Howard Avery uttered those two words into his phone last Monday after Kentucky basketball coach Billy Gillispie offered Avery’s son, Michael, a scholarship. Avery had called to follow up on an encounter with Gillispie at a LeBron James-sponsored tournament in Akron, Ohio, the previous weekend. NCAA rules forbade Gillispie from discussing Michael’s play with Avery at the tournament site.
Gillispie could, however, field Avery’s call two days later, after the family had returned home to Lake Sherwood, Calif., Gillispie told the proud papa that after watching Michael, a 6-foot-4 combo guard with a sweet shooting stroke, play in a pair of games with the Indiana Elite travel team, he had seen all he needed to see. Gillispie wanted Avery’s son to come to Lexington. The brevity of the evaluation didn’t cause the elder Avery to question Gillispie’s tone, though. Neither did the fact that such a momentous occasion was taking place during a phone call instead of during a campus visit.
Avery simply couldn’t believe the University of Kentucky head coach had just offered a scholarship to an eighth grader who had never set foot on campus and who still had yet to decide where he would attend high school. By now you know Michael Avery accepted that scholarship offer. When the news hit the Web shortly after Avery committed last Thursday, criticism rained on Gillispie and Avery.
The questions were pointed but predictable:
1. How could Kentucky — college basketball royalty — stoop to offering a scholarship to an eighth grader?
2. How could that child’s parents allow him to accept a scholarship offer 40 months before he can sign a Letter of Intent?
3. Will this turn into college basketball’s version of the subprime mortgage crisis with coaches (banks) trying in four or five years to excavate themselves from the wreckage of a series of bad offers (loans)?
Here are the answers:
1. Gillispie offered because he was worried someone else would beat him to the punch. In this case, “someone else” translates loosely to USC coach Tim Floyd, who accepted commitments in consecutive years from players who had yet to suit up for a high school team.
2. After three days of deliberation and discussion, Avery’s parents were quite comfortable with their son’s choice. Howard Avery — who said he wasn’t comfortable allowing his son to be interviewed for this story — will explain further in a few paragraphs.
3. Possibly, depending on how well coaches can project 13- and 14-year-olds. For the time being, get used to the early offers. “These aren’t aberrations,” Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Jerry Meyer said Monday night, minutes before he called Greenfield, Ohio, ninth-grader Vinny Zollo for a story about Zollo’s commitment to Kentucky. “It’s like an arms race,” Meyer said. “You’ve got to offer first.”
Sometimes early commitments pan out. Sometimes they don’t. Huntington Beach, Calif., forward Taylor King committed to UCLA prior to his freshman year at Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.). Two years later, he told the Los Angeles Times, “I made my decision way too early. It was too early to know what I wanted.” King eventually signed with Duke. After spending much of 2007-08 on the bench, King announced last month he would transfer to Villanova.
This guy hits it pretty much exactly as I see it.
And you’ll notice that Gillispie wasn’t the first to do this and 8th Grade is not the youngest recruiting commitment out there. But Dick Vitale and the other talking heads often open their mouths before they know all of the facts.
In sports, there is not much investigative journalism. There are a mass of pinheads who are paid to shout at the top of their lungs of the greatnress of Coach K or Duke or UNC or insert any ACC school. Sports “journalism” is a collective of arrogant loud mouthed hooligans who get paid to shout the company line and to react to scandal.
Dookie Vitale and the rest are charlatans, BABY!
Finally, one guy at CNNSI spends a little time and effort and uncovers the real story behind this rising recruiting trend.
Dick Vitale in his usual reactionary, superficial manner tells us that this was nothing more than “headline grabbing” and that it is unhealthy. Vitale is one of the worst columnists in the biz. The guy is as deep as a mustard stain on Michael Moore’s favorite t-shirt.
Dick Vitale and the rest of his cronies should learn the facts before they wail and lament the downfall of civilization or college basketball as we know it.
See also Dick Vitale is an emotional tampon.
Comments. Question? Smart remarks.