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Carson: Time to change recruiting process

| Wednesday, February 25, 2015

When LeBron James talks about things, people typically listen. He’s the best basketball player in the world, and, well, when he has an opinion on the game, it would probably behoove us to listen.

“You shouldn’t be recruiting 10-year-old kids,” he said this week to CBS Detroit.

Of course, the 10-year-old kid he’s referencing? His own son.

Now for a quick detour: LeBron is 30. LeBron Jr. is 10. That makes me feel … old.

… And let’s get back on track.

Colleges are recruiting 10-year-olds who won’t play collegiate basketball for another eight or nine years.

I mean, let’s try to put this into perspective a little bit.

What was I doing when I was 10? I don’t know. Not thinking about college.

I mean, heck, it was fifth grade. Cooties were still a thing in my world. I was still in speech classes because I couldn’t properly pronounce the “th” sound. They hadn’t yet taught us in school how babies were made.

But LeBron’s son? He’s getting college offers.

My favorite part of the whole thing might have been what a top-25 assistant coach had to say on the matter to ESPN.

“To my knowledge, we haven’t [offered],” he said.

To your knowledge? You’re an assistant coach at a top-25 program. I’d like to think you know what’s going on.

The fact that he couldn’t have just said something along the lines of, “No, it hasn’t crossed our mind,” really says it all.

But in the grand scheme of things, it’s one small problem in the sea of confusion that is the collegiate recruiting process.

Recently, Rivals.com started listing sixth graders on its website. Sixth graders. Why is this a thing? Better yet, why are there people who care?

You have a system in place in which kids are hounded earlier and earlier to commit to schools, and it’s just an absolutely ridiculous set-up. Year after year, kids commit to schools when they’re freshmen in high school — or even earlier — despite being unable to take official visits to schools until their senior years.

And then year after year, kids de-commit from schools they committed to as freshmen. Because, who would’ve guessed it, kids might have different thoughts on college when they’re seniors than when they’re freshmen.

The worst part about the whole thing? The arms race is only going to continue to spread and spread. Next thing we know, we’ll be talking about eight-year-olds getting college offers. Then, who knows, maybe Jahlil Okafor’s first-born kid will get an offer straight out of the womb.

In the crazy world of college recruiting, it wouldn’t necessarily be surprising.

But, of course, the problem is that schools aren’t going to willingly stop recruiting players. Sure, from time to time a coach comes around who actually acts sensibly about the issue, but in the grand scheme of things, you’re going to fall behind if you don’t get in the game early.

Let’s go back to that kid who commits as a freshman.

As a 14-year-old, he does what he thinks is best for him.

“Maybe if I commit, they’ll stop hounding me,” he thinks. “The fans at this school are great. I’m definitely in.”

And then three years later, as a 17-year-old player, he has a different perspective, so he reopens his commitment.

Then, the tweets follow. Those cringeworthy reporters who hound every single thing about a high school kid’s life.

You know who I’m talking about — the ones who call these recruits every night, pretending to be their friends simply so they can get the latest scoop. Yeah, they’re the worst.

And then you’ve got each school’s Twitter “nation.” Lord, have mercy on their souls.

These are the guys who call a high school kid “traitor” for maybe thinking their beloved school isn’t the greatest thing in the world. Or the ones who tweet at a recruit 500 times to show how much their “nation” wants him at America State.

It’s a broken, despicable system, and it’s not going to get any better unless the NCAA steps in and does something about it.

So how about this: no communication with recruits until they’re juniors in high school. Sure, go watch them, but there’s no reason to be hounding them 24/7, 365 and taking away their shots at a high school experience.

Or in Lebron Jr.’s case, a middle school one too.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Alex Carson

Alex Carson graduated from Notre Dame in 2017 after majoring in Applied and Computational Mathematics and Statistics and living in O’Neill Hall. Hailing from the Indianapolis area, but born in Youngstown, Ohio, Carson is a Cleveland sports fan convinced that he’s already lived the “best day of his life.” At The Observer, Carson was first a Sports Writer, then served as an Associate Sports Editor (2015/16) and an Assistant Managing Editor (2016/17), before finishing his tenure as a Senior Sports Writer. A man of strong convictions, he ardently believes that Carly Rae Jepsen's 2015 release E•MO•TION is the greatest album of his generation, and wakes up early on Saturday mornings to listen, or occasionally watch, his favorite least-favorite sports team, Aston Villa. When he isn’t writing, Carson spends his time counting down the days to the next running of the Indianapolis 500 and reminding people that the Victory March starts with the lyric, “Rally sons of Notre Dame,” not “Cheer, cheer for Old Notre Dame.”

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