Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Basketball Tuesday

Outside The Lines

I hope everyone watched Outside The Lines on ESPN. If not try to catch this past weeks repeat when it comes on. They did a great story on how HS and Travel Team coaches are competing for kids, and who actually is controlling recruitment and basketball decisions.

Great program that brought up some interesting topics. Showed Nick Irvin, one of the sons of legendary Chicago basketball power broker Mack Irving, coaching HS basketball. Seems a potentially great player transferred from another Chicago HS to Nicks school right before the playoffs started. Interesting that this kid also competed in the summer for the Irving Families AAU/Travel Team. UMMMMMMMM! Nuff Said!

They also had 3 guests in the studio including the HS Coach at Labron James old HS, John Baeline of Michigan, and our own Gary Charles sitting with a hat on his head and a frown and serious look on his face.

The topic was who is at fault? All three gave great answers but John Baeline is definitely a high profile coach now as he seemed to be very careful with his words because he did not want to piss off from the travel team or HS community. Boy was it different seeing him like this compared to how he was at LaMoyne, Richmond, and even West Virginia.

The HS Coach, who I remember being a big Sonny Viccaro guy years ago, also walked the fence. I am sure he remembers how he got to where he is and I would bet he is still involved with Labron in some capacity.

But the guy with the Hat and frown made the most sense as usual. Gary Charles, despite the frown and Hat indoors is one of the true good guys. He also is a professional who works as a bank Vice President during the day. Gary said the new term is grass root basketball. He also mentioned that yes HS coaches should have a say but so should the guy who worked with the kid from when he was in 7th or 8th grade. The HS coach gets the finished product in most cases and only has to do a tune up on the kid was the point he seemed to be making. I think he is correct and on point. Every HS Coach is not making players great. Many kids show up as 9th graders with great potential.

I also think there is a role for everyone. But there are some bad AAU/Travel/ Grass Root folks working with kids. But there are also some horrible folks coaching HS and even College basketball who could care less about players.

Some kids would never get exposure if they did not play summer travel/Grass Root basketball. For every HS coach who works hard to get his or her players into college at the D1, 2, or 3 level there are 5 who do nothing. In fact NYC still has that dumb rule that a coach has to be a NYC Teacher to coach. Because of that we still see many schools with coaches who know nothing about basketball. I still go back to that HS game I saw in NYC many years ago where the coach read the NY Times during the game and the other coach socialized with other teachers sitting behind the bench. In Northeast Pennsylvania I see very good HS coaches WHO DO NOTHING for players after the season in regards to colleges or exposure. But most are very good x and o guys.

On the other hand there are few travel team/grass root guys who would not welcome an opportunity to call and talk basketball with anyone, especially a college coach. So when it comes to pushing players, these guys get it done. Unfortunately some make deals on the side. Others use the time to network for jobs in coaching. And others make money based on running events and getting sneaker deals although most of that money has dried up in recent years. Guys like Jim Salmon in NJ, Gary Charles in NYC, and even Kyle Lowery's Brother in Philly, most likely spend more money out of their pocket than they bring in. Jim runs alot of events to support his program. It is like a full time job. But I would bet his financial rewards are nothing compared to the satisfaction he gets seeing kids go on to college and become successful. Ditto Gary Charles, despite the frown and the hat!

Local College Teams

Not trying to be controversial but I honestly think this season we will see alot of improvement on the college level with some local teams. In fact one local team could be outstanding if the players get along and jell. Another will be much improved and surprise people. However one local team in my eyes is in a holding pattern and would need a Rick Pitino Providence College type transformation to be better. Either that or play NJIT 4 times, St. Peters twice, play home and home against Delaware State, play St. Francis of NY, and St. Thomas Aquinas of Rockland County. But even that schedule could be a hard one if players are not focused and show dedication and improvement.

Recruitment of Area Players

Looks like the area kids are again looking at the same programs to attend in upcoming years. It is becoming harder and harder for programs to convince local kids to stay home. Kids are going away to find the programs of their dreams. If you look at where kids are considering, many are only listing some local schools as a courtesy. These kids talk all the time and they know what is happening on every campus. NUFF SAID!

Will A Local College Team Ever Make The Final Four? Who has the best chance?

My answers later.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

College Basketball Stuff

College Basketball

Just read a piece written about the coaches involved in scandals. The writer obviously took the high road and took what was written in the news about certain coaches and re-stated accusations. If anyone thinks most of those guys listed are in the top 70 percent of coaches cheating, hurting kids, and involved in scandals they are very wrong. Now maybe 1 or 2 on that list could be included, but the rest are just there to fill the page.

Allow me to provide some real scandals.

Lets talk about the schools that provide jobs to parents paying 2 and 3 times the salary the parents made in their last positions. Oddly everyone knows the various schools who have done this and continue to do this.

Lets talk about the few schools who have provided female tour guides who just happened to be very attractive and easy to talk with. Not sure if this still happens but I sure remember the stories. Enough to make a kid go out and practice very hard lol!

Lets talk about the various schools that have provided new homes for families of players after the family's son signs a letter of intent. Easy to spot if someone really looked. I still remember a NYS kid signing and all of a sudden they moved into a new home in "The Good Section" of their town.

Lets talk about the schools that have given luxury automobiles to recruits and their families after recruits sign a letter of intent. Still remember a few kids in NYC getting new autos to drive around the projects in Queens and Brooklyn despite parents not working at the time. In fact I remember one kid picking up his new car at the old Kutshers All Star game in Montecello NY. Coach had it parked right there waiting for him! All you have to do is look and follow the paper trail if you are interested.

Lets look at the old timers from NY, NJ, and Pa. who made a living selling kids to Midwestern and Southwestern schools. We know the old names and what they were legendary for!

Lets look at the corrupt dealings of HS and AAU types especially in the Midwest and Southwest. It is legendary how certain coaches would ask college assistants for money to have a meeting with a player, more money for them to bring a kid on a visit, more money for that kid to take an official visit, and even more money for the kid to sign a national letter of intent. The negotiations are often very serious! Still remember a coaching buddy of mine saying when he went into a certain HS in a Midwestern city the legendary coach would say "I know you brought me some sneakers and warm-ups and did not come in here empty handed"

Lets look at the programs involved with ticket scalping at the final four. Big, big, business. I have heard that some AAU guys are often compensated through final 4 tickets that they can sell for alot of money. All the NCAA needs to do is take the tickets away from the coaches and create a coaching list with assigned seat numbers at the final 4 if they wanted to stop this.

What about the cheating programs that use to pay AAU programs to play pre season games using ex college players for a nice guarantee in the thousands as a way to compensate programs for past and future players.

How about the programs that just lie to kids and when the kid is not what they wanted, they intentially abuse the kids with lack of communication and harsh treatment forcing the kid to transfer. Alot of this happens!

How about the many guys we hero worship in college basketball despite the fact we know they were notorious cheaters who could care less about kids when 4 years were up? There are too many to mention including some still coaching or very visible

How about the many coaches accepting kids knowing that kid is only there for 1 year to showcase his basketball ability for the NBA? How do College Presidents even allow coaches to get away with this practice? Or is it they too see the financial benefits?

How about the programs that have kids for 4 or 5 years and when the kid leaves he still has a hard time understanding how to write, read, and compute? He also goes home and takes a job he could have gotten out of HS. And in many cases those kids leave after 5 years without a degree.

I hope folks do not look at this as if I am saying college basketball is a bad thing. I am not saying this at all. In fact most programs do it the correct way, which unfortunately makes it difficult for them to be successful. Very hard to find a super talent who is only listening to his parents and HS coach. Most talented kids already have advisors who have advisors, who have advisors, who are connected to street agents, who are connected to agents, etc.

Kids on a certain level are not even recruited any longer. They have to be negotiated with and that includes visits, type of sneaker they wish to wear, transportation for parents to see games, hotel stays for AAU Coaches and advisors, etc.

Well how does programs like George Mason make it to the final four knowing they do not have the resources or backing to make the deals to get the players that can take them to the promised land? They did it with team chemistry, 4 year players, good coaching, and LUCK! Sorry, the chances of this happening with a mid major team again is very remote.

Yes there are alot of things going on in college basketball despite the fact March Madness is a great time. But I do think many people are getting turned off to this one time great month of games. I know I am and this past years tournament was nowhere as exciting to me as previous years events were. In fact I have gone back to watching some NBA games after not watching for many years.

More on Earl Pettis

Glad to read that people feel he transferred from Rutgers of the Big East. a school 1 hr and 20 minutes from his home at most, to Lasalle University, a lower A10 school 30 minutes from his home because he wanted to be closer to home. Nice story going back to Philly to finish school. I guess he just wanted a better cheese steak from Gino's or that place two blocks from the Lasalle campus. I think he will have a solid two years despite the fact he will not get that waiver they are stretching for with the closer to home story. At least not after mentioning all the things he did in that short piece about his transfer where he says some interesting things despite the article being so short.

Antonio Pena

What is happening to my man Antonio? Hope he gets back into the swing at Villanova next season because he really is talented and just needs to get his confidence back.

With 2 year of eligibility left his future is very bright and I do think Jay Wright will provide him with great opportunities to become successful.

Glenn Sturman Memorial Tournament

Ran across this on NYCNJ Hoops and felt I should share what should be a great event for a greater cause. Please try to attend and if possible put a team in this event.

Glenn Sturman Memorial Tournament
May 30th, and 31st, 2009
Benefiting "Fight Against Cancer"
17 and Under
Trenton Catholic HS
David Sturman@yahoo.com
609 433-0021
4 Games Guaranteed

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Hoop Happenings


Looks like Earl Pettis is actually leaving the Rutgers program. What a shocker! Well not really because coaches all over have been contacted since January in an attempt to see who was interested. In fact my understanding is Pettis Mom wanted her son to leave mid season and it was close to happening but the staff at Rutgers convinced him things would work out. From that date Pettis played more and was more involved in all aspects of the team. But deep inside he knew he wanted out.

Despite what many think, this kid is not scared of the competition for minutes at Rutgers. He is most likely scared by what he has seen happen to others who came back after playing solid minutes. The new guys do not scare this kid. He just wants to make sure he attends a school that will allow him to play more than he sits and not have him in and out of the dog house for various reasons that might or might not be related to his effort and commitment.

Pettis chose the correct time to leave. He will sit out one season and get stronger and better before suiting up for his new school in the 2010-1011 season. And even though folks are throwing around small school names, there is nothing wrong with transferring to a non Big east or A10 school as long as the school is reputable and has a strong basketball following. Monmouth with the new building will be a great place for many kids. Delaware years ago and now getting back is another. Binghamton has a solid following and is an excellent academic school with sold out games in a 5000 seat plus arena. LaSalle has great tradition. Marist has a great following in upstate New York. Siena is a big time program in Albany playing to large crowds despite being a small school. I can go on and on about the benefits of those schools over certain BE schools when kids are not concerned with peer pressure and prestige.
Not sure where Pettis will go, but I would bet he had something in the fire before just announcing he was leaving. I also will not be surprised to see other players from area schools jump ship for greener pastures.

WE all hope Rutgers will be competitive next season and realize how hard it is when the RU Staff has to go against real barracudas at other programs who do anything necessary to get certain players. When you do it right and do not cheat, it takes a long time to build a program. As I have always said, strong programs at RU, SHU, and SJU make college basketball very interesting as does solid programs at places like Iona, Monmouth, FDU. St. Peters (almost impossible based on certain factors), and Manhattan.

Lance Stephenson

Again I say this entire situation is crazy. I understand he wants to get out of the area and play 1 year before turning professional. Maybe not going to Kansas was a blessing in disguise because he would have had to deal with serious discipline while playing serious team basketball. He would have also had to earn his playing time early on even though he was "born ready." I still remember Russell Robinson being a great player at Rice HS who never ever passed and shot first, 2nd, and 3rd. Last time I looked he was a pass first role playing PG at Kansas who was given an ultimatum. Pass the rock or ride the bench before leaving town! He passed the rock and played on a national championship team.

At St. Johns Lance would have walked into a starting position and been treated like royalty. He would have been able to play through his mistakes, etc. But that is water under the bridge now. It looks like Arizona, Memphis, and maybe Kentucky will get his signature if he does not do a Prep year or go to play abroad for a season. Remember anything is possible. But one thing for sure, most folks could care less based on this thing dragging out so long. And when he does decide, the party is over for alot of folks who have enjoyed his journey and the perks that came with it.

AAU and Travel Team

AAU and Travel Team season is here and it is so exciting. My plans are to get to the huge Bob Gibbons event in North Carolina over the Memorial Day Weekend. It is interesting walking into Cameron Indoor Stadium on the Duke campus and feeling as if you are in the auxiliary gym or a gym they used years ago. It actually looks like a big HS gym. Funny how folks always say the reason all the students stand all game is because if they sat down they all could not fit. Great campus but the gym is definitely a historic treasure. Now UNC is totally different. Great facility as well as a great campus. Hope to see many folks down in the Chapel Hill/Durham area.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Recruitment (repeated)

I figured this would be a good time to write again about the recruiting process which starts up very shortly for rising HS players. This is a blog I wrote about two years ago. I think it still might be relevant. Also because the season is over, I will post less than usual. Please sign up to follow my blog on the leftside top to see when I post. Thanks

Recruiting Process

Well it seems recruiting has changed alot since many of us attended HS. At that time college recruiters visited high schools to observe kids play the game they loved. Now it seems the majority of recruitment takes place prior to a kids senior year in HS. It starts as far back as when kids are in JHS. Yes that's right, JHS!!! We know the high schools are really recruiting 8th graders, especially the private and catholic schools. But now we see more and more college guys watching and actually following JHS kids. Ask Lance Thomas about this.

Years ago the HS Coach was the guy coordinating the recruitment process for local kids with good basketball ability. That's still the case at the better programs. Gary DeCaeser, the ex Associate Coach at DePaul, ran his program and did not allow outsiders to participate. He would even make kids and parents sign a form saying as much! If a kid violated the contract/form, they would be suspended and even dismissed from the team. Harsh, but necessary according to Gary!!! Gary wanted to make sure his players were aware of what each college was offering and he knew the BS folks from the good guys. He also had the experience. I cannot remember Gary having one star player attend a JUCO because of poor grades. He was on top of everything his players were involved in. He even started an AAU Program so he could keep his players close. Gary did this for ALL his players including those who he assisted in getting into good D3 programs. Other programs with similar clout with their players are: St. Benedict's, St. Anthony's, St. Patrick's, Mount Vernon, Lincoln (NY), Cardoza (NY), Kennedy (NY), Jefferson, Rice, CBA, Bloomfield Tech, Eastside (Newark) and a few others I can not think of at this time. Oddly these programs win year in and year out! Guess they are doing something right. Plus, kids at these places seem to always have grades for D1 sports.

Now I do think having Rec and AAU programs involved with kids is also a good thing. That's because alot of schools have coaches who just do not care, nor do they put in the time. They simply coach just for the stipend. Kids on those teams (they are not programs) deserve better than what they receive. But the system in place might say the coach must be a HS Teacher at that school or in that system. Thus the need for good people such as Jim Solmon (Playaz), Gary Charles (Panthers), New Heights Guys, Metro Hawks, Gauchos, Brian Crawford (Rams), Rich Leary (Best trainer in NJ or NY), NJ Warriors, NJ All stars, Dyckeman (NYC) Westchester Hawks, LI Lightening, and many others. These guys assist more than people realize. They especially help the kids from programs with inexperienced Coaches.

Recruitment is really about exposure, recognition, and marketing. Something the group mentioned above does on a regular basis. They call schools for kids, send clippings and tapes, and even have exposure days for college coaches. Cardoza HS did it this year and I remembered Rich Leary doing it all the time many years ago.

Because of all the local and national tournaments kids get exposure earlier than ever before. But the coaches only come out to the better events. That old saying "if you can play they will see you" is bogus. I have seen good players on bad AAU teams play on court 4 at a tournament with NO COACH EVEN WATCHING!! Than I have seen average players on good AAU Teams play on the next court and 55 D1 coaches are watching. The average kid gets the CAA Conference Offer and the good kid goes to a D3 school. Or if he is lucky he goes to Ed Butlers event in New Jersey and gets a JUCO or D2 offer.

As you can see this recruitment thing is serious business. Some schools have $250,000recruitment budgets! You should see the literature and hi-light recruitment tapes. You would think Spike Lee or Martin Scarcese (sp) directed them. Its huge business, especially with the sneaker company involvement. It could be the last time a kid and his family are wined and dined! That's why many parents and advisors drag the process out. They love the attention! Ask Jarid Famous about this lol. Advisors also love the attention and recognition. Sitting with coaches, getting calls, and even thinking you will join a particular staff in the near future. I know a kid who was being recruited by a certain BE team with a great guy as the HC. The HC told the HS Coach "I need a guy like you with me the way you teach and coach." The rest of the year that coach thought he was on the way to that school when an opening developed. He pushed the kid to sign at the school. And after the kid signed, the high school coach never heard back. An opening did come through, and the HS Coach called. He was told they needed a guy with NYC connections LOLOL.

Allow me to just provide a few things you should know:

A letter from a college is not a scholarship offer

Most large programs have a clerical staff sending out letters on Mail Merge making them more personalized. They have state of the art equipment!!

98% of Assistant Coaches can not offer a kid a scholarship without the Head Coach seeing the kid play. Lazy Head Coaches allow this however.

A kid should not sign UNLESS the Head Coach visits him and sees him play. That way no one is surprised!

Kids who wish to work in certain areas or parts of this country should attend school on that coast. Exceptions are IVY League, Stanford, Northwestern, Tier 1 Big Ten, etc.

Sometimes advisors live through players and where they sign. Its the reason kids might choose the largest school recruiting them.

Better to commit in fall and sign in spring. That way if a coach changes or gets fired the kid will have options

Always look at graduation rates as well as job placement statistics. I really do not understand folks celebrating a kid taking a job he could have gotten without a college degree. Still remember a great PG from a BE team working as a security guard at a community center in Brooklyn and he had a degree. Just could not find employment.

Always visit the campus before deciding. Unofficial's are great, but sleeping overnight give you more insight.

Go to an interested school un-announced!! Sneak by to get a true feeling. Remember alot of stuff is staged on visits. Some places have special parties, the team eats out in a great restaurant, etc.

Do not get fooled by huge arenas 2000 miles from your home. Nothing like playing in front of 647 in a 12,000 seat old arena that smells like popcorn.

Would it be better to go to a strong D2 school with a huge following and great academics or a D1 school with a poor graduation rate that plays in front of 450 people a game. A good example is Gannon College that seems to always sell out. Good academic school way on the other side of NYS.

Choose a school you would like even if you did not play basketball. That way you are covered and will have a life in addition to basketball.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Lance Stephenson, 6 Ft 8 kids, and Rumors

Good morning to everyone. For some reason I feel we are experiencing the quiet before the storm. And I am not talking St. Johns Hoops! It just seems strange that there is not much to discuss. But here are a few things to think about.

According to NYC papers and a few others I know, Lance Stephenson has all but ruled out St. Johns. This could be viewed as a good or bad thing depending on who you speak with. Some feel Lance would be a distraction and hard to deal with as a teammate and player. Others feel he is just what St. Johns needs. I agree with the latter (Thanks Frank) thought. But the problem is this Lance stuff is getting old, tired, and stale. When will he choose? In September? Or will he do the prep school thing before declaring for the NBA draft next year as some indicate could happen. Or will he choose Kentucky, Memphis, or Arizona? Maybe Maryland will show him reasons he should just attend there. If he does I would not be surprised.

Where does that leave St. Johns? It leaves them looking in the mirror wondering what else they could have done minus giving his dad a job on the staff. Norm and company did it the right way and if it does not happen it will not be just because it was not a basketball fit. SJU will still be a better team next season and if Lance does attend, which looks unlikely, they could be that much better.

I leave with this caution to everyone. Folks from all over are watching this saga closely if you know what I mean. I also say I doubt Lance is ready for the NBA at this time. I also wonder if he will be ready after 1 year of college. Will he be a future NBA player? YES if he works hard and attends a place where they accept him and love him as opposed to just wanting him. Wrong turn and he could be a true playground legend each summer before he returns to Korea for a different version of professional basketball. Choose wise young Lance! Forget about being "Born Ready" and start getting ready for a bright future with a wise college choice.

Things I am Watching Closely

Heard a rumor that certain NYC/NJ area schools are exploring a change or two assistant coaching wise. Got this from a few coaching buddies. Now I am not going to say what schools are involved. But I will say I really hope they do the right thing professionally and politically because if not it will be devastating, especially in NYC and New Jersey. Folks are really watching this as I am. Hope it is not true!

This Prep School stuff is getting harder and harder. Latest I heard was Russ Smith from NYC, who is very good, will attend South Kent Prep in the fall. How folks did not snatch him up I will never know. But again it must be a reason because he is playing in the toughest league in America according to Tom Konchalski, noted HS talent evaluator, an playing in NYC allowed him to be seen by alot of folks. Maybe he just wants a higher level school?

I know of a few 6 ft 8 kids with skills and grades looking for schools. One will transfer from a high major school with 2 year of eligibility left. The other is a HS Sr. who is skilled and will only get better. The transfer would be great in the A10, CAA, MAAC (Siena Type), NEC (Monmouth etc.) or even the AE (Binghamton type). The HS kid would be great at a NEC, CAA, MAAC program or a PREP School with campus, etc. If anyone reading this blog know of a school that would be interested please email me at LFBall@aol.com.

Also working with a skinny guard with a huge heart at 6 ft 3 and skilled. Kid with weight would be a solid D1 prospect at a A10, CAA, MAAC, etc. With hard work and strength he could go even higher. Hopefully we will have a SOLID prep school for him by next week.