by Danny Hazan 2/6/13
In the wake of national signing day, I became compelled to share a story with whoever cares to read it. But a little background information is necessary first.
I covered the NY2LA Sports Summer Jam presented by Under Armour last summer for Slam’s website.
The five-day club basketball extravaganza should be on the bucket list for any basketball junkie because of the collection of talent from around the country that competes in suburban Milwaukee.
For Slam, I went to find some feature stories on some of the players who are nationally ranked by all the scouting services and have scholarship offers from every major program at the Division I level. I also do my best to feature some kids who I feel are just as capable of playing at the high-DI level but are ‘under-the-radar’.
Prior to my trip I printed out all the top 100 lists from the various recruiting sites to give me a frame of reference of which kids to watch as there are hundreds of teams who compete on one of the six courts at Homestead High School. So as the tournament began, one of the first teams I watched was the Houston Defenders.
The Defenders featured guards Aaron and Andrew Harrison, who were both consensus top 10 players in the class of 2013. They were in the midst of a recruiting battle between Kentucky and Maryland, and the fact identical twins could be so good at basketball made it a no-brainer story to share with Slam’s readers.
But as I was watching them in their first game, someone else stood out to me.
Derrick Griffin, a 6-foot-7 forward, ran the floor faster and more relentlessly than any high schooler I’ve seen at his size and build. He possessed an explosive leaping ability and wowed onlookers with countless ferocious dunks throughout the entire tournament. I found him on the top 100 lists I had printed during that first game I watched of theirs, and learned he was committed to Texas A&M.
It wasn’t until a few days later at the tournament I found out he was one of the top rated high school football players in the nation, and committed to the Aggies as a receiver.
After I picked my jaw up off the floor following several minutes of imagining him on the football field absolutely devouring 5-10 defensive backs, I knew he’d be a perfect kid to feature in my story with the Harrisons. So I talked to him about being a standout in both sports, which sport he liked better and which he planned to play in college.
My story on the Houston Defenders can be found here: http://www.slamonline.com/online/college-hs/high-school/2012/07/andrew-aaron-harrison-twin-tempo/
As the summer ended, the school year started and my full-time job covering high school sports in the Central Suburban League for CSLinsider.com began I tried to keep tabs on all the guys I’ve covered from around the country from a distance.
I read about his dominance with his high school football team this fall, and have read some game reports on him killing on the hardwood this winter as well. I was interested to see if he’d play both sports at A&M, or just pick one.
I found out today he won’t be playing either one in College Station next year.
Griffin did not sign with A&M because he won’t qualify academically. In fact, they didn’t even send him a letter of intent to sign. At this point, he needs to graduate high school or earn a GED so he can go the junior college route – which will be an uphill battle according to reports I’ve read on A&M recruiting sties.
Obviously some responsibility falls on his shoulders, but the real failure here is not with Griffin but the administrators and educators who have overseen him throughout his academic career.
If a kid can’t graduate high school because of failing grades, how is he eligible to participate on the football and basketball team? I wonder if he was ever told he couldn’t play a sport until his grades reached a certain level? Speaking from a personal standpoint, I would have never changed my priorities or how hard I worked for school if I kept on getting to play – and being rewarded with all the accolades and notoriety that came with my performances.
This is a classic case of the adults in charge turning the other cheek so a phenomenal athlete can help them sell tickets. They couldn’t care less what happens to that athlete after they’re past high school age.
The importance of sports, and the priority levels it is held at, in society is for a different column written by someone else.
But if you are just a casual sports fan who sees ESPN dedicating programming to high school athletes who are supposed to be the NCAA’s next stars on signing day, I wanted to introduce you to a kid as talented as everyone you watched or read about but a reflection of the ugly side of high school and college sports.
It sucks because it’s a stark reminder of the reality that there are plenty of kids who don’t even play sports who slip through the cracks academically much like Griffin, and are just brushed aside.
However, Griffin was taken advantage of by his high school because of his unique ability to dominate a football and basketball game.
Lets see if his high school steps up for him when he needs it most.
Mac Irvin Fire 16′s upended by CAPS All Stars
Northwest Indiana’s CAPS All Stars, coached by Nate Richie, surprised many onlookers by taking it to the Fire from start to finish. The Fire were without their best prospect, Whitney Young’s 6’6” Sam Thompson, but added Mt. Carmel’s Tracy Abrams who played with the 17′s the night before. Abrams, who committed to the Illini last fall, had his hands full all game with Lowell’s 6’0” combo guard, Austin Richie. Richie led the charge with well over 30 points in the game, scoring in a variety of ways. He also had help in the back court from Westview’s Justin Jantzi. Munster’s 6’6” forward Ricky Carbajal, and Crown Point’s 6’10” Jared Smoot did a lot of damage on the glass, and provided a great presence inside on offense.
While most of the college coaches, and neutral spectators, around the court were there for the high-profile Fire 16′s, they all got to see a handful of division-one prospects for the class of 2011 from northwest Indiana.
Illinois Wolves 16′s continue to dominate
Coach Mullins and coach Maniscalco have seen great success throughout the spring and summer with their Wolves 16 and under club. Many of the tournaments their team has won, have been in the 17′s division. At the End of Season Showdown, the Wolves played their way to a title in the 17′s division against some great competition. Rock Island’s Chasson Randle, and St. Ignatius’ Nnanna Egwu were named co-MVP’s of the tournament. They received help, as usual, from St. Patrick’s Jacob Williams, Benet’s Dave Sobolewski, York’s Will Sullivan, and Peoria Central’s Bobo Drummond.
After all their success this summer against kids a year older than them, there is no telling what they’re going to do to the competition next summer.
Brian Stinnette and ChicagoHoops.com’s End of Season Showdown at The Fieldhouse in Merrillville, Indiana showcased some of the best travel teams in the Midwest. It also served as a last chance during this July’s live recruiting period for college coaches to see the players showcase their ability. Head coaches and assistant coaches from high division-one programs, all the way through division-three, were in attendance. On Wednesday and Thursday of the event, so was End to End.
Class of 2012 Point Guards emerge
Landis Farmer, 5’8”, Peoria Manual (Illinois Wolves); Farmer runs the show for the tough Illinois Wolves 15′s. He is extremely fast with the ball in his hands, and has a slick handle. Even though he is a true point guard, he has displayed the ability to score in many different ways all spring and summer. Look for Farmer to make some noise with Manual over the course of the next few seasons.
Fred Van Vleet, 5’11”, Rockford Auburn (Prymetyme); Van Vleet’s point guard skills are as developed as you will find for a 15 year old. He leads the charge for Prymetyme as they continually make deep runs in tournaments. It’s been a while since a high-major division-one prospect has come out of Rockford, but if Van Vleet keeps working hard, that trend will end.
Jelani Neely, 5’10”, Simeon (Meanstreets); Simeon head coach Robert Smith may be relying on a sophomore to run the show for his varsity team. If this summer is any indication, Jelani Neely looks like he will be up to the challenge. Neely possesses a great skill set that includes a nasty cross, and a great drive-and-dish ability. Should he continue to work on his perimeter game, as well as getting stronger, he will easily be one of the elite point guards in the CPS.
Look out for Rich South
Over the past few days it has been reported by the Chicago Sun-Times that class of 2010 guard, and Illini commit, Crandall Head will be transferring back to Rich South. Head will join Macari Brooks to form arguably the most athletic backcourt in the state of Illinois. Brooks, 6’2”, displayed his amazing athletic ability playing with the Mac Irvin Fire 16′s the past couple days. The Fieldhouse was buzzing for minutes after Brooks threw down a 360 while getting fouled by an opponent.
Keep your eyes out for more stories, photos, and interviews from the End of Season Showdown…
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