When I was a kid, I would listen to the local rock station on the radio. Often when the DJ was about to play an oldie, he would introduce it by saying:
- “Here’s a blast for the past …”
Today, I can make the same introduction because Albert Belle is back in the news. Belle has been out of baseball for almost 20 years now; to say that he had a few “episodes of antisocial behavior” while he was in baseball would be most polite. You can read a summation of those behaviors on Wikipedia here.
Albert Belle is not going to threaten to make a comeback at age 51; that is not why he is in the news today. The reason is that he was arrested and charged with DUI and indecent exposure. Compounding the problem here, the alleged indecent exposure involved other adults and children. Seriously, now…
- Memo to Albert Belle: Indecent exposure is the sort of thing that results from young males’ inability to deal with unfamiliar high levels of testosterone. You are 51 years old. C’mon man…
The other topic for the day is an interesting turn of events in the NCAA Tournament. After all the hype and hysteria a year ago about where various 5-star recruits who were sure to be “one-and-dones” would play out their year of college ball, none of them are in the Final Four. Arizona, Duke, Kentucky and Missouri were all the focus of “recruiting stories and analysis” a year ago. When the Final Four convenes in San Antonio this weekend, the parents of those 5-star players will need to buy a ticket to get into the games.
I heard someone on a sports radio show yesterday driving home from the dentist say that these results may slow down the number of “one-and-dones” in college basketball. I wish that were true; I doubt it. One of the reasons that I doubt it has nothing to do with the competitiveness of college coaches and assistant coaches out there on the recruiting trail. In addition to those guys continuing to want the upper hand on all the other guys, there is another reason why “one-and-dones” will continue to be hounded.
- The sports media will not let this set of storylines die.
Face it; an entire sub-culture of college basketball has evolved in the past decade. You have “services” out there who put ratings on high school – and even junior high school – players. No one ever seems to audit the methodology by which these “services” ascertain that Joe Flabeetz is a 5-star guy while Sam Glotz is only a 4-star guy. Nonetheless, the reporters take those ratings as Divinely inspired pronouncements and then breathlessly report on anything and everything related to the recruitment of both Joe and Sam.
- [Aside: The sports media routinely decries the way that colleges and the NCAA make money off the efforts of non-paid college athletes. The fact is that the sports media – and the rating services – also make money off these same unpaid players except they make their money off the players before they get to college. Somehow, that is not such a venal circumstance…]
There are several ways to look at the absence of all those 5-star freshmen from San Antonio this week:
- Maybe, just maybe, the rating services and their rating system(s) are merely hit-or-miss guesses.
- If you want to be hyper-conspiratorial, you might think that someone at the rating services could be taking some money from the shoe companies to put a high rating on a high school player because the shoe company already has the player in their pocket.
- Maybe basketball is enough of a team game that a group of very good but not spectacular players who have played together for a while is superior to a bunch of 5-stars who barely know one another.
I lean toward the first explanation above. As I watched some of the players who were the subject of massive recruiting coverage a year ago, the thing that kept coming to my mind is this:
- Is this guy REALLY ready to play in the NBA? Other than DeAndre Ayton (Arizona), do any of the others have bodies ready to bang around with the adults playing NBA basketball?
I am not saying that none of these “one-and-dones” is any good; they are all excellent players. However, except for Ayton, I believe they could all do with another year in college to add muscle to their frame with another year of supervised weight room activities and another year of instruction by competent college coaches regarding basketball technique and IQ. Will all of them follow that path? Yeah … no!
If you believe they will all stay in school another year, you probably also believe they are all back on campus in the library studying for their final exams that will be coming up in about 6 weeks. Yeah … no!
Finally, the hit-or-miss nature of evaluating high school athletes seems not to be limited to basketball. Consider this item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times from a few weeks ago:
“For those of you getting your chest all puffed out about State U’s latest football-recruiting haul, consider this:
“Six starters in Super Bowl LII received zero stars coming out of high school from the recruiting wags, according to SI.com.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………