'This is an attempt by USA basketball to take all the elite players away from club and eventually high school basketball teams.' This is the sentiment of some of the most influential people in amateur basketball about the creation of IHoops and the increasing role of USA Basketball in the summer.
USA Basketball announced that it will partner with IHoops by saying the following: "the partnership will expand USA Basketball’s focus on elite players and the fielding of national teams for international competitions to a broader group that encompasses the entire youth basketball community". To which I say, Thank God!!!
While some "influencers" feel that the move would mean "bigger government" and more regulation, so to speak, I feel that this is whats needed in girls basketball. Here is my argument.
Elite Environment- USA Soccer program selects kids at an early age and keeps them incorporated in training groups throughout the year. Johnson high school has two elite soccer players that leave school periodically to go train with Team USA. Regardless if they are in the middle of their high school or club season, these elite soccer players pack up and leave when called to Team USA. These kids benefit from going to an environment that is conducive to their aspirations. They receive elite training in an elite environment, numerous times a year. Why not implement the same program(s) in girls basketball?
Locally, many observers have seen USA trial participants, Recee' Caldwell and McKenzie Calvert perform. What many have not seen is them perform on the level in which they do while at USA trails in Colorado, among the best players in the world. Watching these two kids in that environment, where every kid in attendance is cut from the same cloth, is hard to explain. I would equate it to a young Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie learning to master Jazz by being in a club where their improvisational skills are encouraged and understood. It is like a young Biggie Smalls and Jay Z learning to rhyme without writing their lyrics on paper, memorizing complicated stanzas and experimenting with unique word play. Watching 50 or so kids that all subscribe to the dedication and sacrifices that it takes to be on that level, is inspiring. Now take these kids out of this environment, where they face 6'2 guards that can handle and shoot with the best of them and place them back into a scene where they face 5'8 post players that play basketball for recreation.
High School- The typical high school basketball program in most of the country is not designed to develop elite basketball players. Take a look at the USA Today Top 25 HS teams in the country, 3 of top 5 and 6 of top 10 teams are private schools. Last year's Nike Tournament of Champions hit me over the head with the fact that most of the best high school teams in the country are private schools with open enrollments and very qualified coaching.
Schools like Mater Dei or St Mary's in California are known to churn out high major players(elite). The coaching staffs have helped produce dozens of D1 kids and the teams are ran like college programs. These private schools across the country are breeding grounds for elite prospects matriculating to elite college programs. Let's face it, a large portion of high school coaches across the country can not equip elite basketball players with the tools to help them achieve on the next level. To back up that statement, just look at the heavy concentration of talent from the same programs across the country. Kids transfer to the Mater Dei's, St Mary's(CA), St Mary's(AZ), Christ the King's(NY), and McEachern's(GA) to play in an environment that fosters growth. In Texas, why has Ducanville and Georgetown been so good and produced so many college players for so long? These high school coaches are much sought after. While some cry foul, the same hypocrites will applaud a music or theater student for being accepted into LaGuardia Arts. USA Basketball should become the ultimate private school and even the playing field for the elite kids that are not fortunate enough to attend a private or public school where the coach and the environment are not elite.
Club Ball- In some circles the reputation of club ball is akin to drug dealing! That is mostly among the old pharisees that used to control the law but the point is that club ball is probably not the best place to grow elite girls basketball players as well. From a club coach/director, many club coaches could not diagram a multiple action set if their life depended on it. I have seen so called elite program coaches that DO NOT OWN a white board. Most college programs run dozens of sets and each set has multiple actions that demand for players to read and then react accordingly. A lot of club programs are glorified talent recruiters. These "coaches" load up on talent, full court press, scream, and blow inferior talented teams out. This is what makes them "elite"?! Hardly!!
Here is the fact of the matter, go to the Top 100 of any respectable ranking service and you will find that MOST of these girls were considered elite in middle school! I challenge you to do the research and you will surely discover that a trainer(mom/dad/good skill coach) had skilled up the Top 100 kids and had them on the path of being elite before their eventual club team "claimed" them. Obviously, club serves a purpose and allows for the 3% to separate themselves and sharpen each other. Club is where almost all of the 3% of eventual college players test their skills against each other on a frequent basis. However, if USA Basketball was to identify the top prospects while they were in middle school and invite them to be part of a national training and playing program, this would better equip these kids with the basketball IQ to better transition to the next level.
Win/Win- The USA program would be a Win/Win for all involved. Here is why:
Kids: Most kids that play basketball are not elite. They lack the resources( financial, opportunity, discipline) to become elite. They want to play basketball for fun, past the time, social standing etc. That is terrific and is another reason why our country is so great. We have scholastic opportunities that kids can take advantage of to help them set goals, be active, learn teamwork etc . However, it is when an elite kid attends the same school when problems can arise. The elite basketball players are like the self made super rich leaders of industry. They have worked hard to accumulate wealth yet the average kid(parent) wants them to be treated the same.They are not the same! One kid can play a trumpet in a fashion that demands a solo performance and the other kid is a good back up musician. In a band, the back up musician understands that they must start early in life and put in more hours to "earn" a solo. In high school ball, entitlement and affirmative action are in vogue. Eliminating elite kids from non-elite environments will help more kids get the opportunity to just "play" basketball.
HS coaches: A lot of HS coaches are not developed leaders. Watch Steele(Schertz) HS football coach Mike Jinks for 30 seconds and you can tell he IS a leader in life. He is a people manager and motivator. He is elite! Most coaches are not cut from the same cloth and accordingly, do not have the requisite ability to coach elite kids. Go to a Kim Mulkey practice and see that she exudes leadership. You do not have to read a resume' that includes star athlete, championships as a player, assistant and head coach to know that she is built to lead.The typical high school coach does not want to deal with a parent that has invested hours upon hours and tens of thousands of dollars in their child's dream. Dealing with parents that expects a coach to work on the game of basketball as hard as their kid, is not something most of them sign up for. IF USA Basketball removed these kids from the high school system, that would allow for more peaceful rest by many high school staffs. Not having the same passion to get better as their elite players, has to be frustrating to many HS coaches.
Club Basketball: If USA removed the 200-300 top prospects from every class, the club system would thrive. Most good club coaches would tell you that one of the biggest problems they have is teaching to the lowest common denominator. Most kids are still learning algebra while the elite kids are starving for calculus. With approximately 1200-1500 Division 1 rides given every year, removing the 20% or so of those athletes would not hinder the system very much. Another common problem for club coaches is that in most cases, the elite kids and or parents do not cause the most problems. It is the kid(parent), jealous of the elite prospects, that will drive you crazy. Club teams will go on to provide a great environment for thousands of college bounds athletes to test their mettle every summer.
In high school, I took a required Spanish class. My lack of effort made me a poor Spanish student that was nicknamed by my teacher, " No Se' Rey". Translation, "I don't know, Ray". My instructor would ask me a question and I would inevitably reply, "No se' senora". She would shake her head at me and my lack of effort. Contrast that to a buddy of mine, he was a "Si"(yes) student. He was my back court mate on the basketball squad. He was and still is, my man! He would get on me for clowning in Spanish class. He would get so upset that I was not taking the class serious. He had a vision. He understood that Southern California was increasingly Spanish speaking and he was concentrated on his future. And there I was, getting in the way of his learning. He was also disgruntled with our teacher. He was thirsting for more knowledge, he was always asking to learn how to speak and write more complicated conversations. She would tell him to take the class next year, and the next year, to learn advanced concepts. He suspected that she could not teach to the level he required and he resented her for it. Today, as a professional, he has risen fast to positions of prominence in his chosen field, partly because of his ability to speak and write fluent Spanish.
Some kids want to learn fluent Spanish. They are hindered by inept instructors and class clowns hollering "No Se" ", through lazy efforts. USA Basketball is the perfect place for these students, with an eye on their future, to be fed according to their appetites to learn. Why is this not the best scenario? ' No Se'!