreams can become nightmares, and oftentimes believe it or not, the player involved in a hoops nightmare is not the problem that the media makes it seem he is. It is just unfortunately many people who cover sports are also sports groupies disguised as writers or TV commentators. Many just want to be around sports celebrities and have access to speaking with College and powerful HS coaches on a continuous basis. And the advisors? In most cases very similar. I still remember those advisors from 25-30 years ago who actually sold players to colleges. But the way stories are reported and the hero worshiping of coaches, is why so many stories are really one sided.

Even with this, the real culprits remain the people involved with athletes who think they will get something if the athlete makes the NBA or gets money over seas. These people often attempt to take over parenting responsibility from the actual parents. Often you hear stuff like "we are not visiting ....." or "At this time we are considering" or "He is one of my kids." PLEASE Stop! Kids that make it athletically should not be indebted to anyone but the Parents that raised them. Now they should not forget the HS they attended when the contract comes in, or forget about giving back to their community so that others can benefit in similar ways to what they experienced. But they do not owe anyone.

One of the most interesting observations is watching how many advisors disappear when a kid does not make it to the NBA. Even worse is when that star kid who was a JHS and HS all world player does not develop and become the player people expected. What happened? Is he a bad kid? Is he doing drugs? Is he just Lazy? Is he just a bad person? It is so easy to find something wrong with a person when things do not go as expected. Oddly, in most cases the player being labeled and abandoned is the same person and player he was 4 years earlier. But back than when folks were pulling at him from all over America, his short comings were not as visible as the dollar signs and prestige that went along with associating with him.

This brings me to Derrick Caracter AGAIN. For the record I have watched Derrick play, talk to folks, and even spoken with him myself. I cannot tell you about his work habits in the gym, but I can tell you this young man is one of the NICEST kids you will ever meet! I can tell you also that this kid could in no way lose his "Game" over night as many are trying to say. I honestly feel he went to a factory and was treated as factory workers all over the country are treated. When they need you they keep you. When they do not feel you are needed they lay you off. Derrick was laid off by Rick Pitino. Factory workers with union backing have a better chance than a kid who has a coach who does not believe in him or sees another kid coming in who can do the job for him. Maybe college players need a union. Or at the least a group that would really look out for the best interests of college athletes.

All of a sudden Derrick is a bad apple. A guy with no future or any chance of playing in the NBA. WRONG! Now is the time to encourage this young man. But this is also the time for kids all over America to hear the Derrick Caractor story. This could be a 2 box set by also having the Lester Earl story (was big when Tim Thomas was at Patterson Catholic HS). These two stories could be called the rise and fall of two can't miss basketball stars and why. But Derricks story is far from being complete.

Why did it not work out? Derrick does need to share in the blame, but he is far from alone. It goes back to what happened years ago with the sneaker companies spoiling HS players and Derrick was not an exception. He was spoiled by what he received for being a future star. I even think one sneaker company had him change rec teams to play for a team that was getting gear from that NATIONAL company. They even told him where to attend HS. Derrick was a Star off and on the court and in demand. It all came to him very quick, just as it did for Lester Earl from Louisiana. He was being told he would be a millionaire and he and many folks around him became excited.

But to me, the star of this story is not really Derrick. The star is Rick Pitino who enjoys super star status and can do nothing wrong in the eyes of many. Coaches get excited when he calls. Players think playing for him provides a direct route to the NBA. People think when Rick speaks, it is the true gospel. And that is one of the huge problems with all of this. A recent ESPN story comparing Derrick Caracter to Samardo Samuel's shows what happens when a seemingly new and improved model is available. What happens when you buy a new car and sit it near your 3 year old car? The new car gets most of the attention while the older car is taken for granted. Well new players always seem like they will provide more and maybe they will. But do you hurt the older players in the press? And if this happens enough why would area coaches continue to encourage kids to attend a college where the coach does this?

"Derrick Caracter isn't here any longer," Pitino said. "We've moved on from Derrick Caracter." and "[Samardo] has nothing to do with Derrick Caracter," he said. "There's no comparison." Wow! Remember how excited Rick Pitino was when Derrick Caracter, Earl Clark, and Edgar Sosa signed with Louisville from this area? How soon we forget. And all the negative stuff said in the last 6 months does nothing to help Derricks cause. Even had Derrick begging to return to Louisville. Than Coach Pitino tells him he would have to sit out the year and PAY HIS OWN TUITION! From being ranked the number 1 player in the nation to paying his own tuition, what a difference.

I hope all turns out well for Derrick Caracter. A great kid who now needs support more than ever before. And when he makes it big, I hope he remembers those who are around him at this time, a time when he really needs support and encouragement.


Fordham_57 said...


You know Charcter. I don't. So any discussion leaves me at a disadvantage. Be that as it may, I'll still add my two cnets. Leaving any cultural disadvantages aside, basketball mirrors real life. With ability a given, work hard and you generally succeed. Don't work hard and you don't.
It's hard for the average person to work his tail off all his life just to survive, and then watch while 7 foot individuals with God-given athletic talent rake in the millions. It's not that the average person begrudges their success. It just that it rankles them when those individuals with tremendous opportunities at celebrity and its rewards blow it with "attitudes" or "Laziness" or "feelings of entitlement", etc.
Character has to take responsibility for his actions. If he is not succeeding, he has to look inward to find the answer. Having you try to blame anyone else (i.e. basketball factories, or Petino, or the system, etc>) perpetuates the system of "enablement". Best thing you can do is tell Character the truth. He has no one to blame but himself. Maybe the system is flawed, but so what. The flawed system has nothing to do with his present position. It has everything to do with himself. Sorry Ball. We're all "nice guys." No spent tears here. Some "tough love" on your part would be more beneficial, methinks.

LFBall said...

Frank you know I respect you and I think you are one of the true guys who calls it as you see it. But I again think it is one thing to keep a kid on the bench and another thing to force them from school and dog him in the press. Maybe he did not deserve to play for Pitino. But does that mean the University and Pitino give up on him as a student? NO! This is my problem and it has been a sore spot with me for 25 years. The way College Coaches can dog kids in the press and force them to leave. If a kid you recruit committs to your school and does not turn out to be what you thought he was, should you be able to dog him and force him to transfer? Sounds like that movie with Robbie Benson where the coach is a real peoce of work. So while I agree with you about DC taking some responsibility, alot needs to go Slick Ricks way also. Plus you and I might be surprised to hear the real story of what happens at schools such as Louisville.

SPK145 said...

What Pitino did to Caracter was way out of line.

However, Caracter has been a bit of a problem child for quite some time, what with his myriad of high schools. His nomadic high school life certainly raised red flags.

LFBall said...

I agree about his past which as you say is his past. He was a young kid being pushed and pulled by many people, some good and some bad for him. All he knew was what he was told through others actions and words.

Fast forward to now. Should he be heeld accountable for being pushed around by ohers with agendas when he was 14, 15, and 16 years old? Or should he be held accountable for his actions as a young man 20 years old (now). I say now much more than then. Trust me I would bet most of his eary decissions were made by adults around him much more than him. But now Rick gets to dog yet another player and area HS and AAU types beg to be associated with Rick Pitino and push their players to ssign with Louisville. I again refer folks back to DePaul and what the Chi Town folks did to close that program down for many years based on treatment from the than coaches. DePaul has still not recovered.