High School Hoops Dilemma

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Sterling Sellers, Journalist

 High school basketball has evolved dramatically over recent years. As the ways that information is obtained have changed, so has the way that young talent is evaluated. The emergence of social media has turned high school sports into a highly publicized platform for the country’s brightest talents.
      High school basketball players are becoming international stars before they even graduate. But what does this mean for college basketball, professional basketball, and the development of high school athletes?
     The best high school athletes have massive expectations to go along with their untapped potential. Often the sports world is quick to forget that these stars are still teenagers that experience the obstacles that come with adolescence.
     This also means that in order to succeed players must have a stable support group to guide them through this stage of development. This support group may even take roles at the colleges that the players choose to play at.
     Houston’s new head basketball coach, Charlie Leonard, comes with a unique perspective of the constantly evolving basketball landscape. Coach Leonard previously served as the director of basketball operations at Louisiana State University. He spoke about the importance of support groups. “When a player comes from a stable, and caring background, he is more able to make the transition from high school to college.”
     Recently a highly rated collegiate talent named Mitchell Robinson made the decision to go to Western Kentucky University based on the support group that was present. Some of the coaching staff present on the team were part of Robinson’s decision, but when these coaches left the team Robinson second guessed his decision.
      When asked about his stance on the situation, Coach Leonard said, “On paper that’s a pretty good reason to go because you know where you’re going, and you know the people that are there. It looked like (WKU) would be a safe environment, but then the support system was upset.”
     These support systems often emerge from the development of high schoolers. As people start realizing the capabilities of these young athletes, they see the financial opportunity that comes with being a part of that player’s inner circle. This leads to conflict between the player’s best interests, and the interests of some who want to use him for money and power.
     Coach Leonard elaborated on this problem, “High Schoolers and their inner circles are now worrying about their brand before they’re even in college. Shoe brands are funneling their finances into specific areas in order to find ‘the next Michael Jordan’.”
    This means that many support groups and brands are working together in order to expand a player’s financial potential. This can be a toxic process depending on the intentions of everyone involved, because who wouldn’t want to be close with “the next Michael Jordan?
    These factors have already caused massive change in the sports world. Every aspect of developing talent is starting to become financially driven. Coach Leonard sees a different sports world in the coming future, “College athletics as you and I know it will be very different in fifteen years. In about forty years it will be completely different. What it’s going to be like? I don’t know. But I do know that money changes everything, and everyone is going to follow the money.”