Where are Today’s John Chaney & John Thompson?

The NCAA has consistently implemented a series of increasingly stringent academic reforms. These reforms have disproportionately impacted Black student-athletes from under-performing urban and rural schools in the South.

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When the initial reforms were proposed and implemented John Chaney and John Thompson took incredibly strong stances. They cited the “racist” nature of the measures. They openly criticized the NCAA.

Today, prominent Black coaches and professional athletes are noticeably silent. This despite the fact that the most restrictive and discriminatory reforms are set to become effective August 1, 2016.

This had led me to ask: Where are today’s John Chaney and John Thompson?

I’ve spoken to a couple hundred young student-athletes in the Philadelphia area over the past 3-4 weeks. Maybe 1 in 20 have ever heard of John Chaney and John Thompson.

Our children do not know our history. They have no idea of their place in the struggle for inclusion and equality. As a result, they are not prepared to navigate the traps that have been set for them.

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The DEVIL is a LIAR! Our kids WANT to learn!

Black student-athletes don’t care about academics… Inner city High School coaches don’t emphasize the importance of books…

Last week a U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia openly stated “There are those who contend that it does not benefit African Americans to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a slower-track school where they do well.”

I’m here to tell you…

Devil is Liar

Out kids are thirsty for knowledge. They want to learn! They want to go to college. They want to create better situations for themselves and their families.

What they lack is a road map. How do they accomplish their goals? They have no idea. What are the obstacles the face? They have no clue.

What I know for sure is that High School Coaches want to see their kids excel and further their education. Coach after coach has demanded that I come in an explain the NCAA eligibility process to their players. Indeed, Lou Williams at Dobbins Vo-Tech insisted that I hang up the phone and come talk to his players immediately. Of course, I jumped in my car and headed to 22nd and Lehigh. Upon arriving, Coach Williams stopped practice because he said, “education is MORE important” than what they were reviewing in practice.

Time after time, the same scenario plays itself out… The DEVIL is liar…

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The coaches know that in June of 2013 Philadelphia Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. laid off 3,783 employees, because of the district’s financial crisis. The list included 676 teachers, 283 counselors, 127 assistant principals, and 1,202 noontime aides. Before he said it, the coaches knew that “These … employees are more than numbers: these are people — professionals — who play important roles in the lives of thousands of students throughout our city.”

The coaches see the results… Hite called the layoffs “nothing less than catastrophic for our schools and students… Every aspect of the district will feel the impact — schools, regional offices, and central office — along with employees ranging from senior administrators to support staff.”

I have been amazed by the extent to which the coaches and the student-athletes persist in the desire to pursue higher education… Everyone knows Philly’s students and student-athletes have long received the short end of the stick. Yet, they strive…

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When I show up to talk about NCAA regulations and the kwalifī smartphone app, I am frequently told “I already downloaded it and put my grades in…”

I cannot put into words how that makes me feel… To know that my idea, my concept, my plan has come to fruition and the young people are using it without being prompted nearly made me cry! Youngbucks have called me from Baltimore asking how to interpret their results and I have yet to visit a single school in Maryland.

It’s not just under-performing urban schools… Predominantly white and middle to upper class Upper Moreland, Wissahickon and Pymouth-Whitemarsh have embraced kwalifī. But, the intent was and will always remain to help those who are most needy… For years, I have spent hours and hours with some of the sharpest, most intelligent young men in the country. I have seen many of these guys go on to do great things in college and beyond. Here is a partial list…

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With the kwalifi app, instead of 10-15 per year, we will be able to help tens of thousands!!

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The young brothers pay attention to the message… They ask very good questions…

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I love, love, love this particular project… For us, by us… But everyone should feel free to download and utilize the kwalifī app…

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I will be visiting schools every day for the rest of the school year… If you want us to talk to your guys/girls contact us blackcager@gmail.com…

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We must remain vigilant… We cannot allow a return to the days of yore…

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…and remember… The DEVIL is a LIAR!!

Take Control of YOUR NCAA Eligibility Process: kwalifī app

Happy Holidays!! Here’s my gift to the basketball community… It’s a tool that will allow you to track the progress of young people you care about. It could be your son, daughter, niece, nephew, grandson, granddaughter, neighbor, cousin or just a youngin’ you know with potential.  For a limited time in December, we are making the kwalifī app available for FREE to those that read The Black Cager.

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The kwalifī smartphone app allows high school student-athletes, parents and other concerned adults to track progress toward meeting NCAA DI, DII and NAIA eligibility standards.

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The app is available in both the IPhone App store and Google Play store for Android. Use a keyword search for “Black Cager” to access the FREE download. You can also download kwalifi by clicking on the logo below and following the links on the website…

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If you care about a young student-athlete, download the app… Tell the student-athlete to download the app… Tell his parents to download the app… Take control of the NCAA eligibility process…

It costs you nothing!! This is my gift to the basketball community… Merry Christmas!!

If you do NOT download the app… If you do NOT take control of the NCAA eligibility, the consequences could be severe!!

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For nearly 30 years… The NCAA has been closing the window of opportunity for students…

“A survey by the Associated Press showed the overwhelming majority of players sidelined by NCAA eligibility standards are Black…. Blacks accounted for 81 percent of football ineligibles in 1986 and 90 percent in 1987.”

Reading Eagle, September 9, 1988

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Temple Great Eddie Jones was ineligible as a freshman

“Two members of Temple’s 1990 basketball recruiting class who figured prominently in the Owls’ plans will be ineligible next season because they failed to meet the academic requirements of NCAA Proposition 48, sources said. Sources close to the program said yesterday that Eddie Jones, a highly touted 6-foot-6 swingman from Pompano Beach, Fla., and Aaron McKie, a 6-4 shooting guard from Philadelphia Public League champion Simon Gratz, had scored less than the required 700 of a possible 1,600 on the Scholastic Aptitude Test or 15 of a possible 36 on the American College Test.

Philadelphia Inquirer, July 18, 1990

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Sun-Times player of the year Kevin Garnett of Farragut H.S. (photo by Phil Velasquez 2/28/95 Sun-Times) Sun-Times Library files

Kevin Garnett had the high-school grades to qualify to play college basketball, but the standardized test scores were a different story. He easily gained the necessary number in practice tests, and his teachers considered him plenty smart, but try as he might, he kept coming up short when the ACT was given for real. The best he could do was a 16, one point short of the minimum required by the NCAA for freshman eligibility at the time.”

ESPN, February 28, 1995

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Brandon Jennings could not meet NCAA eligibility requirements

Brandon Jennings signed a letter of intent to attend Arizona and planned to stay there only one season. But he struggled to reach a standardized test score to meet the N.C.A.A. minimum for a scholarship. (He and his mother, Alice Knox, said that his last SAT score was questioned by the testing service and that they still had not received it.)”

New York Times, October 4, 2008

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Jonah Bolden (right) in street clothes during UCLA game

“The NCAA has ruled that UCLA freshman Jonah Bolden is a partial qualifier, and as such, will not be able to compete for the men’s basketball team this season,” UCLA said. “The ruling allows for Bolden to continue on athletic scholarship.”

ESPN, September 12, 2014

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Lamonte Turner was not cleared by NCAA

“Tennessee athletic department spokesman Tom Satkowiak confirmed that Lamonte Turner is unable to compete or travel with the Volunteers this season because he “was not cleared by the NCAA eligibility center.” Satkowiak said Turner will be able to practice with the team. Turner enrolled at Tennessee in August but was awaiting clearance from the NCAA in an attempt to play this season.”

ESPN, September 28, 2015

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Kobie Eubanks lost a scholarship to University of Alabama

“Kobie Eubanks, Alabams’s top recruit in the 2015 class, won’t play for the Crimson Tide after he was not cleared by the NCAA. Eubanks will not enroll at Alabama, Tide head coach Avery Johnson said in a statement on Wednesday.“We are disappointed for Kobie and his family,” Johnson said. “Unfortunately, Kobie wasn’t cleared by the NCAA and we couldn’t get him admitted to the University of Alabama. He has a bright future and we wish him well.”

Sports Illustrated, August 19, 2015

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Andy Van Vliet ruled ineligible by NCAA

“Wisconsin forward Andy Van Vliet will not play in the 2015-16 season after being ruled ineligible by the NCAA, UW announced Tuesday night. According to the press release from UW, “NCAA rules state that prospective student-athletes have one year to enroll in a collegiate institution following their high school graduation or expected graduation date. Van Vliet played basketball as an amateur outside of that one-year window, which has resulted in him sitting this season and losing a year of eligibility.”

SB Nation, November 17, 2015

James Proche

James Proche ruled ineligible by NCAA

“SMU receiver James Proche, a DeSoto alum, has been ruled academically ineligible for the 2015 season by the NCAA. But don’t get the wrong impression about Proche, who was one of the state’s top-100 recruits in the Class of 2015.”

DallasNews.com, August 25, 2015

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Marcus Lovett cannot play this year

Red Storm freshman guard Marcus LoVett has been deemed a partial qualifier for the 2015-16 season, which basically means that he can practice with the team but cannot play in games. The ruling stems from an investigation into LoVett’s academic credits in high school, as the six-foot point guard attended three different schools.

CBSSports.com, November 11, 2015

2014 Nike EYBL. Session #2. Dallas.

Mickey Mitchell rule ineligible by NCAA

“Ohio State freshman forward Mickey Mitchell has been ruled ineligble, according to a release from the university athletic department. “Freshman forward Mickey Mitchell has not been cleared to compete for the Ohio State men’s basketball team by the NCAA Eligibility Center,” Ohio State director of athletics Gene Smith said in the release. “He is eligible to practice but not compete until the issue is resolved.”

Scout.com, November 3, 2015

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Therence Mayimba lost scholarship to George Mason

“We got some sad news yesterday via redshirt freshman Therence Mayimba’s instagram account. It appears that once again he has been ruled ineligible by the NCAA and likely keeping him off the college basketball hardwood for good. Recently he’s been playing in the FIBA Afrobasket 2015 tournament for his home nation of Gabon and doing well.”

GMUHoops.com, August 29, 2015

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Jovon Robinson ruled ineligible

“Auburn’s biggest running back on the roster will not be playing for the Tigers this year after the NCAA ruled Jovon Robinson ineligible. The action came after one of his high school guidance counselors at Memphis’ Wooddale High admitted to changing a grade on his transcript.”

Trackemtigers.com, August 18, 2012

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Giovanni McLean lost a scholarship

“The NCAA has issued a temporary waiver allowing Giovanni McLean to continue his studies at the university for the remainder of the fall semester,” said Lynn Bushnell, vice president for public affairs. “He is, however, prohibited from playing and practicing with the basketball team until the NCAA issues a final decision.”

Q30television.com, November 3, 2014

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Download the kwalifi app NOW!!! Click the link below…

www.kwalifi.com

Do Y’all Even Give A Fuck? Notes of a Madd Ol’Head

With the start of the High School Basketball season upon us, the Black Cager has few things he wants to get off his chest… This information is presented “WITH LOVE” and nothing I write is directed at any particular individual… However…

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Yo… HS Coach, why you tryin’ to get that boy to transfer to your school?

You know the average SAT score at your school is 650… You know the kid is at a good school right now… The average SAT score at his current school is 1280… His science labs have modern, functioning, state of the art equipment… Your school has 15 year old text books and the students have to share those…

Last year, there was one suspension at his school. There was a heated argument and one girl slipped and called another girl an “ugly bitch.” She fucked up and said it in front of that nosey meddlesome group of parents that volunteer at the school 3-4 days a week. Of course, they reported her to the Head Master and his hands were tied… He had to suspend her for one (1) day… That’s as bad as it gets at his current school…

Last year, at your school there were 4-5 fights per day. Everyday, weapons and potential weapons are confiscated as students arrive for their daily trek through the metal detector gauntlet. There are 3 armed police officers assigned to your school. One of the rooms adjacent to the main office has been converted to a “holding cell.” The police make trips to take “offenders” to the station for processing.

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The counselors told you that there were 23 pregnancies at your school. You took three of your players to the clinic when you realized they were “burning.”

C’mon man… How…..

How do you even broach the subject of the kid transferring from such a well regarded, high achieving learning environment to your abysmally under-performing school? One hundred percent of the students at his school are admitted to college and many end up in Ivy League institutions. Conversely, only about 26% of the Black males in your school will actually receive a diploma.

Does high school basketball mean that much to you?

Are you really willing to place your desire to win a league, city and/or state championship above the clear cut “best interests” of this young man?

You’re fucked up!

Yo… AAU coach, why you trying to get that boy to change AAU programs?

He’s been with those guys for six (6) years. When they first got him, he couldn’t make two consecutive layups. He was garbage… No one wanted him.

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That range from anywhere on the floor all the way out to NBA three… It didn’t just appear. Those guys put in hundreds of hours in the gym working on that jumper. That soft touch around the rim, where he uses both hands to finish with a variety of moves, is the result of intensive drills day in day out. You know how he gets in the triple threat position and uses jabs and shot fake? Well, they work so well because those guys spent countless hours improving his first step.

When they got the kid, he was soft as cotton candy. Now, he fights hard to get good position on the block, and even harder when crashing the offensive glass. That’s the result of reinforcing the mental aspects of the game day in and day out for years. They have developed a kid with a strong personality with great confidence who never gets down on himself. There are few doubts about him becoming a big time impact talent at the collegiate level.

Now… You want him to abandon those guys and come play with you?

He already has 23 scholarship offers… How does changing programs benefit him?

Are you really gonna place your desire to win AAU tournaments and secure a shoe company endorsement over what’s best for the kid?

You’re fucked up!

Yo Mom… Why you not playing the parental role?

That boy is only 12… I know he can be a handful. He’s going through that stage. He’s trying to figure out who he is.

He wants to be a baller!

But… Pay attention… I mean… seriously…

Pay attention

You need him to be a student-athlete. Or, should I say STUDENT-athlete! In order to accomplish that goal, he needs his parents to play a parental role.

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Black student-athlete at his desk

I know it seems innocuous… The “mentor” seems nice… He looks out for your son. He picks him up almost every day to go to the gym. He feeds him before he brings him back. He’s given him 6 or 7 pairs of sneakers. I know it feels like a real burden’s been lifted off your back. Those sneaks cost $125-$200 a pair.

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Your son seems happy… He’s traveled to New York, the Jersey Shore, Washington, D.C, Virgina Beach and Orlando to play ball. There’s no way you could have afforded to take him all those places.

I understand… But… Nothing is free…

Here is where you need to be careful. The “mentor” is gonna come and tell you that your son should change schools. He’s gonna tell you that his current school cannot “develop” your son to his full potential. He’s gonna tell you that your son should go to “Big Catholic/Private HS.” He’s gonna tell you it’s a much better school and he may be right in that regard…

What he isn’t telling you is that he has a relationship with the coach at “Big Catholic/Private HS”… He isn’t gonna tell you that the transfer is designed to ensure that he strengthens his “control” over your son’s scholastic basketball career…

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Knowing full well that you can’t afford to pay $9,000, $22,000 or even $30,000 per year, he’s gonna tell you that your son will receive a “scholarship.”

Beware… If your son does not develop as player the “scholarship” funds will disappear. If your family decides to move, you may find out you have accumulated a balance that will have to be paid in full before your school records are released to his new school. If you son has disciplinary issues, you may discover that same balance is due the day they ask you to leave.

I can safely predict that they will tell you that you son need to repeat a grade (reclassify) when he enters “Big Catholic/Private HS.” The stated reason will be that he is inadequately prepared for the more rigorous curriculum. The extra year will allow him to become acclimated to more challenging academic setting. The more pressing, and often unstated, reason is that 19 year old seniors are more effective high school players than 17 or 18 old seniors.

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You may agree with all of the above, but it should ALWAYS be your decision. Do NOT relinquish your parental control.

When the college coaches start to call, text and direct message your son, make sure you are in the loop. It may seem convenient to let the mentor “handle” his recruitment. College coaches are worse than the most persistent bill collector you have ever encountered. They are relentless and the amount of communication can seem overwhelming. But, it’s part of the process.

Always remember that the interests of the mentor and those of your family might be aligned and they also might NOT be aligned. There may be outstanding academic colleges offering your son a scholarship but unwilling to make donations to the mentor’s “program.” If a less prestigious, less competitive college is willing to make a donation to the mentor’s “program” he will steer you toward that program. More importantly, you may never even know the other school offered a scholarship.

Are you really gonna place your convenience above the best interests of your son?

If so, you’re fucked up!

Which begs the question: Do y’all even give a fuck?

 

Aaron McKie, Tyrone Pitts: From Evictions to Big 5 Success

What do you see in this picture?

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Aaron McKie, Temple ’94 and Tyrone Pitts, Penn ’88

Most people probably see two American success stories… Aaron McKie (left) earned over $50 million dollars over the course of a solid 13-year NBA career. Drafted in the 1st round of the 1994 NBA Draft by the Portland Trailblazers, McKie was a key player for Portland, Detroit and Philadelphia. He finished his playing career with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Philly hoop heads will see a Simon Gratz High School graduate. They will recall his prolific three-year career at Temple (1991-92 thru 1993-94). A Big 5 legend, McKie started for all 92 games of his career, averaging 17.9 points per game while leading the Owls to 60 wins, three NCAA Tournaments and a trip to the 1993 Elite Eight.

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Hall of Fame Coach, John Chaney and Aaron McKie

McKie was an honorable mention All-American (1993). He was named first-team All-Atlantic 10 (1993, 1994) and a member A-10 All-Championship team (1993). He balled out in the local rivalry games and was named first team all-Big 5 every year of his college career (1992, 1993, 1994). In addition, McKie was named Atlantic 10 Conference and Philadelphia Big 5 Player of the Year for his performance in the 1992-93 season, when he averaged a team-best 20.6 points per game.

Tyrone Pitts (top right), born and raised in Camden, New Jersey, is the largest minority general contractor in Southern New Jersey. This year, his firm KL Pitts Construction will generate in excess of $20 million in revenue. Like McKie, Pitts made his mark playing in Philadelphia’s Big 5.

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Tyrone Pitts with a picture depicting the balance between books and basketball

A high flying Palestra favorite and an All-Ivy League player, Pitts finished his career at the University of Pennsylvania with 1301 points. After trying out for the Philadelphia 76ers, Pitts embarked upon a highly successful 7 year professional career in several overseas leagues. Once his playing days were over, he returned to the Ivy league an assistant coach with Cornell University.

Longing to return to the Camden/Philadelphia region, Pitts joined Speedy Morris’ staff at LaSalle University. However, his training in Wharton business school allowed him to see business opportunities where others could not. For a while, he tried to maintain his responsibilities as a basketball coach and manage his investments in Camden real estate.

It soon became obvious that he would have to devote his full attention to managing over 100 full-time construction workers on multiple commercial, public and residential projects. Over the past year or so, his firm has totally renovated 175 low-income housing units in Camden and built a 110 unit senior housing complex in Lindenwold, New Jersey.

What you don’t see in the picture…

You don’t see the scared and insecure boys that came home from school to find padlocks on their front doors and their family’s precious few belonging strewn across the sidewalk. “I was in seventh grade when we got evicted from our house,” Pitts said. ”You can imagine the feeling I had. You come out of your house and see your things lying on the sidewalk. That feeling that hit me that day was something that I’d never like to come back to me again. From then on, I was kind of determined to succeed.”

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Belongings on sidewalk following eviction

Addressing a group of children and community organizers at a Philadelphia Youth Basketball Foundation event, McKie conveyed the same feeling. “I came home one day and we were evicted. All I can remember is that there was a big padlock on our door and we no longer lived there. I’ll never forget that feeling.”

Pitts and McKie came of age in the 1980‘s. Cities like Philadelphia and Camden were in the throes of the crack epidemic. North Philadelphia and Camden had long been poor, highly segregated neighborhoods in which a majority of individual adults were either unemployed, had dropped out or never been a part of the labor force. Most of their peers were dropping out of school and many were entry level “lookouts” or “hand to hand” participants in the booming illegal street drug game.

But not these guys…

Pitts and McKie embraced sport as a way to help them develop and become productive citizens by learning life lessons. Despite growing up in the midst of despair and chaos, they were able to develop positive social sphere through sports. Basketball participation offered countless opportunities for socialization activities such as team work, fair play, respect for others and personal discipline.

Forced to deal with evictions and all that goes with that process, Pitts and McKie used basketball to develop coping mechanisms for anxiety, stress, and other factors that make up a low income urban Black male adolescent’s life.

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A street in Camden, New Jersey

They leveraged basketball for access to education…

For McKie and his Temple running mate, Eddie Jones, it was a close call. Both were declared ineligible as freshmen by the NCAA. As reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer in July 1990, “Sources close to the program said that Eddie Jones, a highly touted 6-foot-6 swingman from Pompano Beach, Fla., and Aaron McKie, a 6-4 shooting guard from Philadelphia Public League champion Simon Gratz, had scored less than the required 700 of a possible 1,600 on the Scholastic Aptitude Test or 15 of a possible 36 on the American College Test.”

Time out…

Think about this for a minute… In 2013, the average SAT score at Simon Gratz High School was 682. Keep in mind that in 1994, four years after McKie and Jones sat for the test, the nation’s SAT scores were “recentered.” In other words means that every child in America got something like 100 free points added to his score. So… the current Gratz HS average of 682 is equivalent to 582 when McKie actually sat for the exam. That’s an indicator of how poorly the academic program at Gratz prepares students for college entrance exams.

Gratz kids ain’t supposed to make it… Shit… only 26% of Black males graduate in four years from Philadelphia’s woefully under-performing public schools.

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The NCAA has spent thirty years closing the window of opportunity for guys like McKie and Jones. They were fortunate to have John Chaney in a position to give them an opportunity to play collegiate basketball. For that, McKie is eternally grateful…

“This is the university that gave me an opportunity at life when no one else wanted to,” McKie said. “I was a Prop 48 coming in … I’m forever grateful to Temple … I was able to get my degree in 4 years.”

Pitts made the transition from the hardscrabble streets of Camden to one of the most competitive and highly regarded business schools in the nation. He has been able to apply his business education and improve the lives of Camden residents. His firm has been responsible for the construction and/or renovation of thousands of units of low-income and market rate housing. He employs hundreds of Camden residents in high paying construction jobs.

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Recognizing the importance of education, Pitts also co-founded the Arline Institute which provided small-group tutoring to over 6,000 low-income students attending under-performing public schools.

According to Pitts, “Attending Wharton allowed me to develop the skills necessary to apply the theories needed to overcome challenges in places like Camden. It helped me be in a position to make a positive impact.”

Basketball was the gateway for these success stories. When they had nowhere to live, they had their teams. They had their youth coaches. They had the structure that basketball provided. It helped them avoid the fate that befell so many of their contemporaries.

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A Real NCAA Rule Change Casualty

Today, I received a text message from a good friend of mine. He’s highly regarded high school basketball coach. Over the years, he has sent numerous players to some of the best college basketball programs in the nation. He’s known as a stern taskmaster that does things the right way. He’s asked the Black Cager to address his parents and players in the past. We’ve always been happy to oblige.

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Today, he needed help. He needed me to talk to a parent. He asked if I could spell it out for Mom.

Her son, “Javonte” (not his real name) is a “Dead Man Ballin”!!

At 6’8″ 240 lbs, he is a beautiful physical specimen.  He is a high level athlete with a smoothness to his game.  On the court, Javonte has a chance to be very special.  He just turned 17 and is already playing at a very high level for high school. Possessing text book form with feathery touch and excellent release, Javonte grew up around the game. His older brothers were All-State players. As a result, he shows a feel for the game that cannot be learned on the fly. With a strong handle, he is adept at creating shots for himself and can spot up or pull up off the dribble. He is very good at creating offense for his teammates.  Javonte has a tremendous basketball body with a big frame, wide shoulders, enormous hands and long arms.

Big East, Big 10, ACC, Atlantic 10 and SEC coaches have been drooling at the thought of Javonte joining their program. They have been constantly hitting him up on twitter, instagram and snapchat.

None of them have seen his transcript…

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Mom refused to take the coach’s advice. When he transferred in prior to the start of his 11th grade year, the coach told Mom, “Your son has dug a big hole for himself… it’s gonna be tough.”

He had spent his freshman and sophomore years at a Catholic High School. During that period he had taken and completed 12 core courses. His grades were 6 D’s and 6 C’s. He had a 1.5 core GPA.

Coach, very much aware of the 2016 rule changes, stressed the importance of getting straight A’s going forward. Coach hoped the kid would at least get mostly A’s with a few B’s. Kid proceeded to fail English and get a D in Algebra as a Junior.

Coach pleaded with Mom and the kid to go to summer school before 11th and again before 12th grade. Coach explained over and over again that he needed to get those D’s off his report card.

“D’s are GPA killers!”

He would say over and over, to no avail. Mom and her boyfriend wanted the boy to play on the Nike EYBL circuit and summer school would get in the way…

On the first day of school in September, when the homeroom bell rang, the NCAA had him in their sights….

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When the teacher, taking attendance for the first time, called his name…

“Javonte, Javonte?”

The finger was on the trigger… Once he raised his hand and responded…

“Here….”

He was done… Dead Man Ballin’…

His senior year had officially commenced. With that, the poor grades on the transcript depicted above were “locked in”.

He cannot retake or replace any of those grades in an attempt to raise his core GPA to the new 2.3 minimum.

His refusal t0 follow the directions of his coach cost the family anywhere from $200,000 to $300,000 in scholarship funds.

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Like a cop after an accident in the middle of the night… Like a military chaplain after a young man steps on a land mine…

It was my responsibility to let his mother know that her son is a Dead Man Ballin’…

Before he plays a single game in his senior year, he is ineligible for a Division 1 athletic scholarship…

This fucked up situation is playing out in High Schools and homes in Black communities across the country… Unnecessarily so!!

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Why Did He Commit to Them? Toward A Better Understanding of the College “Decision” Process

What the fuck? Why?

Why did he commit there? Why didn’t he choose us? Why didn’t he come to our school?

Our academics are better! We win more! We produce more pros! Shit makes no sense…

Many resort to knee-jerk accusations that the kid was “bought off” to explain the decision… They had to cheat… Why else would he choose them over us?

Every year around this time, passionate alums and casual observers rack their brains trying to make sense of decisions made by 18 and 19 year old elite Black male student-athletes. Indeed, an entire multi-million dollar industry has emerged dedicated solely to tracking the college selection processes of elite predominantly Black male student-athletes. Scout and Rivals are two of the biggest media enterprises dedicated to in-depth coverage this annual race to sign the very best scholastic ballers. Rivals was purchased for $100 million by Yahoo in 2007. Scout generates over $100 million in annual revenues.

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Malik Ellison committing to St. Johns

Despite intensive media coverage, very little thought is given to the actual decision-making process itself.  Core questions at the center of the ‘mainstream’ dialogue are fairly easy to delineate: Where will Black male athletes sell their athletic labor in return for an athletic scholarship? Which predominantly White NCAA Division I institution will profit generously in return?

The Black Cager is dedicated to going a little deeper than that. I want to foster understanding. So… How can we begin to make sense of these “decisions” made by thousands of young Black men entering collegiate athletics every year?

I want to provide a basic framework for understanding the all too often overlooked decision-making process. While the analytical focus is on urban Black male basketball players, the framework can be applied across racial and ethnic backgrounds as well as geographic settings. Many white ballers from the cornfields of the mid-west face the same circumstances.

My basic hypothesis is that predominantly white college sports fans, alums, writers and even coaches assess the decision-making process from a purely “rational” point of view. In doing so, they consistently fail to understand and appreciate the limits or “bounds” the student-athlete operates under. As a result, the observers are usually confused and unable to comprehend why decisions are made. This confusion leads many to make unfounded and unwarranted accusations about the character and integrity of the process, the student-athletes and their families.

What are the limits and constraints? What are the “bounds” imposed upon student-athletes making college decisions? Elite Black male student-athletes facing college decisions have to work under three unavoidable constraints.

  1. They only have access to limited, often unreliable, information regarding possible alternatives and their consequences,
  2. The human mind has only limited capacity to evaluate and process the information that is available. And,
  3.  only a limited amount of time is available to make a decision.

Therefore even student-athletes intent on making rational choices are bound to make satisficing (rather than maximizing or optimizing) decisions in complex recruiting situations. This vital fact is overlooked by disappointed and frustrated supporters of programs that lose recruiting battles. Moreover, it is not addressed by ‘mainstream’ sportswriters and analysts trying to explain outcomes to their targeted audiences.

All they know is, to them, shit don’t make no sense… As a result, message boards are flooded with nasty, vile and even racist attacks on young men that chose a program other than theirs.

Mookie NLI

Tamyra ‘Mookie’ Laws committing to Holy Family University

Fans fail to understand that these limits (bounds) on rationality make it nearly impossible for student-athletes and their families to consider every contingency, necessitating reliance on advisers, ‘handlers’ or even agents operating behind the scenes.

Black male student-athletes, like everyone else, are to some extent rational beings in that they will try to logically understand things and make sensible choices. This is rightfully assumed by most observers. Collegiate sports fans, alums and college coaches assume that student-athletes have preferences among the colleges offering scholarships that allow them to state which option they prefer.

From a purely rational perspective, these preferences are assumed to be complete (the student-athlete can always say which of two college programs they consider preferable or that neither is preferred to the other) and transitive (if college A is preferred over college B and college B is preferred over college C, then A is preferred over C).

However, observers make the mistake of assuming student-athletes take account of ALL available information like academic reputations, graduation rates and probabilities of events like winning conference championships, appearing in the NCAA tournament and being drafted by an NBA team. It is further assumed that a student-athlete weighs the potential costs and benefits in determining preferences, and acts consistently in choosing the self-determined best choice of action.

That’s how most causal observers think the process works. But…. That’s not how it actually goes down…

For elite Black male student-athletes the college recruitment process is extremely daunting and complex, and they do not have the capacity to understand everything. As noted earlier, they only have access to limited, often unreliable, information regarding possible alternatives and their consequences. Yes… college coaches are able to make an unlimited amount of phone calls and text messages to recruits. Of course, they do everything they can to get their message across to the young men.

For many student-athletes this quickly results in hundreds of calls and/or text messages per day. As a result, coaches begin to sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher, “whaaan, whann, whann, whann, whann…”


Coaches understand this, even if fans don’t, so they rely on the development of intermediaries like AAU/grassroots coaches, HS coaches, family members, friends, girlfriends, etc. to deliver messages to student-athletes. Unfortunately, in many instances, the “interests” of the intermediaries supersede the interests of the student-athletes. “If he comes with us, we’ll take care of you or your AAU/HS program” is the message the intermediaries hear. In this way, information reaching the student-athlete becomes limited and unreliable regarding possible alternatives and their consequences.

At this point, the possibility of a truly ‘rational’ outcome has been compromised. The student-athlete is receiving skewed information.

Rakeem Graduate

Rakeem Christmas Graduated from Syracuse University in 3 years

Further complicating the process is the fact that the human mind has only limited capacity to evaluate and process the information that is available. This is especially so for urban Black male student-athletes. The athletes and their family members very often do not possess the intellectual tools required to adequately understand the process as it unfolds.

It’s really bad… Really, really bad…

On August 24, 2015, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that “nearly half of all adults in [Philadelphia] – more than half a million men and women – lack the basic skills necessary to qualify for postsecondary training or hold jobs that permit them to support a family. Many function below eighth-grade levels.”

How are parents and grandparents that can’t read supposed to sort through the labyrinth of NCAA regulations and appropriately weigh the options available to them? They can’t….

The student-athletes themselves may be in an even worse position. A recent study by the Schott Foundation for Public Education found that the four-year HS graduation rate for Black males in many of America’s urban areas was profoundly abysmal. Detroit, MI (23%) has the lowest Black male graduation rate in the country (in Detroit only 13% of White males graduate from high school within a four year period), followed by Philadelphia, PA (26%), Clark County, NV (27%), Pinellas County, FL (28%), Cleveland, OH (28%), New York, NY (28%), Chatham County, GA (28%), Richmond County, GA (29%), Duvall County, FL (29%), and Norfolk, VA (31%). For the 26% that remain engaged in school, in 2014, 42 percent of students met the reading standards bar set by the state on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, down from 42.3 percent. In math, 45.2 percent met standards, down from 46.9 percent.

Plainly stated, many student-athletes and their families lack the educational foundation necessary to adequately process, evaluate and process information available on the various collegiate programs offering athletic scholarships.
bembry-dunk-twitter 
DeAndre Bembry dunking on VCU
Then on top of that, there is limited time to make a decision. The NCAA manages the daily operations of a National Letter of Intent (NLI) program that includes 650 Division I and Division II participating institutions. Through the establishment of signing periods, the NLI program imposes deadlines on student-athletes and their families. And, there’s always the possibility that another player may take the desired scholarship.
Most elite Black male scholastic student-athlete are confronted with limitations imposed by poor educational backgrounds, a lack of understanding NCAA regulations and other factors. Given this set of circumstances, there is no way student-athletes can have a complete understanding of the recruiting process before having to make a decision.
Within this context, truly ‘rational’ decisions become impossible… What emerges are decisions that are ‘good enough’…
Information, more or less, tends to change people’s decision. Every student-athlete is limited by the decisional limitations outlined above. The better the athletic prowess, the more complex the issues become, thereby increasing the cognitive load. And where there is cognitive overload, student-athletes rely upon coping mechanisms to arrive at a decision.
They settle for a school that is ‘good enough’ as opposed to finding the ‘best school’. Black male student-athletes end up choosing a school that meets most of their goals instead of going for the optimal solution.

 

This is where college fans and alums become confused. They wonder: Why did he choose a school that hasn’t been to the tournament in 10 years? Why did he choose a program that doesn’t have as many NBA players as ours?

In choosing college destinations, in can be argued that there are no optimal decisions, but choices that are in some sense locally optimal at best. The implications of these decisions are based on bounded rationality, which is senseless to observers applying rational logic, but completely sensible for the student-athlete making the decision.

Elite Black male student-athletes do exactly what makes the most sense to them, in the context of the moment, with their current understanding. If you are a white college educated-male with college educated parents that were in a position to pay for your education you likely have no frame of reference for understanding this process.

It ain’t personal… Cut the kids a break…