How Does “Club Transfer” Impact HS Recruiting?

by Eric Dixon

Portals have entry and exit points, so as an unprecedented number of players are entering the transfer portal, it’s impacting the recruitment side of the equation. Colleges are still recruiting high schoolers but this may change in the coming years as the portal offerings are exploding and the advantages college coaches gain from bringing in a seasoned transfer are plain and plentiful.

“Transfers are more experienced… they know what’s expected,” said one college coach polled for this piece. He went on to explain that transfers know how to eat, how hard you have to practice and all these little things freshman have to catch up on.” One local high school coach mentioned Tyrese Martin, who has decided to leave Rhode Island for the den of Huskies at UConn. “UConn isn’t going to be able to get anybody out of high school that’s better than (Martin),” he said matter-of-factly.

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Georgetown’s Mac McClung is in the Transfer Portal

Skip Robinson, head coach for the WeR1 program, added another pertinent point, saying “they can bring in a transfer and know that he’s notGeorgetown going to leave right away.” He further explained that the player had already transferred once so it is unlikely the player would be in a hurry to jump ship again.

These advantages lead some to think that it will change how programs will recruit players. Many believe that kids who fall out of the top 200 may not get recruited very heavily or receive as many actual offers because programs will begin to shift their priorities to looking at the portal first to fill holes, especially if those gaps are at key positions. If the coach is on a “warm seat” the urgency to bring in transfers may be greater.

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La Salle’s Ed Croswell transferred to Providence

If you don’t believe the high rate of transfers, as of April 25th 73 of the 351 Division I schools have 4 or more players in the portal, is real, then you are fooling yourself. One Patriot league coach spelled out how it’s affected recruiting at the low and mid major levels since only 3 of the 73 schools are from a Power 5 conference.

“First step is accepting it as reality… On average 3+ players from every roster will enter the portal.” This assessment is consistent with the numbers when you look at the number of players in the portal (approximately 850) relative to the number of players (about 4100) there are at the D1 level.

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Binghamton’s Sam Sessoms transferred to Penn State

The portal itself may also expedite this shift because prior to it’s establishment “you had to have relationships to hear about who was on the market and get contact information,” said one college head coach. “Now you have greater access,” he noted. He did, however, disagree that there would be a trend toward recruiting transfers over high school seniors or prep players. “You recruit as normal and look to the portal late.”

Here is where high school players and parents need to pay attention because it gets tricky. The exodus to the portal has affected how the recruitment strategy has to be planned out. “There are going to be way more seniors recruited” said the coach, but “the relationships are going to end up being more “interest than offers,” as college coaches will be recruiting based on contingencies rather than realities because “they have to be ready” when/if players leave unexpectedly. “We still want high school kids, but you can’t simply replace (transfers) with more young players.” Coaches plan their recruitment strategy based on having a certain level of maturity and experience on their rosters. If an older player enters the portal, he is taking that expected experience with him so in order to maintain a balance and the planned team progression, a transfer is a better option in replacing him. Besides that, “Older players win.” In previous years a school might bring in 4 players, all high school seniors. Now that may change. It may be only 2 or 3 high schoolers and 2 or 1 transfer(s).

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Towson’s Allen Betrand transferred to Rhode Island

A local college coach also offered a possible explanation of why the portal has added ease on both sides. “I think the transfer portal makes it easy for the kids now. There doesn’t have to be any face to face interaction when you decide you are leaving.”

So the question becomes why would you look to bring in high schooler when a transfer would most certainly be more ready and possibly more stable? “Potential growth,” according to one coach. “A high school senior might have a lower floor, but higher ceiling.” If you do a solid job recruiting and bring in the “right” young players, then you can have confidence that the player would meet their potential over time at the primary school.

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West Chester’s Robbie Heath transferred to Pepperdine

Robinson noted that this may be more problematic in this “Club Transfer” environment because it makes “projection” difficult. “Whenever you bring in a player you’re projecting how he might be able to help you in a couple years, but now he might not be there in a couple years because he’s not happy not playing.”

Robinson also made it clear that transferring was sometimes necessary. “Sometimes a player gets homesick or there are family issues that makes him feel like he needs to be closer, or a coaching change. Or sometimes you just have to realize every player ain’t right for every coach.”

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Saint Joseph’s Chereef Knox transferred to Coppin State

One PCL coach said a coaching change spurred his transfer from a mid-major to eventually playing 2 years at a high major school after spending his freshman year at a low major, where he excelled. His episodic journey led to a progression up the levels of college basketball which was a “blessing” in many ways because he didn’t think he would have been ready to contribute at a high-major program coming out of high school.

“It would have been tough,” he said of trying to adjust to the rigors and pace of college basketball after completing the 12th grade at just 17 years old. “I matured and was more used to being on my own, taking care of myself,” he said, further explaining why the transfer route was good for him as a player and person.

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Temple’s Josh Pierre-Louis transferred to Cal Santa Barbara

Still, another advantage a high school senior may have is “timing”, according to a local AAU director. “The portal doesn’t usually open until December. High school guys can commit before it opens.” This makes holding offers less desirable even though many high school players like to wait to gather more offers so they can announce them on social media. Playing that game may cost some an opportunity to play at the school of their choice. Also, there may be fewer scholarship opportunities for true freshman at the higher levels forcing them to decide to go to a lower level, hope to play really well then transfer up, as Robbie Heath, the former Abington Senior High School standout, was able to do in garnering a scholarship from Pepperdine University after torching opponents in the PSAC at Division II West Chester University.

Talent and timing versus experience and readiness is the dilemma facing many college coaches as they make decisions regarding their strategies and allocation of recruiting resources. The tipping point may be the general security of the coach or urgency of the positional need. The game has changed and the growth of the portal has made it easier for both entry and exit. This adds another dimension for high school upperclassmen and prep players who might be forced to make commitment decisions sooner than they might want to and go places they believe are below their ability.

 

I’m Putting My Name in the Draft! Why?

by Eric Dixon

Philadelphia, PA: Reasons matter. So often we take an “ends justifies the means” approach, valuing results over reasons. Eventually, it all catches up and we are left wondering how we end up with unintended consequences. Some of those consequences are a cause for alarm, while others are  to be celebrated.

I’ve chronicled both the confusion over a player’s appropriate level and the growth of the Transfer Portal in recent weeks. The proliferation of entrants into the transfer portal is lamented by many, while lauded by others. Those who see it as a negative point to it as a sign of immaturity or bad evaluation and decision making in the recruitment and college selection process. Others see it as a move toward greater student-athlete autonomy and freedom of movement. Really it’s both, but the reasons why matter.

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Rasheed Wallace and David Stern

When I asked the question of coaches, AAU directors, scouts and trainers too often the NBA comes up. This is insane to me. “The reason why kids want to go to play ball in college has changed,” said one AAU Director. “They all want to go to the league.”

In speaking with one scout who played in both high school and college, he said he started playing because he was attracted to “playing in the games.” He was enamored with the atmosphere, environment and lifestyle that came with being a ballplayer. “I didn’t really care for practice or any of that other stuff.” He just wanted to play in the games. He didn’t even think about whether the NBA was in his future until a college professor asked him about it as he approached his junior year.

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David Stern and Dion Waiters

Why did you start playing?

For me it was a chance to get free college tuition. I wasn’t much of an athlete going into middle school. I had attended an educational enrichment program at Beaver College (now Arcadia University) and, in deference to the constant urging of my mother, had come to believe my best chance to escape the wanton violence and rampant poverty of my neighborhood was to go to college. “You don’t like where we live. Get an education and get out” she would tell me. I knew I had to go to college and I knew that it cost money my family didn’t have. So I primarily started playing basketball to go to college. Seems as though many kids are doing it the other way around.

“Things are different now.” They certainly are with the rise of social media, the increase of influencers and the focus on individual goals in the team sport. Players are implored to make their own decisions and “live their own life”. Sounds great and in many ways it is great. There was no way I was going to make my son’s college decision for him. I had taken my injury plagued basketball career as far as I could take it and am at peace with how much the game gave me. He was the one who would have to endure the practices and mind games of the coaches that I knew would come with being a student-athlete in a high-major program, so it was best to let him make the decision.

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David Stern and Marcus Morris

Our family and support system helped by arranging and paying for him to make more than a dozen unofficial visits, play against all levels of competition and gather as much information about the schools recruiting him as we could. We also helped him set goals and expectations of what he wanted from his college experience. Asked questions like, “Do you want to live at a big school or smaller one? Where do you want to settle after graduation and what are non-basketball career goals? Did the NBA come up?  Yes.  At 6-8, a consensus top 75 player with his resume would be remiss in not making the NBA a part of the discussion. We discussed it with people at USA Basketball, pro scouts, current and past NBA players and UAA connections regarding how realistic it was and what he would need to do to make his dream a reality since he’s not currently an NBA prospect. Our access to the resources and people who have helped in that discussion is not shared by the majority of people making their college decision. We also understand that you don’t get to choose the NBA, they choose you- or not. The reasons they don’t choose some and do choose others is beyond his control so he prepares and makes decisions based on what he can control.

Another difference is social media. This has been a huge influence on the changes in the last couple years. Again, with mixed results. Some young people, who often don’t consider the ramifications of their actions beyond when their next round of SnapChats will appear and disappear, still don’t seem to understand what it means to have a digital footprint or what it can mean if it leaves a negative impression. Donte DiVincenzo had his draft celebrations marred by allegations stemming from a post on his twitter account from his middle school years.

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David Stern and Markeiff Morris

“It’s one of the first things we check,” said one assistant coach from the A-10.
One positive byproduct of this movement to play in college is higher rates of success among student-athletes, especially African Americans, according to the NCAA measurement of success, Graduate Success Rate (GSR). “More than three-quarters of African-American college athletes — 77 percent — earned their degrees, up from 74 percent last year. The rate has risen 21 percentage points since 2002,” according to a NCAA report published in 2018.

Others say this stat is misleading and that the real outcomes are less rosy with respect to actual graduate rates. The GSR doesn’t note the level of responsibility the original universities have for those who transfer or those who seek to transfer but end up just leaving school all together.

“Thus, the NCAA system is not held accountable for a significant number of recruited athletes,”  wrote the authors of a recent article titled “The Hoax of NCAA Graduation Rates.” “Even for those included in the GSR cohort as transfers, the original recruiting school is absolved of responsibility for failing to retain them.” -Politifact, February 1, 2018. When considering that the Federal Graduation rates put the actual number at less than 50 percent, it does seem as if something is amiss with the NCAA number crunching.

 “Sometimes people lose focus on their original reasons,” said James Nelson, local veteran of the AAU community. He explained that with the growth of previously unforeseen basketball related income streams, some people begin to stop chasing their passion for the game and start pursuing profits. There is little doubt that profiteering has hurt grassroots basketball and the college decision making process.

“You gotta let them do them,” says the local scout. “Kids need to be able to do what’s best for them and their families.” I ask, what if they don’t know? “Don’t matter.” I don’t presume to think I or anyone else knows enough to tell a family what’s best for them based on the information they gather, especially when you consider that no one can adequately assess a situation from the outside.  Still, players have to perform their due diligence and make sure they are gathering reliable information and setting realistic goals and expectations.

 

It’s Levels (D1, D2 & D3) to This Thing!

by Eric Dixon

April 25, 2020

We live in challenging times with respect to the market. There is a lot of uncertainty and a lack of reliable information out there. Some people at the top are outright lying while people who should know don’t and people who know aren’t always being honest for their own selfish reasons. And I’m not even talking about stocks, bonds, 401Ks or mutual funds. The various levels of college basketball recruitment and talent are fraught with misinformation, mismanagement and immaturity.

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So many kids have D1 aspirations, but their market offerings are well below that. How do you know if you are a D1 player? There is a simple answer and there is a complex answer and the truth is somewhere in the middle. The simple answer is what does the market say? You are the level of your offers and serious interest. The complex response is “it’s a combination of things,” says Aaron Dread, former D2 player and father of Penn State guard Myles Dread.

“There’s the athletic component, the IQ component, and the component of being special at something. Then there’s the maturity to understand where you are,”  he added. The former Millersville University guard went on to explain that he “had a strong inclination in 8th grade” that Myles was going to be a Division 1 player “based on how he was tracking against other kids his age.” Even though Myles was doing well against other players, he said, “I just didn’t know athletically and size-wise.”

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Myles Dread, Penn State

Dread had the advantage of his own experience playing to rely on when trying to determine what level was best for his son, who committed to PSU following a stand out performance at Peach Jam before his junior year. “Playing (myself) helped tremendously because I played against D1 guys and eventual NBA players and I know what it looks like.” So what do you do if you don’t have that advantage of personal experience and, as Brandon Williams put it- its your “first time at the rodeo,” as it is for most parents? Or even if you did play, how do you stay grounded enough to make sound decisions about your child’s potential and goal assessment?

“Be realistic and keep things in perspective,” says Isaac Mitchell, father of former North Penn standout, AJ Mitchell. The elder Mitchell has a modicum of experience having played just one year on the freshman team at Chicago powerhouse, Whitney Young High School. He explained that some parents get caught up in seeing only the best performances of their children as the barometer of their potential. “You can’t use their best game to determine how good they really are,” said Mitchell, who watched his son, a 5-11 point guard, notch 27 points in a summer league win over Shipley, then led by the outstanding Sam Sessoms. “Sessoms, who scored 20-something, was kind of cruising, while AJ was playing his heart out,” says Mitchell, who’s son is now a freshman at Widener University.

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Sam Sessoms, Jr., Recently transferred to Penn State from Binghamton

This sentiment was echoed by Williams, a coach for the Philly Pride AAU program. “Consistency is the key to being D1 or D2,” said the former Abington Friends and Chestnut Hill guard, adding that “consistency” on and off the court went a long way to determining what level a kid belongs on. . . Physical metrics and instincts are products of talent, but how consistent a player is means a lot.”

He went on to mention that the consistency of the message a player was getting from the various influencers around him also could play a major part in a child’s progression to level as well. “Consistency of mentors is important,” he explained, adding that “you have to be slow in setting expectations with parents… It avoids switching and backpedaling later.” The problem is a lot of parents aren’t trying to hear it. “If you tell them something they don’t want to hear, then they’ll just go to someone else who will tell them what they want.”

Conflating this mixture of messages is the inability of college coaches to be effective talent evaluators. “You’d be surprised how many college coaches ask me what level I think a kid is after watching him play” said Duval Simmonds, a long time trainer from the DMV area. Simmonds, who has been training kids since 2001, lamented, “It’s hard for a player to know where he belongs if the guys recruiting him don’t even know.” This makes it difficult to allow the market to determine a player’s worth.

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Duval Simmonds (left) and Georgetown Head Coach, Patrick Ewing

Look at the curious recruitment of the aforementioned Sessoms, who will take his considerable talents to the Penn State this fall. Coming out of high school no scouts thought he was ready for the Big Ten. He was a 2000 point scorer in high school, played for a premier AAU team and, by all accounts, did everything the right way. Still, just one Division 1 school, Binghamton University, deemed him good enough to play at that level. Many of us who actually saw him play were befuddled.

One possible explanation, according to one D1 coach unfamiliar with his recruitment, is his lack of height for the position and other physical metrics. It’s impossible to truly know now why at least local mid-majors didn’t see the potential in his impressive game but Simmonds offered one hypothesis.

“A lot of times coaches don’t know and like to wait to see who else offers,” he explained, adding that some coaches don’t “trust their eyes” if other programs don’t seem to see what they see.

Williams also touched on that saying coaches need to be “confident in their assessments”. He added that his confidence in his assessments makes it easier for him to have “real” conversations with parents and players about what level might be appropriate for them. However, he also said he doesn’t offer assessments and will only speak to a parent and player if asked. “Too easy to be seen as a ‘hater’”.

“I knew (my players) could play at the D1 level because I watched them play well against other players,” said Coach Charles Grasty, head coach at Abington High School, who saw all five of his starters from last year’s 28-2 District One championship squad receive the opportunity to play at the next level, ranging in level from D3 (Rosemont College) to D1 ( Univ. of Penn and Villanova). Grasty, a former college player himself, said he offers to contact schools and lobby for his players..

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Charles Grasty, Abington HS Head Coach

“I bring them in my office and tell them to give me at least five schools they want me to call, 3 solid prospects and 2 reaches,” he explained. Referring to the “reaches” he said,  “Why not? The most they can tell me is ‘no’,” he dead-panned. This year he was able to help a deep reserve on last year’s team, who played a slightly bigger role this year, get a chance at Penn State-Scranton.

He also said he didn’t think it was solely his responsibility to get players next level opportunities, however, he cares about them and wants to help. One way he helps is by scheduling competitive games where they can gain exposure. He prides himself in including rigor in his non-conference schedule. “It helps the players be seen and it helps the team get ready for conference play.”

Much of the responsibility of garnering next level opportunities lies with the player and his/her family. Part of that responsibility is making sure they are academically prepared to take advantage of any opportunities that may arise.  Several players with D1 talent have had to take a different path because of academic issues.  “We can’t do much with them if they have a 1.9,” lamented one coach. Ball without books is empty.

In conclusion, there is a gamut of reasons why players’ stock may rise and fall in determining their college level. Chief among them are physical metrics like natural talent, height, body type, athleticism, speed and an above-average skillset. These along with a mental toughness, basketball IQ, maturity and attitude that affords them the ability to perform consistently go a long way to figuring out where a player is a best fit. As usual, honesty is the best policy and most of all being honest with oneself may be the most difficult, yet important aspect of realistic goal setting.

Club Transfer is Poppin’! Why?

by

Eric Dixon

Philadelphia, PA:  There are over 800 players in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Transfer Portal (https://247sports.com/Season/2020-Basketball/TransferPortal/). As one local scout likes to say, “Club Transfer” is indeed “Jumpin’”. But why?

Delusion? Accountability? Dishonesty? All of the above according to several coaches, scouts, AAU directors and parents contacted for this article.

The college basketball landscape is changing. For the good and the bad. There have been rule changes that have affected the limitations on when and who can talk to players. Also, the number of people involved with the player has ballooned with trainers, various AAU coaches and runners joining the fray. This provides players with a wealth of resources to go to when making decisions regarding their collegiate career. However it also, according to one coach, “puts a lot of people in a kid’s ear that don’t know what they’re talking about.”

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Maryland’s Ricky Lindo has transferred to George Washington

The growth of social media has also influenced the issue. Many young people live on the adulation and sometimes criticism that comes from having thousands of followers. These followers may hold weight if they are stroking the child’s ego and making him feel as thought he’s arrived. This is particularly dangerous when these followers may be adults seeking to profit in some way from the child’s immediate and/or future success.

This puts kids in a precarious position as they try to navigate through a world they are misinformed or misled about. This misinformation isn’t always intentional from the contributors, but is often a product of coddling a player in an effort to ensure staying in his/her sphere of influence. “They don’t really have hard conversations with kids about where they are because they don’t want to lose a kid,” he intimated.

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Rider’s Dimencio Vaughn has transferred to Mississippi

It is the opinion of many of the people polled that many parents, AAU, high school and now even college coaches are guilty of not holding players accountable for fear of the child cutting them off or leaving the team. “These (players) are being set up for failure from middle school,” said one local coach.

Another coach said it makes it difficult to be honest in recruiting. “You can’t tell a kid it’s going to be a year or two before you get meaningful minutes or you might have to redshirt” because it will take you out of the mix. The truth of the matter is that most freshmen have a long way to go before they can be impactful on a team. Adjusting to the speed of the game, figuring out your role and being physically ready for the college grind all make it difficult for freshman to play a lot. Still, according to a local coach, “we try to get them on the floor to keep them happy”. Many times that effort is made early on during the sometimes less grueling non-conference schedule when the stakes aren’t as high and there is time to recover if freshman mistakes lead to a loss. However, especially for a team making a playoff push, it’s more difficult to do later in the season when rotations are tightened. “Freshmen wear down, experience helps older players push through the grind”, he added.

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St. Peter’s Aaron Estrada has transferred to Oregon

“Man, guys aren’t going to f—ing lose to satisfy their ego,” said one local scout. “But they also ain’t gonna just have a guy sit if they think they can help them either.” It’s really about winning with college coaches. Over the last few years I’ve had the chance to meet some pretty stand up guys in coaching and I realize they have a lot riding on their wins and losses. It’s not just their families they have to worry about. They have assistants and trainers and players that will be impacted if they get canned. So they have a very fine line to walk in recruiting and playing the right guys.

So then it comes down to managing expectations. Most college players, no matter the level D1 or D3 were good high school players used to playing all the minutes they can. That is not realistic as they move up. According to a sample of local kids from the class of 2019 that was pretty highly regarded by the locals, it is apparent that expectations need to be tempered. According to the data, on average, freshmen generally sit out nearly a third of the season, playing in just 23 of a possible 31 games. And when they do step on the court, it usually isn’t for long. On average they log only 15 of a possible 40 game minutes. One saw as little as 18 minutes all season, appearing in just one game!

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St. Joseph’s Chereef Knox has entered the transfer portal

Of  course there were exceptions, like Donta Scott who appeared in all of Maryland’s games, starting 21 of them. However, he had to make significant changes in his approach and his game to see the floor. Also, according to sources, he earned his 21.6 minutes per contest with his “toughness and attitude, and just running dudes outta there”. Scott played with the ball in his hands the last two years of his high school career, playing point guard at 6-7. At Maryland, it’s not been the case so far. He played the majority of his minutes at the “4” this season. “He’s always been a team first player, he’s never been a guy who cared about stats,” said Howard Hudson, his mentor and AAU coach.

According to another local coach, that kind of attitude and approach is not common among scholarship level athletes. “It used to be all about the name on the front, now it’s all about the name on the back”, he lamented.

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Temple’s Josh Pierre-Louis has transferred to California Santa-Barbara

Scott’s scenario also points to another reason why freshmen often struggle and become disillusioned as they adjust to the college level. Role changes are common and student-athletes are often asked to play differently than they did in high school. They are asked to be patient and “wait” their turn to play the main role. Whereas, according to Hudson, Scott took a “whatever you need coach” kind of approach, many young players fight it, insisting that they shouldn’t have to wait.

Another question is whether it’s worth it. Is the allure of Club Transfer Portal just fool’s gold or can a player significantly change his trajectory by changing schools? The data would suggest “No”. According to one A-10 who has done extensive research on transfers, “You are who you are whether you transfer or not”. The numbers bear this out. When a player moves from Mid Major to High Major over the remaining years of his career he sees a drop across the board in points, assists and rebounds. And when a player moves within the same level, the change in production is negligible, no matter if it was D1 to D1 or D3 to D3. Predictably, those moving from low major to high major saw the biggest decrease in production.

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La Salle’s Ed Croswell has transferred to Providence College

So if it really makes little difference whether you stay or go, why are so many kids jumping ship? Are they leaving to flee competition? Or were they simply told by the staff that they weren’t going to play so they might as well pack up? Or are they just not happy living at the school and the reason is not basketball related? One parent of a transfer said 75% of the reason his son decided to transfer was unrelated to actual basketball.

There are a myriad of reasons why players transfer and each situation is different. Still, one set of initials kept resurfacing as the conversations about this topic went on: the NBA. One coach mentioned Matt Haarms, a 7-3 center transferring from Purdue to “go someplace to showcase his NBA skillset”. We all know that chasing the NBA dream, while inspiring and admirable at times, is not the most attainable goal. According to the NCAA, 1.2% (52 of 4181) of draft eligible basketball players go on to play in major pro sports leagues. Now graduation rates are much higher: 86% in D1, 71% in D2 and 87% in D3. You choose which one should be your primary plan.

Bottom line: everyone involved needs to take stock of the truth revealed in the numbers. Everyone needs to assess their level of culpability and change accordingly. 98.8% of the time, lil Johnny is NOT going to the NBA even if he is fortunate enough to be one of the 6% of high school players who garners a D1 college scholarship. We need to stop being fans of kids and start being coaches, mentors, parents and guardians. The truth is most will not play a significant role at the college level the first one or two years. We need to prepare them for that even if they have 15K followers telling them they are “League-bound” everyday. College coaches need to grow a set and realize that if you lie to a kid just to get him in the door it’s going to work for one year and that it isn’t worth the risk to their livelihood. Club Transfer is “jumpin” and the music won’t stop until it’s too late for many student-athletes deluded into thinking accountability isn’t part of the responsibility that comes with accepting a scholarship.

 

Paul Gripper: A Philly Legend!

Paul Gripper lived a legendary life. My man was a a true Philly hoops legend… A legend is defined as an extremely famous or notorious person, especially in a particular field. Gripp was both famous and notorious in Philly hoops circles…

He was famous for devoting himself to helping young men improve themselves. Paul was a basketball lifer… He gave the game EVERYTHING he had…

He was notorious for the way he would relentlessly attack and attack all aspects of youth basketball. As a young man, Paul engaged in some of Philadelphia’s “street business” activities… Eventually, he tired of that life and made the switch to working full-time in youth athletics. He brought a level of abrasiveness and bravado that had heretofore been absent. Paul ran up the score… Up 40? Up 50? Paul was pressing, forcing turnovers and talkin’ shit!

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Paul Gripper coaching in summer 2019 at Jefferson University

The totality of his life experiences shaped his outlook and he brought a unique approach to the worlds of grassroots and scholastic basketball. Paul Gripper played HARD and loved HARD!

As a result, he forged extremely strong bonds with the kids that came through his program. He truly loved them and they loved him in return. There was nothing fake about Paul Gripper… He put his feelings on display for all to see… ALL THE TIME!

Possessing a very keen basketball mind, Paul was one of the go to guys for honest appraisals of any young middle or high school prospects. He would ALWAYS give it to you raw and uncut… Gripp was NEVER a hater… If he felt a kid was good, he would tell you… Conversely, if he felt a kid was ASS, he would tell you… On most occasions, his assessments were dead on…

He was always colorful, insightful and informative.

 

 

There were exceptions though… Gripp was usually unable to objectively assess the kids he personally worked with… He loved TOO HARD! His love would slip over into his assessments of his guys.

His D3 guys were “sure fire D2” guys… His D2 guys “should be playing D1″… His low D1 guys “belonged at high major programs”… His mid to high major guys were “lottery picks”…

Paul was a fantastic scout… Unless, the kid was one of his, his assessments of a kid’s strengths and weaknesses were on point… You just had to always remember that Paul graded his guys on a heavy curve.

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Selfless to a fault, Paul would literally give a kid his last dollar to get to a tournament or camp… He would REPEATEDLY rob Peter to pay Paul (and St. John Neumman).

He was a real man. If you had a disagreement with Paul, he would not let it fester and simmer. He would call or come by to see you. He was capable of both forgiving your transgressions and acknowledging when he was wrong.

His son is a graduate of Coppin State University. His daughter is completing a PhD. at Harvard University. Their academic success is reflective of their father’s powerful intellect and his commitment to education as a means of improving one’s lot in life.

Paul and I had several arguments and disagreements in this area. I have always been in favor of doing whatever was necessary to help a kid meet NCAA freshman eligibility requirements. Paul disagreed. He was against asking teachers to change grades, he was against taking classes over.

Paul felt that kids needed to deal with the consequences of their actions and inaction in the academic realm. I really respected him for consistently abiding by that position.

His passing is a significant blow the the Philadelphia basketball community. Paul will be missed. There is one less MAN out there loving kids HARD!

Personally, I will miss my friend. Out of respect for Paul, I will now make an effort to repair the few damaged relationships I have in the Philadelphia basketball community. Because, that’s what Paul Gripper would have done.

 

Sam Sessoms Commits to Pat Chambers and the Nittany Lions!

The Philly to State College basketball pipeline was established in 2011. Pat Chambers decided to leave Boston University and take on the tremendous challenge of breathing life into the basketball program at Penn State University. Along with Alabama, Texas and USC, Penn State is one of the premier “football” schools in American.

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Basketball in State College was thought of as something to occupy the space between the Bowl Game in January and the start of Spring football. How would Chambers eek out some space for his program in the mind of the Happy Valley faithful? How would he establish an identity for his program?

Born into the Philadelphia basketball culture, Chambers decided to bet heavily on what he knows. A Philly guard himself, Chambers placed his fate and that of the Penn State program in capable hands of Philly guards. He had an affinity for the guys that endured trials and tribulations. His first recruit, Devonte “DJay” Newbill, was unceremoniously dumped by that scalawag Buzz Williams after committing to Marquette. After enduring a year playing in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Newbill agreed to join Chambers at Penn State.

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Newbill would go on to have a wonderful career. He finished with 2105 points, 681 rebounds and 340 assists. Moreover, and more importantly, he paved the way for future Nittany Lions from the 215. John Johnson transferred from Pitt, Shep Garner was a 4-year starter out of Roman Catholic. Big Mike Watkins from MCS joined the squad. Nazeer Bostic, Lamar Stevens and Tony Carr joined the program all at once. John Harrar put down the football pads and decided play a little power forward in the Big 10. Izaiah Brockington left St. Bonaventure and became a key member of the Nittany Lion club that was ranked as high as #9 this past season.

Well… here we go again… another Philly guard that has been through some real ups and downs has decided to join Chambers and the Nittany Lions. Twenty-four months ago, Sam Sessoms had exactly one (1) scholarship offer from Binghamton. In two All-League seasons, Sessoms put up 1151 points, 254 rebounds and 253 assists.

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Desirous of an opportunity to compete at the highest level, Sessoms has decided to join a Nittany Lion club that was ranked in the top 25 most of the last season. He will redshirt a year have two seasons of eligibility remaining.

When asked why he chose Penn State over Rutgers, Wichita State, Marquette, Clemson and 50 other suitors, Sessoms said “It’s a great school, degree from Penn State will be huge for a boy from the Bottom section of West Philly. And, the Penn State alumni family is huge, I look forward to becoming a part of the network. As far as basketball is concerned, I think it’s a nice fit. I can see myself growing as a player and person under Coach Chambers and the coaching staff. Most importantly after basketball, a degree from Penn state would be good for me for the rest of my life.”

One of the most entertaining and competitive players in college basketball, Sessoms will provide Chambers with yet another Philly guard with a chip on his shoulder. Expectations will be high and Sessoms will exceed them.

Welcome home to the City 7 Sam Sessoms!

 

Get in Front of College Coaches. Get Your NCP Scouting Report Today!

We are currently experiencing a health crisis unlike anything we have ever seen before. Virtually all colleges and high schools across the nation have shut down and eliminated all direct instruction and shifted to online delivery of educational services.  As a result, athletic competition at both the collegiate and scholastic levels has come to a screeching halt. No NCAA tournaments or state HS championships for winter sports like basketball. Moreover, and perhaps more importantly, the recruiting process has been drastically altered.  Many rising high school seniors, unsigned seniors and 5th year prep prospects find themselves in the worst imaginable situation.

Thousands of boys and girls across the nation were expecting to play in AAU/grassroots Live Period events in front of college coaches in April. They were prepared to take unofficial visits to campuses far and wide in hopes of landing coveted athletic scholarships. They expected to see scores of college coaches coming through “open gyms” to evaluate them and their teammates. None of this is happening. For the first time ever, the college recruitment process has been drastically altered midstream by external and unforeseen forces.

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It has to be tough for kids to see their peers accepting scholarships and committing to play in college. Well-known and established Division 1 prospects that have been on the radar screen for a while continue to receive offers, calls and texts. College coaches are even conducting virtual unofficial and in-home visits for the top prospects on their lists.

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But, what about the late bloomers? What about the kids that were depending on the April “Live Periods” and “High School Live Periods” to demonstrate what they could do?

For years, Black Cager Sports Media has facilitated communication between elite basketball prospects and Division 1 college coaches. We have entered into an agreement with National College Preps (NCP) to distribute NCP 2K Men’s Basketball Scouting Reports to Men’s and Women’s College Coaching staff across the country.

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NCP 2K Scouting Report
The NCP 2K Scouting report puts student-athletes and parents in the driver’s seat. They have full access to the information that is in their recruiting profile. Additionally, The NCP 2K Scouting Report allows them the freedom to share their report with the schools of their choosing with the NCP branding that captures the attention of college coaches.

Over the past seven years, Black Cager Sports Media has established solid relationships with college basketball coaches across the country. Black Cager Sports Media will contact and forward your NCP 2K Scouting Report to five (5) colleges recommended by NCP proprietary software program.

 

Contact:

Delgreco Wilson

http://www.nationalcollgepreps.com

800.424.6753, ext. 702