5-at-10: High school recruiting, ESPN's Jeremy Lin fixation and the Mocs in trouble

5-at-10: High school recruiting, ESPN's Jeremy Lin fixation and the Mocs in trouble

February 17th, 2012 by Jay Greeson in Sports - Columns

From the "Rhinestone Cowboy studios," let's go.

Clarke Central's Queshaun Watson sits with his grandmother, Elenor Watson, left, and mother, Fashonna Maxwell, before signing a letter of intent to attend the University of Tennessee during a national signing day ceremony at Clarke Central High School on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2012 in Athens, Ga. (AP Photo/Athens Banner-Herald, Richard Hamm)

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

Hey 5@10, I know you're not a big fan of high school recruiting but I wanted to get your thoughts on something I've been wondering ever since you stated that of the 36 New England Patriots who came up in the recruiting age that 18 of those were rated 2 stars or less.

That is an amazing stat considering all the time and effort that goes into evaluating talent on the high school level. In regards to college basketball it seems as if AAU basketball is where most college basketball coaches do most of their recruiting where kids as early as 9th grade are offered scholarships. On the other hand most football recruits aren't offered scholarships until they're in the 11th grade and those scholarships are usually offered at some sort of college team camp.

My question for you is do you think it's more difficult to judge talent in high school basketball or high school football?

CelticVol

Excellent question. The simple answer is it's more difficult to judge high school football talent.

The layers to that however become more complicated.

As you mentioned, AAU competition and summer camps give college basketball coaches more game opportunities to see high school stars in game situations. Plus, they get to see the stars against other stars, so you get a better view of how the basketball players will fare against comparable competition.

Since all of the offseason football camps and 7-on-7 competitions are non-contact, there will always be a sizable variable in scouting high school football players. And that variable - the physical nature of the game - plays greatly into a stat like the one you mentioned about the Patriots.

There are other factors, too. Late development can really change a football player. It does in hoops, too, like in the case of UK's stud freshman Anthony Davis, who grew like seven inches as a junior in high school, or David Robinson, who grew six inches after arriving at the Naval Academy, but its less frequent. The numbers are a factor, too, since there are roughly 30 five-star players each year in each sport according to Rivals. There are so many more football scholarships, so there are more two-star success stories and five-star flops by sheer mathematics. And a football player can raise their level more dramatically with sheer want-to than basketball players.

As an exercise let's look at the top 10 recruits in 2006 for basketball and football. These guys are pegged as the top 10 players in the country so, five years later, an expectation of an NFL or NBA roster spot is the baseline.

Football

1) Percy Harvin

2) Andre Smith

3) Chris Wells

4) Gerald McCoy

5) Sergio Kindle

6) Matt Stafford

7) Vidal Hazelton

8) C.J. Spiller

9) Allen Bradford

10) Mitch Mustain

Six of those guys were NFL first-round picks. Three of them likely won't be in the NFL next fall.

Basketball

1) Greg Oden

2) Kevin Durant

3) Brandan Wright

4) Chase Budinger

5) Thaddeus Young

6) Spencer Hawes

7) Javaris Crittenton

8) Wayne Ellington

9) Ty Lawson

10) Brook Lopez

Heard of almost all of those guys, right?

In the end, there are always going to be Wes Welkers and Jeremy Lins, guys who make themselves great players and make us believe in underdogs and make scouts look silly. (And yes, this is the clear winner for the question we spent way too much time on.)

- - - -

In this Feb. 10, 2012 file photo, New York Knicks' Jeremy Lin reacts after scoring during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers, in New York. With the Knicks and Rangers on winning streaks and Linsanity spreading through the sports world, shares of The Madison Square Garden Co. reached an all-time high Monday, Feb. 13, 2012.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

From scole023

When's the next contest? I like to win stuff.

OK, here's my next question -- can you have two questions? Why is every third story on ESPN about Jeremy Lin?

Thanks.

scole023

Yes, you can have two questions, and in this case, we'll even let you have three.

We're working on something for the Daytona 500, and we'll have it pieced together by early next week. As always any suggestions are welcomed, and we're thinking about having a "Ricky Bobby if you're not first you're last" Contest, where entries pick the winner and the 43rd-place finisher. Thoughts?

As for the new Knicks point guard, well, by now everyone has heard about Jeremy Lin. Everyone.

It has reached the level of saturation that all big stories teeter on in today's 24/7 media cycle. It's a great story, but come on. Would it shock you if ESPN gets live shots from Lin's apartment and breaks into SportsCenter with (cue the old-school CBS lead-in music).... "We're going live to New York where Jeremy Lin is making a huge decision: "Cheerios or Rice Krispies?" - let's go to Bob Ley and Outside the Lines for a special report."

The backlash is coming. It always does. It's like modern media version of Lenny from "Of Mice and Men." We love a new story - especially an unbelievable underdog story like Lin's - so much that we consume it. Then we get tired of it and don't want to hear any more about it.

All of the cosmic tumblers were in place for the Lin story to become Lin-Sanity.

Perfect locale? Check. If you take the exact circumstance of this story and move Jeremy Lin to Charlotte or Portland, you haven't heard of him. It's New York baby, and that makes it much, Much, MUCH bigger. (And if you think Lin-Sanity has taken hold, think what would have happened if LeBron James had picked the Knicks and turned every game into an event. Sweet Bandwagons of Bron-Bron's Brand, he would have had a chance to be the single biggest star in the history of team sports. Notice we said biggest star, not greatest player, and yes, we're including MJ.)

Perfect timing? Check. February is an awfully slow sports month, so the 24/7 sports cycle needs something to spin around. Welcome to Lin-ville.

Perfect nickname? Lin-sanity is awesome, and it's only the tip of the iceberg. Think back to the Fernando-mania or Tebow-time or even Mark "The Bird" Fidrych - three of the closest examples of the Lin phenomenon - and all of them had catchy slogans.

Perfect handling? The kid is super bright and likable and has handled every interview almost letter perfectly.

Roll that together, and boom, cult hero and media frenzy.

And a big part of this is society. What would Fernando-mania been if we had had Twitter in 1980. How about YouTube during Jordan's heyday?

So it goes, and the media cycle will continue to spin until it doesn't. Think about that.

- - - -

Danica Patrick smiles at a news conference during the NASCAR Media Tour in Concord, N.C., Monday, Jan. 23, 2012. Patrick will not run in the Indianapolis 500 this season and instead will drive in the Coca-Cola 600, NASCAR's longest race of the year.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

From Checkered

NASCAR starts in a a few days. After a great year last year, can NASCAR keep it up? Who do you think will surprise people?

Checkered

Thanks for the question and feel free to swing by anytime. As Bluto says in "Animal House," - "Don't cost nothin'."

It will be tough for NASCAR to duplicate the magical end to the 2011 season. The points changes allowed for a magical conclusion with a winner-take-all finale. While matching the walk-off grand slam that was 2011 will be near-impossible, there's a real chance for a home run season.

Here are some predictions for it:

- Dale Jr. will win a race, and almost everyone will celebrate

- Danica will win a race, and almost everyone will say the fix was in

- One of the Busch brothers will wreck Danica and make some kind of "Woman driver" joke in the pits. NASCAR is not going to think it's funny, either.

-We think Kasey Kahne will be super strong in the No. 5

- We think Brad Keselowski will be even stronger, especially if he can keep his temper in check.

- We think Jimmie Johnson will be in it until the end because, well, he's Jimmie Johnson.

- We think Kevin Harvick wins the whole thing nine months from now.

- - - -

UTC head basketball coach John Shulman paces on the sidelines in McKenzie arena.

Photo by Doug Strickland/Times Free Press.

From Jomo11

Jay - What are we going to do about the Mocs?

Jomo

It's the red elephant in the room right now isn't it?

OK, let's cut into this. But before we begin, let's all assume that Rick Hart and Roger Brown were shooting us straight a few weeks ago when they told our ace columnist Mark Wiedmer that they have zero intentions of firing John Shulman. And we believe that is their story - not a "vote of confidence" per se or any posturing - and they will stick to it. We also believe that Shulman's relative job security is as much about balancing bank accounts as bouncing basketballs, so there's that, too.

Assuming that Shulman is on the sideline for the 2012-13 season (which we believe he will be, rightly or wrongly), here are the three things that we believe could aid the Mocs basketball program the most (hard to know if the current program can be "turned around" but let's give this a shot):

1) A hot-shot, offensive-minded assistant coach must be hired. The Mocs are the exception to the rule in the modern day realm of college athletics. They have the Jimmies and the Joes, but they are getting whipped in the X's and the O's. The Mocs need an offensive guru to come in and give this group an identity when they have the ball. As a testament to how much this is needed, let's ask a quick question. If you're like Jomo and are among the 900-or-so people in the Chattanooga area who have seen more than five UTC basketball games this year, what would you say is UTC's go-to play? Take your time. OK, saying a "pick and roll" counts, but just barely. The Mocs need an offensive identity, and they need it ASAP.

2) Fire 'Fire.' Shulman has a strong reputation as a defensive coach. And his defensive philosophy of building a wall around the rim and double-teaming the post has morphed into a much-maligned strategy known as 'Fire.' In most leagues preventing teams from getting one-on-one chances in the paint is a sound fundamental belief. In the Southern Conference, however, it's become an opportunity for a lot of guys no one has ever heard of to have career nights. To put it another way, if you are playing teams that have future NBA players in the front court it makes all the sense in the world to double-team the post. If you are playing teams that have future church league all-stars (i.e. 6-foot-3 white guys that can flat-out stroke open 3s) why double team a 6-foot-7 post player who is 8 feet from the hoop. Shulman's 'Fire' in the Southern Conference is the basketball version of a metaphysical quandary - conceptually it makes sense, when applied practically it's flawed.

3) Have some fun. The handful of Mocs games we've seen this year, the pressure - on John, on the players on everyone this side of Quake at the P.A. - is overwhelming. There seems to be little joy in McKenzie and that has become a self-fulfilling circle of dread. The fans expect the worst from this bunch - and they have routinely delivered just that. And that pressure has taken a lot of the fun out of this process for everyone involved. That said, some of this is bad timing. When a team has this much experience and the expectations are super high, when things turn, they turn quickly and harshly. So it goes, and for this bunch that has happened to the nth degree.

Jomo, that's a short list of suggestions from 1,000 feet away. Would it make a difference? Maybe. Or maybe not. But there's little doubt it could get much worse than it is right now, huh? But, that said, we've said from the get-go that this bunch is talented enough to win the SoCon tournament, and no matter how you feel about Shulman, there's no doubting that he knows how to win three games in three days. So it goes.

- - - -

Gary Carter, left, and Eddie Murray, the 2003 inductees into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, hold baseball bats during a news conference in New York formally announcing their induction, Thursday, Jan. 16, 2003.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

From Newcomer

I have just started reading your blog. Good stuff. If this doesn't get in this week, maybe you could talk about it later, but with the death of Gary Carter on Thursday, I wanted to get your all-time team since 1980. Carter's got to be the catcher, right?

Thanks again for the morning column, it's fun most of the time.

Newcomer

Thanks for stopping by and feel free to comment when the mood strikes you. As for your last line, well, thanks we think. Actually, we say thanks because being fun most of the time is better than being fun part of the time. So it goes.

Carter was a hoss catcher, there's no doubt. But Hall of Fame status or not, he was not the catcher of our lifetime (we started paying attention to baseball in the late 1970s, collecting baseball cards in the 1980s and working for newspapers in the 1990s). Here's our all-star team since 1980, and feel free to include your own version:

(Side note: Before we start, you can look at the post 1995 MLB in two lights - either everyone is included or you excluded everyone that has a steroid taint. We are choosing to exclude those in the steroid shadow, but feel free to decide that how ever you like.)

C - Mike Piazza

1B - Albert Pujols

2B - Robbie Alomar over Craig Biggio

SS - Derek Jeter

3B - Wade Boggs by the slightest of margins over Chipper Jones

OF - Rickey Henderson

OF - Ken Griffey Jr.

OF - Ichiro

SP - Greg Maddux

Closer - Mariano Rivera