Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick’s Recruiting

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Things a boy cannot do in ninth grade:

  • Algebra
  • Change the radio station in the cafeteria
  • Grow a moustache
  • Speak in the same octave from one day to the next
  • Stand up from behind his desk after Sex Ed class

Things a boy can do in ninth grade:

  • Accept a scholarship to play division I college basketball

Makes all the sense in the world, doesn’t it?

The New York Times dug into the strange world of tween recruiting in a June 2 column, noting that the NCAA allows coaches to extend scholarship offers to kids who are on the verge of graduating middle school. While that notion may cause many disingenuous sports fans to promptly catch the vapors, is it, in any real sense, a threat to anything?

In my book, a scholarship offer extended four years before high school graduation means exactly bupkes, and I don’t even really speak Yiddish. The top coaches of the top programs know they can wait for kids to develop, then swoop in and grab the ones they really want (e.g. John Calipari). As the Times article points out, one recent Kentucky coach fell victim to the cradle-robbing craze, and it didn’t work out for him or the kid:

Billy Gillispie was dismissed by Kentucky just one year after he made an offer to Michael Avery, a 6-4 eighth grader. Avery will play for Sonoma State, a Division II university in his native California, next season.

In fact, there is little risk involved for either the athlete or the university, at least in terms of limiting future possibilities. The acceptance of a verbal offer is not binding for either side. Only a letter of intent, signed by a player during his senior year, constitutes a commitment.

Quite aside from the fact that the kid may never grow into his potential, as happened with Avery, any coach desperate enough to seriously court a ninth-grader isn’t likely to be around to fulfill his end of the bargain anyway.

In essence, middle-school recruitment is nothing but a publicity stunt. The kid gets a head start on feeling like he’s God’s Gift to basketball (waddup, Mr. Aichuwa?) and the coach looks like he’s getting ahead of the game in some intangible fashion. A parent of one of these allegedly up-and-coming stars of the future laid it all out for NYT readers and, one hopes, his kid. As such, we’ll let wise parent Mo Lewis have the last word:

“It’s like telling a 14-year-old you’re going to get him a car when he turns 17. He still has to learn how to drive, study for the test and pass it.”

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He went to middle school with Barry Sanders. Really.

POSTERIZED: Monmouth bench mob goes insane after huge dunk

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Monmouth has arguably been the most entertaining team in college basketball through the season’s first three weeks.

Let’s start with the obvious: They’re a mid-major outfit with a 5-foot-8 point guard that headlines a talented back court, one good enough to have notched upsets at UCLA and, this week, over No. 17 Notre Dame and USC at the Advocare Invitational in Orlando.

It’s pretty incredible, to be honest. They’ve managed to amass one of college basketball’s best resume despite being a MAAC program with a grand total of four NCAA appearances in their luxurious history.

But what makes this team so much fun isn’t just that they can’t seem to stop beating high-major competition, it’s that, in the process, their bench mob has become one of college basketball’s best.

Want some proof? Watch what happens after this Deon Jones poster dunk:

And here’s the wild part: that wasn’t even close to the best thing the bench did this week.

This was:


But there’s so much more.

Like, for example, the three arrows:

The touchdown pass:

The bench poster:

The heart attack:

They … caught a fish?

And, finally, the ‘OH SHHHHHHHHHHHH’:

Wichita State’s 0-3 week makes chances for at-large bid small

Fred VanVleet
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki

We’ve reached the nightmare scenario for Wichita State.

Having entered the season as the overwhelming favorite in the Missouri Valley, a top 15 team and a legitimate threat to reach a Final Four, after two weeks, the Shockers are in serious danger of missing out on the NCAA tournament altogether.

That’s not hyperbole, either.

Wichita State fell to 2-4 on the year after getting mollywhopped by Iowa in the 7th-place game of the Advocare Invitational. They ended up in the 7th-place game because they lost to USC and Alabama in the opening two rounds. The Hawkeyes look like the might be able to eke out an at-large berth if things fall the right way for them, but USC and Alabama are projected to finish at or near the bottom of their respective conferences. Even Iowa would do well to finish in the top half of the Big Ten.

Individually, none of those three losses are particularly terrible, and that’s before you factor in that all-american point guard Fred VanVleet sat out the trip to Orlando with a bad hamstring. They were also without back up point guard Landry Shamet in the tournament and it’s unknown when they’ll actually get Anton Grady back to full stretch. That matters to the NCAA tournament selection committee. They’ll factor it in when they determine where the Shockers will be seeded, or if they will even get an invite.

But throw in the loss at Tulsa from the first week of the season, and the Shockers are now 2-4 on the season.

And unlike the rest of the preseason top 25 — unlike the rest of the nation’s high-major programs — Wichita State won’t have a chance to load up on quality wins during league play. The Valley is better than we probably realized (more on that in a second), but it’s not like there are going to be a myriad of top 50 wins for the taking.

Look at Georgetown, for example. They Hoyas went 1-3 in the first week of the season, a stretch that included a home loss to Radford. But they also play in a conference where they’ll get home-and-homes against the likes of Villanova, Butler and Xavier.

The Shockers need to do their damage during the non-conference. They need to get the bulk of their resume put together before Valley play starts. Assuming they do win the rest of their non-league games, we’re not exactly looking at a daunting profile, either. The Shockers still have to visit Saint Louis and Seton Hall and host UNLV, Utah, Nevada and New Mexico State. UNLV and Utah should look like quality wins on Selection Sunday, but the rest of them?

Wichita State is putting themselves in a position where they may end up needing to win the Missouri Valley tournament just to get into the Big Dance, and the problem is that the Valley looks like it is really going to be tough this season. Northern Iowa notched a win over North Carolina already this year. Illinois State gave Maryland a fight and entered the season as a favorite to upset the Shockers. Evansville has two of the league’s five best players in D.J. Balentine and Egidijus Mockevicius.

They’re not waltzing through that conference by any stretch of the imagination.

That’s not exactly what VanVleet and Ron Baker had in mind when they decided to return to Wichita for one final season.