This is just a short piece based on something I read on Carino's blog recently. He had a story linked about two players who played for Princeton when they defeated UCLA. The story reminded me about what is really important about college and college athletics. These two guys are super successful now and when you look back, they were just players on a good Princeton team and not highly rated out of HS.
We tend to put so much emphasis on the bigger basketball conferences and the top HS players being recruited. Rarely do we measure the success of the top 25 players in a particular year against players who were barely recruited career wise. Of course if these kids make it professionally in the USA they will make great salaries. But trust me, those going abroad are often not making alot and just playing to be playing while putting their future careers on hold. I hear kids often bragging about what they are making abroad only to later find out they are making 1/3 of what they claim if that. I guess for many it is just an opportunity to continue playing the sport they love while dreaming of the NBA.
Brings me back to a guy I was friendly with from the time we were kids to our college years. His name is Michael George and he covered the NY Knicks for the NY Post and even covered the NJ Nets. He is now a screen Writer in California. But growing up in central Harlem we always talked about how we would play for the Knicks FOR FREE if we had an opportunity. We loved basketball that much! I am sure there are a number of guys in the NBA and definitely hundreds abroad who would play for free where ever they are.
Basketball is still a game that has become a tremendous business from the NBA to the AAU. But what we never celebrate is the large number of kids who go on from college experiences to become successful in life after basketball. This brings me to the point I am attempting to make.
Why are more kids not looking at the large picture of success after basketball? Why are we not letting them know how great it is to be a Teacher, Dentist, Lawyer, Doctor, Professor, Business Person, Manager, Social Worker, etc.? From the time kids are in 7th grade they are being steered to the think professional basketball. If we got into these kids head right now they would understand the thousands of careers available outside of basketball. It is funny how many of the top guys and gals at the NBA and NHL and even MLB, never played the game they are over seeing. David Stern is running the NBA and most likely never played on the HS team at Teaneck where he graduated from. But he was focused enough to get his law degree.
I honestly hope we start looking at more than the basketball program when kids choose schools. I hope they look at life after basketball and what graduates of the universities recruiting him are doing and the connections that come with them. Lastly I continue to say kids need to stay close to the area they will reside in after basketball is over. This is why I DO THINK KIDS SHOULD CONSIDER STRONGLY the local universities. Maybe one day I will give the local version of ex stars and what they are doing now after attending college hundreds of miles away. I can also give names of kids who stayed local and barely played who are now SUPER SUCCESSFUL including that ex St. Johns Point Guard who never got off the bench who is legendary on Wall Street. How about the Iona guys who all are very successful now. Or the guys in Film and TV who are moving up the ladder.
College basketball should not be a holding area for kids on their way to the NBA. It should be a place for competitive competition and school pride through a team sport as kids work toward getting meaningful college degrees. Remember, no one is guaranteed to have long basketball careers.