December 14, 2011

To stay or leave

Kevin McCarthy

The transferring of student-athletes in college basketball has developed a highly negative connotation. Unfairly so because each situation requires a careful and thorough examination before any thumbs down or up is i-n-d-i-v-i-d-u-a-l-l-y attached as the decision for moving on can involve a multitude of reasons covering the spectrum on the validity scale. Plus, the overriding aspect of all this is we as fans and media aren't usually privy to the actual whys and wherefores.

Regardless, generalizations and reputations, individual and collective, will always be developed and attached and basketball prospects in northern California are not faring well.

Of late, there's been Jabari Brown, Darius Nelson, Reeves Nelson, Dominic Artis, Frank Otis, Dominique Lee, Collin Chiverton, Drew Gordon, Xavier Thames, Kwame Vaughn, D.J. Seeley, Travon Abraham, Eli Holman, Adrian Oliver et al. Each made a commitment of various degrees but later decided a different address would be more amenable.

Again, the facts of the individual case needs to be known and examined before a valid judgment is appropriate. Without full knowledge, any insight is iffy at best because change doesn't necessarily mean someone is wrong. The health of family members, a death in the family, a job loss or drop in parental earnings, just making a simple miscalculation in what was thought to be a comfortable distance away from home, heck even a blossoming personal relationship are righteous reasons for modification.

From the coaching angle, there can be playing time disagreements, majors and classes initially deemed okay but then nixed, broken vows not to recruit over, changing styles of play or position(s) to be played, the matter of dispositions being faked, and personalities disguised to lure a signature, even coaching changes.

But we, as human beings, love gossip and too often delight at the afflictions of others so the development of perceptions regarding character is here to stay.

In recruiting circles however, the overall reputation of northern California recruits is one of being flighters and not fighters -- that moving on is the default position at the first struggle.

Let's also acknowledge that Wendell McKines is finishing up at New Mexico State, the school where he started. Damian Lillard is happily ensconced at Weber State. Desmond Simmons, in his second year, remains at Washington and Josiah Turner was in a troubled patch but it appears he has dug deeper and is emerging from his funk.

Plus, remember that many, many more players remain at their first choices and are prospering but the vast majority of these are not at the level receiving any sorts of press coverage and that's a shame.

For the future, let's hope that Brandon Ashley, Langston Morris-Walker, Richard Longrus, Tajai Johnson find their bliss at the schools they have chosen.

However, it's absolutely true that the student-athletes are not always innocent parties. Maturity, or lack thereof, is a learned quality and one that takes experience in order to develop. The guidance received while growing up plays a critical role as overly enlarged egos don't just happen in a vacuum.

Simply put, it's more often the adults in the equation who deserve the fire and brimstone.

Parents are at the top of the pyramid, as it should be.

High school and club team coaches, especially the latter, are next.

Unfortunately, doing what is best for a child is not a genetic given in life. The shortcomings of the adults involved can and do plague decision-making. Seeing a player as a ticket to ride for publicity sake or to earn dollars is still too commonplace.

And the media and the fans who deify both coaches and players -- always for winning, nothing else -- should not escape blame.

Yes, plenty of adults and young men and women are performing roles at their best, heralded or not.

We should never lose sight of that amidst the noise generated by the few.

Let's better serve the youth, in any and all of our capacities as nobody benefits when an educational or professional opportunity is lost because of errant behavior on the part of any of the parties.

It's time for some serious looking in the mirror.