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.

Malik NLI

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…

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Pussy Is Undefeated!! Youngfellas, Please Take Notes…

Pussy got a better record than Floyd Mayweather. Undefeated every win by KO.

Charlamagne Tha God

Pussy is undefeated…

Some things you learn from your parents… Some things you learn in school… Some things you learn on the streets… Your friends, especially during that awkward transitional period known as puberty, will try to teach you a thing or two…

But, some of the most important lessons in life can only be learned through experience. It’s taken me half a century to come to this realization. Please allow me to give you a few of examples of shit I have come to understand, on my own, over the years.

I was born exactly 50 years ago, January 12, 1965. I came into a world and a nation characterized by strife and conflict. Unbeknownst to me, from the moment I drew my very first breath, my life was directly impacted by European colonialism and the resulting international conflicts.

White Americans and their European 1st cousins rule the world…

Life taught me this important lesson very early on. While I was learning to sit up, hold a bottle, crawl and eventually walk… The United States was heavily involved in a protracted conflict with the communist government of North Vietnam.

As a boy focused almost exclusively on how Ultra Man would overcome the evil monsters and awed by the strength Bam-Bam displayed in the fictional city of Bedrock, I had no way of knowing North Vietnam had run the French Colonialists out of their homeland in 1954. Looking back as I begin my second half-century, it kinda makes sense that the Vietnamese wanted to govern themselves.

ultraman

Ultra Man

Who doesn’t? What people in this world want to be ruled by foreign powers?

George Washington, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and the rest of the American Founding Fathers wanted the exact same thing and, for that, they are revered and celebrated.

One can almost imagine Alexander Hamilton or Ben Franklin loudly saying “FUCK King George!” The founding Fathers were rightly pissed about the lack of American representation in English Parliament. They really resented direct taxes levied by the English Parliament on the American colonies without their consent. Over time, they came to the conclusion that King George and the rest of England could “fuck off.” They created self-governing provinces, they circumvented the British ruling apparatus in each colony by 1774. Finally, in July 1776, they said “we out!”

We all know the narrative… It’s been drilled into us from Day 1… King George and England were the bad guys. Washington and the other Founding Fathers seeking self-governance and independence were the good guys.

As I came into the world, active US combat units were being introduced into Vietnamese Arena. By the time I was four, in 1969, more than 500,000 U.S. military personnel were stationed in Vietnam.

vietnamChildren running during Vietnam War

The North Vietnamese, like Jefferson, Adams and Franklin 180 years earlier, sought independence and self-determination.

“Fuck the French… We out!”

My toddler brain was only capable of caring about Ultra Man and 1 soldier, Private James Earl Wilson, my father. He was drafted and sent to fight for “his country” I was told.

When he came home, his foot was gone.

That’s how I learned Europeans rule the world… During my formative years, all I knew was that war took my father’s foot. War was bad… Actually, war was really fucked up.

 

To me, Muhammad Ali made perfect sense when he said, “I Ain’t Got No Quarrel With The VietCong… No VietCong Ever Called Me Nigger.” My Pop ain’t have no skin in that game. Yet, he came home without his foot. He made a helluva sacrifice for “his country” and the dying remnants of the French Colonial empire.

This process helped me become an “experiential learner.” That is, it helped me improve my ability to learn a lot of shit on my own.  Experiential learning is a process through which people develop knowledge, skills, and values from direct experiences outside a traditional academic setting. Basically, it’s the shit you pick up and understand on your own.

For example, my teachers in high school and college never explained why George Washington was a revered “freedom fighter” and Nelson Mandela was a “despised terrorist”….

Some shit, I came to learn, you just have to pick up through experience and observation…

Over the past 5 decades, I have learned a lot of things outside the classroom.

White Flight is real…

Every February for as long I can remember, Black school children across the country are reminded that Crispus Attucks was the 1st American casualty in the the Revolutionary War, Frederick Douglass fought against slavery, Jackie Robinson was the 1st Black player in Major League baseball, Rosa Parks refused to give her seat on bus to a white man, Dr. King gave a great speech during the March on Washington and the Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court in 1954 ruling ended segregation in American public schools.

WKNnettie.jpgNettie Hunt and her daughter Nikki on Supreme Court steps in 1954

However, my experiences taught me a very different lesson… Every day, I got on buses with 200-300 other Black Darby Township students and we rode right past two predominantly white high schools to get to our predominantly Black high school…

While my history textbooks told me that school segregation was formally declared unconstitutional in 1954, my daily experiences from 1977-1982 taught me something very different… Segregation was very much alive… the Court ordered only that the states end segregation with “all deliberate speed.” This vagueness about how to enforce the ruling gave segregationists in Delaware County the opportunity to organize resistance. Their stall tactics worked for a full three decades.

Finally, after 30 years “all deliberate speed” arrived in the Southeast Delco School District… After, attending schools that were more than 90% Black from K-11, I spent my senior year as a distinct minority in the “desegregated” and newly formed Academy Park High School.

When it opened in 1982, the newly formed Academy Park HS was about 70% White and 30% Black… Today the school is about 70% Black and 30% White…

White flight is very real…

Again, my teachers and textbooks said one thing, my experiences taught me something very different…

This brings me to, perhaps, one of the most important lessons I have gleaned from 50 years of learning shit on my own. Like the examples cited above, the books don’t cover this one. Nonetheless… It’s extremely important.

Young fellas… Pussy is undefeated…. Please take notes!

In this corner some very famous, powerful and wealthy men like Mike Tyson, Bill Clinton, Tiger Woods and most recently Bill Cosby….

And… In the other corner… pussy…

The resulting losses have been breathtaking, monumental and widely covered by the media… pussy has registered some incredible ass whoopings.

As you transition from High School to college, know that this lesson is not discussed in classrooms, you will not be assigned research papers on the topic, books on the subject won’t appear on syllabi… Yet… Eventually, you will come to know it’s the truth…

Of all the lessons Ol’ Heads try to impart on young fellas, this may be the hardest to teach. I have concluded, for many, this lesson can only be absorbed through experiential learning.  Unfortunately, most of us have to experience the body shots, upper cuts, left hooks and right crosses first hand.

One very recent high profile case serves as a classic example…

Over the past decade, David H. Petraeus, a retired four-star general served as commander of American forces in both Iraq (2007) and Afghanistan (2010). After that, President Obama appointed him to lead the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 2011.

Plainly stated, Petraeus was da fucking MAN! He was running shit!!

He was at the forefront of presidential campaign speculation….

It all came crashing down when pussy whooped his ass…

Iraqi FreedomGeneral Petraeus during a briefing at the Pentagon

On January 9, 2014, the New York Times reported that the F.B.I. and Justice Department prosecutors have recommended bringing felony charges against Petraeus.

Essentially, they are saying he was “pussy whooped” and it caused him to lose sight of his role and responsibilities…

According to the feds, he provided classified information to a lover while he was director of the C.I.A. The Justice Department investigation stems from an affair Mr. Petraeus had with Paula Broadwell, an Army Reserve officer who was writing his biography, and focuses on whether he gave her access to his C.I.A. email account and other highly classified information.

Of course General Patraeus is presumed innocent of all charges until they are proven in a court of law… I have no idea if he committed any crimes… That is for Attorney General Eric Holder to determine.

What we know for sure is that pussy kicked his Ass… 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10… He’s out!!

Petraeus admitted as much in a statement as he resigned from the CIA, he stated “after being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment… Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours,” Petraeus said, referring to the C.I.A. “This afternoon, the president graciously accepted my resignation.”

Man down!!

Petraeus was at the pinnacle of power and prestige within the American Government. His future was wide open… Several laudatory chapters in American history books already secured, he was headed for a legitimate run for President… No more… This story plays out over and over again..

Who can forget that day in December 2009 when the immensely proud and intensely private Tiger Woods stood before the world and admitted, “I have not been true to my values and the behavior my family deserves… I have let my family down and I regret those transgressions with all of my heart.”

tiger-woods-02-jpgTiger Woods Apologizing on National Television for “transgressions” during marriage

Virtually unbeatable on the fairways and greens, Tiger suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of…. Pussy.

Down for an 8 count, dazed, trying to make it to the end of one of the late rounds… President Clinton resorted to the following verbal gymnastics while trying to extricate himself from a relentless assault featuring devastating body shots:

“It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is…. Now, if someone had asked me on that day, are you having any kind of sexual relations with Ms. Lewinsky, that is, asked me a question in the present tense, I would have said no. And it would have been completely true.”

That Georgetown education provide Bill with some ammunition, but in the end it wasn’t enough.  He took the L like millions of other men that came before him.

bill_clinton_denies_monicaBill Clinton denies having “sexual relations” with White House intern, Monica Lewinsky

Young fellas… Pussy is about 973,864,899,034 – 0… More importantly, most of the victories have been secured by way of knockout…

I started thinking about all of this because one of my favorite young bucks, Brandon Austin, is on the ropes… He’s staggering, almost out on his feet… Like Holyfield in the third round of the Bert Cooper fight… He’s holding onto his opponent trying to prevent further immediate damage… On the surface, it looks like pussy’s gonna get another body…

Looks, however, can be deceiving…

When one examines the facts, it becomes apparent that he’s ahead on the scorecards and has gathered himself. Brandon stands a good chance of getting out of this thing alive, he can’t win… But a draw remains in the realm of possible outcomes.

The public’s perception of this particular contest, unfortunately, has been shaped by a series of less than favorable stories in national media outlets.  News purveyors such as the Huffington Post, regularly describe Brandon Austin as “a sophomore accused of sexually assaulting women at two other colleges he attended in the past year.”

On July 28, 2014, the Huffington Post reported that “Austin and two other basketball players were accused of gang raping a female undergrad at the University of Oregon in March. The case did not lead to the district attorney’s pressing charges, but the university did suspend the three indefinitely from the team as players and for up to 10 years from the school as students.”

BRANDON-AUSTIN-PROVIDENCE-facebookBrandon Austin

While condemning the behavior of the players, the story had to acknowledge that “the case did not lead to the district attorney’s pressing charges.”

Yet, a month earlier the same media outlet led with the following headline “Oregon Finds 3 Basketball Players Guilty Of Sexual Assault, Will Remove Them From Campus.”

Huh? Which is it?

Is it possible to simultaneously have no charges filed and be found “guilty”?

Yes… Yes… Yes… Austin has been “accused of sexually assaulting women” at two colleges. But, why not place emphasis on the investigation following the accusations and the resulting outcomes?

A Sexual assault is any involuntary sexual act in which a person is coerced or physically forced to engage against their will, or any non-consensual sexual touching of a person.  By all indications, he had sex with women at two colleges.

Like billions of other men, he likes Pussy…

But, he has NOT sexually assaulted anyone… At least, that’s what the prosecutors and grand jury determined in each instance.

In Providence, the evidence regarding Brandon’s involvement was submitted to a Grand Jury.

The findings are as follows:

“After presentation of the evidence to the Grand Jury with respect to Brandon Austin, it was determined there was legally insufficient evidence to ask the Grand Jury to consider charges against Austin.”

There it is… Plain as day… No charges! Yet, the media insists on finding, crafting, subtly creating a way to label him “guilty.”  Where are the arch-defenders of the process? I’ve seen so many of them on my television… I’ve read their op-eds… I’ve listened to them on talk radio…

In the aftermath of the grand jury decision NOT to indict NYPD police officer Daniel Pantaleo for murder following the strangulation death of Eric Garner, the DA, politicians and much of the mainstream media hailed the fairness of the process.

Staten Island DA Daniel Donovan stated, “No one likes to serve on juries, but they upheld their civic duty and they sat for nine weeks, and they’re the only people that heard all the evidence, and they’re the only people that deliberated…. I think we should respect their decision.”

When revealing the grand jury decision NOT to indict Officer Darren Wilson, St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch declared, “The duty of the grand jury is to separate fact from fiction. After a full, impartial and critical examination of all the evidence and the law and decide if that evidence support filing of criminal charges…”

So… we are told, grand jury decides if there was the commission of a crime. In Providence, the grand jury reviewed the evidence and determined there was no crime.

Bandon’s cases, like others tossed by grand juries across America, is settled. Nothing to see here… Move on…

In Oregon, the Lane County District Attorney concluded that there was “Insufficient evidence to prove charge(s) beyond a reasonable doubt… the conflicting statements and actions by the victim make this case unprovable as a criminal case.”

Again, Brandon was cleared by the legal system. No charges were even filed in either case. He beat all criminal charges…

Despite sensationalistic headlines declaring him “Guilty,” Brandon has NEVER been convicted of any criminal acts.

On the scorecard, Brandon is ahead 2 round to none.  But, all the Ol’ Heads know how this story ends… We all know that Pussy is undefeated…

Legally speaking, the grand jury cleared him in one instance… District Attorney cleared him in another…

As Americans have been repeatedly told after other prominent grand jury and prosecutor decisions NOT to prosecute… “I think we have to respect their decision.”

He has been cleared of all criminal charges, but like General Petraeus, Tiger and President Clinton his reputation has taken a beating.

He’s in his corner right now… He’s listening to his corner men… The cut man is on standby…

I just wish I could find a way to let him, and other young bucks, take advantage of the things I have learned over the course of the 50 years I have spent on this earth… Some things, I wish they didn’t have to learn from experience.  At the top of that list is the fact that…

Pussy is undefeated.

“You Treated Fairly?”: Open Letter to Philly’s Grassroots Hoops Community

Milk crateThe 1st hoop for many, many Philly ballers!!

If you ain’t ever been to the ghetto
Don’t ever come to the ghetto
‘Cause you ain’t understand the ghetto
And stay the fuck out of the ghetto…
“Ghetto Bastard” Naughty By Nature

Basketball is THE inner city game. It is the game played in the ghetto, ‘round the way and in the ‘hood. Every year black communities and neighborhoods many consider off-limits to outsiders are invaded by representatives of multi-million dollar college athletic departments. Wave after wave of college coaches regularly venture into places most white people avoid after sundown. The trained eye can spot ’em a mile away.  You see ‘em roll up in rental cars fresh off the private jets looking lost in public housing developments.  The team logo and that of their shoe company sponsor featured prominently on a new golf shirt or sweater if it’s a lil’ chilly outside.  The over-sized Conference Championship ring is dripping with ice.

Rucker_parkAcross America in cities like Philly, Motown, NYC, Chi-town, LA, B-more, DC, ATL, and H-town representatives of America’s increasingly wealthy athletic departments come in search of beautifully sculpted Black bodies. They are looking for the young men that will lead them to the “promised land” or at least the “Sweet 16.”  This search brings to them to the projects, Section 8 homes and other low-income Black neighborhoods one after the other.  Representatives of the Math department, Chemistry department and History departments never seem to make their way down.  In much of the non-sports mainstream (mostly white) discourse, urban centers are derisively described and as isolated pockets of dysfunction, deviance and despair to be avoided and in some case obliterated, if the opportunity for gentrification presents itself.

The athletic department reps, the coaches, the recruiters are there for a very specific purpose.

These colleges and universities are vying explicitly to extract a valuable resource from these impoverished communities. They want young athletic Black bodies.  They want to co-opt the labor of our young men and use it to increase the economic status of the University President, Athletic Director and Basketball coach and other athletic department employees. They want our Black boys to serve as cheap labor in the multi-billion dollar enterprise known as collegiate athletics.  Now, it should be noted that along the way he may earn or be awarded (see recent UNC scandal) a degree in some obscure major with limited earning potential.

As bad as this situation sounds, it’s infinitely better than being one of the 72% of Black boys that fail to graduate from HS on time every year in places like Philly and NYC.  These young men are headed for a lifetime of low wage earning or they will participate in the extra-legal ‘hood economy and likely end up in prison. In the ‘hood, collegiate athletics is a possible way up and out of poverty.  But having dealt with college programs over the years, you know others benefit to a much larger extent.  The fates of the gifted low-income urban Black male athletes and wealthy white university athletic department employees are inextricably intertwined.

A situation has emerged whereby Black boys and the struggling grassroot basketball community from which they emerge are dependent upon billion dollar sneaker companies and college athletic programs with $100-$150 million dollar athletic budgets. The existing situation breeds economic success and financial security for Presidents, AD’s and coaches. In many ways, the existence and sustenance of grassroots programs is dependent on the their connection to college programs and the college program’s continued economic gain in dependent upon struggling grassroots basketball programs. Born out of this arrangement is a sort of mutual dependency.

Dr JJulius “Dr. J” Erving in a Harlem, NY Playground

High skilled urban Black male basketball players sell their athletic labor in return for athletic scholarships while the college athletic programs generate millions of dollars selling their performance to alums and the general public.  Coaches are paid million in salaries, bonuses and perks.

As the heads of the AAU/grassroots “farm system,” what are you getting? Are you treated fairly? Do the coaches, boosters and fans respect you?  Over and over, I hear that you guys are “killing” amateur basketball.  It’s bullshit.  AAU/grassroots basketball long ago superseded scholastic basketball as the premier development arm for collegiate hoops.

In Philadelphia, basketball is king among amateur sports. College basketball occupies a unique space in Philadelphia’s sports milieu. There are six (6) NCAA Division 1 Basketball programs in the Philadelphia area representing some highly competitive conferences. Villanova (Big East), Temple (AAC), St. Joseph’s (A10), LaSalle (A10), Drexel (CAA) and Penn (Ivy) all play in tough leagues with nationally recognized competitors.

Anyone that watches the games will notice some common themes regarding these teams and others in their respective conferences. A significant percentage of revenue is generated by basketball programs with a high percentage of urban Black male athletes.  The boys from ’round the way are getting it in.  North Philly’s DJ Newbill is the star at Penn State.  Jabril Trawick, hailing from the Westside, is the headliner for Georgetown.  Another North Philly native, Rysheed Jordan in manning the point guard spot in Madison Square Garden for St. John’s.  Chester’s Rondae Jefferson is back for a 2nd and perhaps final season at Arizona.  Black males from ’round the way are making a lot of money for these schools.

sidewalk hoops

The over-representation, employment and production of Black males in revenue-producing sports (basketball and football) is well documented. Black males represent a mere 5.8% of the total U.S population. Black males comprised 45.8% of major college football rosters and 61% of major college basketball rosters in the 2009-2010. The numbers for the pros are even higher. Over 67% of NFL players are Black and 78% of the NBA in 2011-2012. Collegiate and professional football and basketball organizations consistently scour the ‘hood when seeking talented players.  In many cases, you stand ready and willing to serve your players up to the hunters. I want ask you some important questions.

Are your AAU/grassroots programs sufficiently benefiting? Do you feel like college programs respect the role you play? Do college coaches and fans appreciate your tireless efforts getting these guys ready for the next level?

Is it enough for these programs to just come year after year and take the most talented and highly gifted without considering the plight of those left behind?

Do the City 6 programs work with you when your kids can’t afford the $200, $300 or even $400 price of their camps? Do they give you balls? Do they donate equipment?  Do they make sure you “eat” when you bring your players to visit their campuses? Do they provide tickets to your organization so the younger kids can see the older kids play “live”?  Or, do they just come through, pick the ripest fruit and get back in the German luxury sedan?

Baltimore BoyPuttin’ in work…

Let me know… I’m really curious.  Remember, you have leverage.

If they tell you the kids have to “pay” full price, let everybody know… Tell the other AAU/grassroots coaches how you were treated…  Share information about your experiences…. In my opinion, Black boys have already paid. Let me show you how.

Young men from the ‘hood currently participating in revenue-generating sports (football and basketball) far exceed their white counterparts and other races. Keep in mind football and basketball make virtually all the money supporting all the other white dominated collegiate sports. Think about this fact, less than 1 percent of the total collegiate student-athlete population generates more than 90% of NCAA revenue during “March Madness.” Of the 1 percent, well-over half were Black young men from ’round the way.

Over the past decade (2004-2013), the NCAA men’s basketball tournament has triggered more than $6.88 billion of national TV ad spending from 269 different marketers. Ad revenue in 2013 was $1.15 billion, up 3.8 percent from the prior year.  Less than 1% of college student-athletes generate this staggering amount of revenue, the overwhelming majority are young Black men from the ‘hood.

Guys from the ‘hood played, started and produced more than their non-Black teammates. Locally, Black players scored 73.9% of Temple points last year. Blacks accounted for 83.5% at St. Joseph’s, 87.3% at Villanova, 98.3% at Drexel, 87.1% at LaSalle and 65.7% at Penn.

Wilt Claude

The 1953 Christian St YMCA, National Champions, featuring Philadelphia school boy legends Wilt Chamberlain (standing center) and Claude Gross (seated 2nd from right)

The local colleges and universities want and need Black athletic talent. Their labor is undeniably needed to sustain massive inflows of revenues in athletic departments. Make no mistake colleges, universities, Presidents, Athletic Directors and coaches are making money off the labor of young men plucked from the ‘hood.  The players get an “opportunity” to earn a college degree as long it doesn’t conflict with their athletic obligations. Alums, boosters and fans root for and are entertained by the performances of these young men.

Ask yourself: How do the university’s alums and fans really feel about the young men in the ‘hood? I know they shake your hand after your boy gets get 20 points  and grabs 10 rebounds against a rival. I know they cheer loudly and passionately for your boy when you’re seated next to them at the Wells Fargo Center, Liacouras Center, Hagan Arena and Gola Arena. But, how do they really feel about you and yours?  How do they talk amongst themselves?

Do fans of the local schools respect the communities that spawn the athletes that help them win games? How do they refer to the neighborhoods that border their respective institutions?  You have been there your entire life.  They are guests passing through while pursing a college degree.

One way you can get a feel for this is by perusing the local team message boards. It’s an absolute must for those desiring a peek behind the curtain of cordiality extended to your face during actual games and “official” visits to campus.  There behind the veil of a screen name, keyboard tough guys unleash their true feelings about the ‘hood and those who hail from there. They are talking about your Grandmom that refuses to move from the house she paid off years ago. They are talking about your cousin that is struggling to work 2 jobs to pay that Catholic school tuition. They are talking about your homie that’s remodeling the house his parents left him in their will. They talking about your Aunt with those hot ass plastic furniture covers on her “good” living room set.  They are talking about your uncle in the halfway because the police lied and fabricated evidence against him.

What are they saying? Far too often, they say “Fuck the community!” Far too frequently, they argue that they should “bulldoze your family’s homes!”

MinstrelTurn of the Century “Minstrel” Poster

Then 10 minutes later they argue that your son, grandson, godson, nephew, or youngbuck averaging 32 ppg for the public school ‘round the way should come to their school. They call President Obama and Attorney General Holder “minstrels.”  Meanwhile, the same person puts forth an argument why “Junior” should come, bust his ass and sack quarterbacks for their alma mater next year.  It’s a truly weird dynamic to observe. They make no apologies.  Indeed, the proudly claim they are speaking “truths”.  Many of them despise and hate the ‘hood, while simultaneously yearning for the big beautiful Black bodies walking down it’s narrow avenues.

I say Fuck ‘em!

I say keep track of these public discourses and hold the programs accountable.  I say ask the coaches and athletic directors to disassociate themselves from the most egregious offenders. If they choose not to, I say educate our young men from the ‘hood about the way SOME of the alums feel about them, their families and their neighborhoods.

Let’s not ignore those that wish you and yours harm.  Of course, MOST alums and fans are respectful and always decent in public and behind a screen name.  I say call on them to check the racist tendencies of the vocal minority within their family.  These boards have moderators.  If offensive language it left up, one can safely assume is is acceptable within that cyber-community of the school’s alumni.

Read for yourself. View this stuff for yourself. Make sure you let young people understand the parameters of public discourse surrounding their families and their neighborhoods.

The time has come to make sure our young people and their families are fully informed before they make the very important decision to earn money for a particular university.  If one or more of the local schools is offering your players a scholarship he will likely have other options.  If he doesn’t hit me up and I’m sure we can find a school that will pay his bills.

If you feel disrespected, if you feel unappreciated by local programs and their followers and they are offing your players scholarships you have options.  Exercise them.  Buyer beware!

It should be noted that it’s a very specific segment of the largely white male middle class fan and alumni base making the most vile statements.

Message boards are largely populated by white male alums of the schools. Recent surveys have identified the characteristics of message board posters. The data indicated that the vast majority of message-board users were male (87.8% of total, 92.2% of subscribers), White (90.8% of total, 92.4% of subscribers), and married (62.1% of total, 63.0% of subscribers); had least an undergraduate degree (76.0% of total, 79.3% of subscribers); and were current residents of the United States (97.4% of total, 98.1% of subscribers). Most respondents indicated that they were alumni of their message board’s school of focus (59.0% of total, 60.6% of subscribers). A total of 77.4% of survey participants indicated they were at least 30 years old, with subscribers tending to skew slightly older than non-subscribers. Also of note was the finding that 25.5% of all users were age 50 or older.

Let’s not send our young men where they aren’t welcomed and embraced. These are the internet addresses of message boards for the City 6 basketball programs.

St. Joseph’s Basketball – http://saintjosephs.scout.com

Temple Basketball & Football – http://temple.scout.com/

LaSalle Basketball – http://explorertown.proboards.com/

Villanova Basketball & Football – https://villanova.rivals.com/forum.asp

Drexel Basketball – http://www.caazone.com/boards/forums/drexel-dragons.7/

Penn Basketball – http://boards.basketball-u.com/showforum.php?fid/43/

Judge for yourself.

 

Philly Pride & Triple Threat is Focused on Education

PPTT(L to R) Kamal Yard, Philly Pride & Triple Threat, Bill Gibson, Chief Enrollment Manager for Secondary Schools, Nick Regina, Deputy Secretary for Enrollment Management and Eric Worley, Philly Pride & Triple Threat

Philly Pride & Triple Threat (PPTT) is committed to serving youth in and around the Philadelphia area in three distinct arenas; Education, Athletics, and Life.

Educationally, members of the foundation receive the necessary academic incentives and support to assure success in the classroom. Athletically, members of the foundation compete on a well organized basketball team and are involved in other basketball related activities. The two main goals athletically are; development of fundamental skills and exposure to college coaches. From a Life standpoint, participants are coached and mentored by high character and quality individuals with the primary goal of instilling appropriate life lessons in the individual students.

Eric Worley and Kamal Yard are diligently working together to inspire promising inner city youth to be leaders, champions and student-athletes as well empowering them to be successful in high school, college and life.

Specifically, these gentlemen use basketball as a “hook” to engage young men and women in the program.  The larger, more important objective is to help Philadelphia area youth access high quality educational opportunities, internalize positive value systems and refine life skills that will prepare them for the day the ball stops bouncing.

Their track record is extremely strong.

Rysheed JordanRysheed Jordan, St. John’s University, Philly Pride & Triple Threat Alum

Well over 30 collegiate athletes have come through the program. St. John’s Rysheed Jordan and DePaul’s Brittany Hrynko are both projected to go in the 1st round of the NBA and WNBA draft respectively.  The PPTT program has developed some of Philadelphia’s most talented players in recent years.  Many have prospered in some of the most academically challenging independent and Catholic high schools in the area.  Recent Temple University commit Levan Alston (Haverford School), St. Joseph’s University commit Chris Clover (St. Joseph’s Prep), Tony Carr (Roman Catholic), Sean Lloyd (Mt. Zion Prep, MD), Josh Sharkey (Archbishop Carroll), and Lamar Stephens (Haverford School) have come through their ranks.  In each case, the young men were well-prepared for the rigorous academic programs they encountered.

Philly Pride & Triple Threat is, clearly, one the leading youth sports development programs in the Greater Philadelphia region.  They take the responsibility of preparing students very seriously.  Over the past couple of years, Philadelphia’s public schools have faced unprecedented budget problems and experienced massive teacher and counselor layoffs. An already under-served group of urban students have found themselves virtually abandoned.  As a result, the roles of Worley and Yard have evolved and expanded.

They have become de facto school counselors for a significant portion of the 500 or so students in their program. More and more, they have been asked to help guide more students from poor and middle-class families to the area’s top middle and high schools. By default, Philly Pride & Triple Threat has been providing students with the kind of personalized counseling that students from more affluent families tend to get from private counselors or their school-based guidance counselors in the suburbs. They have worked tirelessly to establish relationships with Independent and Catholic Schools in Philadelphia out of necessity.

Brittany HyrkroBrittany Hrynko, Depaul University, Philly Pride & Triple Threat Alum

As noted earlier, Philadelphia is the midst of an unprecedented series of budget cuts. The cuts were to the bone!! In 2013, the Philadelphia school system laid off 3,783 employees, including 676 teachers and 283 counselors. Along with teachers and counselors, those losing their jobs included 127 assistant principals and 1,202 aides who monitor the cafeteria and playgrounds. Most recently, The SDP raided the The existing Philadelphia Federation of Teachers Health and Welfare Fund, which has about $40 million built up in it. The future for Philadelphia’s public schools is very bleak.

Nonetheless, every day Yard and Worley work with students and parents hungry for good school placements.  They recognized that they needed to become much more knowledgeable about the application and financial aid process at tuition-based schools. Toward that end, they recently met with Nick Regina, Deputy Secretary for Enrollment Management and Bill Gibson, Chief Enrollment Manager for Secondary Schools for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Yard says, “Mr. Regina and Mr. Gibson made us feel that our students would be welcomed in Catholic schools. I learned some important things that I can’t wait to share with our families.”  He gained a better understanding of the processes in place within Catholic High Schools.  According to Yard, “The Catholic high schools are very real options for our kids, we’ll make every effort to link our parents with admissions staff in several Archdiocese schools.”

Worley, a former teacher and principal in Philadelphia’s public and charter schools was also excited. According to Worley, “Catholic high schools are accessible and affordable for many our kids. I know first hand, how frustrating it can be for parents seeking a better school placement for their child. I look forward to helping our students access and navigate the application process.”

PPTTLogo

Yard and Worley also have a PPTT High School Assist Project, which will help sixth through eighth grade student-athletes succeed in middle school and leverage that success to gain admission to excellent college preparatory high schools. The HS Assist Project will offer academic instruction/tutoring, homework help, life skills development and test preparation for sixth through eighth graders.

The PPTT College Assist Project, will continue to provide high school student-athletes with the individual support necessary to be successful in high school and to prepare for college. College Assist Project support includes SAT and other test preparation, high school counseling, application/financial aid workshops, college visits and NCAA eligibility and recruiting guidance.

If you want see the fruits of Yard’s and Worley’s labor just peruse the rosters of Inter-Ac and Catholic High School teams or check your TV listings and find some Big East games, women or men.

Sex, Black Male Athletes & The Responsibilities of Ol’ Heads

Tom Payne-page-0

Young fella… Let me holla at you for a minute…

I see what’s going on… She’s cute… not what you are used to… not “thick” like the girls from ’round the way… but cute nonetheless… Moreover, she’s always around… after practice… after dinner… outside study hall… in the lobby of the dorm. She always speaks first. She’s thirsty.  She’s trying real hard to get your attentions.  Seems like her wardrobe consists solely of yoga pants. You’ve noticed and she knows you’ve noticed. It’s just a matter of time ’til  y’all hook up.  Growing up you were never really interested in dating white girls, but DAMN it’s so many of them hanging around the team… You’re curious.. You’re thinking about it… Be careful young fella.

It’s a tough balancing act. You came to college to play ball first and foremost. Everything else is secondary. Academics? Yeah… the coaches talk about studying hard, but you (and everyone else for that matter) know their main concern is your development as a ball player. You are there to win games.  Being a scholarship athlete is a job.. A full-time job… You are evaluated based on your performance on the court and on the field. Besides, if you take the classes they’ve lined up for you and work with your academic advisers you’ll be fine. You will graduate in four years.

But what about the blonde in the yoga pants? Let’s call her Becky.  There’s no adviser to guide you through that situation. Young fella you are on your own.  You have to rely on your own judgement.  After a while, you decide to “hang out” with her. She has a BMW 3 series… nice… She has a credit card with what seems like no limit… Pizza? She’s got it… Wings? She’s got it… Movies? She’s got it… $50?… Yeah, she’s got that to…

Never, throughout all of your years in the “hood,” have you encountered a girl like Becky.  You have no frame of reference for this type of “relationship.” It really doesn’t make sense to you… She’s not your lady… She’s not your girlfriend… but… you like it. You really like it.  You’ve been conditioned to like it.  When they recruited you, they put about 4-5 girls just like her in front of you for the entire weekend. These girls looked like Becky and they were ready, willing and able… You smashed. It was all good. You committed… “Coach, I’m coming to BIG State!”

So now you’ve been on campus for a few weeks, it’s Friday and there’s no practice tomorrow. A rare day off. You can’t believe coach actually has nothing planned in the morning.  So you, two teammates and your boy from home decide to head over to a keg party at a nearby apartment complex. Soon as you enter the door, there she is… Becky… Y’all lock eyes… It’s a wrap, she’s by your side for the rest of the evening.  You playfully flirt.  You test the limits… How far will she let me go?  You grab her ass, she’s ok with that… You kiss her, she’s ok with that.

After a 7-8 drinks things start to get a little “loose.” Y’all decide to slip off to the bathroom. You close the door behind her and she gets on her knees. The effort is there, but the constant knocking at the door is really distracting. After 10 minutes or so y’all decide to go back to your room. This poses problems for your boys.  You’re the “man,” everyone knows you, not them.  They are just dudes at a party.  Your friends don’t like their chances of “hooking up” if you aren’t there with them.  Everybody decides to leave.  You, your crew and Becky head back to your dorm.

black-and-white-mike-jordan-sonMichael Jordan’s Son, Marcus and friends

Upon arriving back at the dorm, it’s on. You and Becky immediately disrobe and engage in consensual sex. Very good consensual sex. So good, your boys have been listening at the door the whole time. As a result, they are drunk and horny.  These guys are in a frenzied state of mind.  When you leave to clean yourself in the bathroom,  your teammate decides to enter the room.  We have just entered the danger zone. Young fella… Make no mistake… Lives are about to change forever.

Becky sees him taking off his pants and gets worried. She didn’t sign up for this.  She let’s him know she doesn’t want to have sex with him. He totally disregards her protestations.  He’s gonna take it.  He grabs her, places his forearm across her chest and pins her down on the bed. In a matter of seconds, Becky knows she has no options.  It’s total mismatch. He’s 6’4” and 245 lbs. She’s 5’3” and about 120.  Your boy… your buddy… your homie… forcefully spreads her legs and penetrates her vagina.  He’s not wearing a condom.   After a few minutes he lifts her up, flips her over and forces himself into her anus. Becky is crying.  Her spirit has literally left her frail body.  She has given up on physically resisting. She’s just hoping that this ordeal will soon come to an end. It doesn’t.

After wiping yourself down, you re-enter the room.  The other two guys are on your heels.  You see what is happening.  Your boy is ravaging Becky.  You know it’s not right. You know it’s foul. But you don’t take a stand.  You are now complicit. Unfortunately, you are “down” – legally and in a fraternal sense – with your boys… You’re weak and you allow Becky to be raped.  It unfolds right in your face.  Your boy from home forces his penis in her mouth while your teammate continues to assault her from the rear.  Your other teammate whips out his cell phone and starts recording the incident. Becky has become an inanimate object, she exists solely as a means of pleasuring the young men.  No one give any thought to her feelings, her pain, her humiliation.  Eventually, her crying becomes overbearing and y’all decide to cease. You throw her a towel, a rag and a hoodie. You and your homies retreat to the living area leaving her lying is a pool of sweat, tears and semen.

After a about 10 minutes, you ask her if she’s “alright.”  Becky’s eyes are open, but she is unresponsive.  It’s as if she comatose. She has just been subjected to a brutal felony gang rape.   But in a haze of ego and displaced loyalty to your friends, you convince yourself somehow, someway that she wanted it.   You have absolutely no idea how much trouble you are in.  Back in the living area, your boy has already forwarded the video and pics to several other friends.  Your dumb ass then shares it with other players on the team.

Jack Johnson-page-0(1)Becky is devastated.  She is bleeding.  All sorts of thoughts are running through her head. “Do I have a disease? Herpes? Aid? Am I pregnant?”  Blaming herself, she wonders what she could have done differently.  Yes, she wanted consensual sex with YOU.  The key words here are “with YOU”.  She didn’t want to be tossed around and shared by a group of strange men.  Unbeknownst to you and your friends, Becky has just endured life altering physical and psychological trauma.  Even though you don’t yet realize it, your athletic careers are already in jeopardy and your reputations will never recover.

Different versions of this episode are playing out on college campuses all across the country. Young Black college and professional athletes are literally “wildin’ out” on campuses and in hotels across the country. Of course, white athletes are wildin out too.  But, I’m not concerned with Ben Rothlisberger, Christian Peter and other white athletes right now.  Young fella, I am worried about you.  With alarming frequency, the media provides us with detailed accounts such as the one above.

Even casual fans can recognize that Black college and professional athletes such as yourself are increasingly involved in “alleged” sexual assaults. When not substantiated, these allegations, nonetheless, linger. They permanently stain the reputation and decrease the earning potential of guys like you. You do not want to be forever linked to the words “sexual assault” and “RAPE.”  If substantiated, athletes face immediate repercussions meted out by the criminal justice system and living their remaining years as a registered “sex offender.” Either way, the social and financial costs of sexual assaults are extremely high and should be avoided at all costs.

But how do you learn to deal with these situations? Who will demonstrate and model more appropriate ways to engage in sexual relationships with females, especially female “groupies”? I know you don’t really have a relationship with your father.  Who can help save you from yourself?

My contention here is that your Ol’ Heads have to do a better job preparing you for the complex and often confusing social circumstances awaiting elite basketball and football players on college campuses.  It ain’t enough to just deliver you to a Nike, under Arnour of Adidas school.  Ol’ Heads have to do more.  They are the ones in a position to make a difference.  Ol’ Heads have earned your respect and that of young Black males. They are youth coaches, high school coaches, AAU coaches, mentors, teachers or any older gentleman that demonstrates a willingness to impart knowledge.  Ol’ Heads know exactly how these scenarios can play out.

Young fella, if you truly don’t understand how you ended up arrested and charged with rape, your Ol’ Heads failed you.

Lawrence Taylor-page-0

I’m gonna always try my best to give it you raw and uncut.  Young fella, I have to speak TRUTH. Take it however you want, but here it is.

Some things have been issues from the moment Black men set foot on Jamestown, Virginia in 1619.  Since then, their place in the fledgling society has been an issue of vital concern to dominant white males. Very early on it was decided that Black males would be subjugated and relegated to far less than second class status.  By 1640, at least one African had been declared a slave and formally ordered by the court “to serve his said master or his assigns for the time of his natural life here or elsewhere.” Your Ol’ Heads understand that Black male sexuality and the Black penis have been viewed as major threats to the established social order by successive generations of white Americans over the past 370 years. Your Ol’ heads know that Black male interactions with women, especially white women, throughout American history have been aggressively policed and excessively punished. Ol’ Heads tend to understand this instinctively even if they are not familiar with the ugly, horrific details of manner in which American society has interacted with Black male genitalia.

The problem, as I see it young fella, is that collegiate sports has become such an integral and important part of American culture that many Ol’ Heads think that these historically observable dynamics no longer apply to elite athletes such as yourself.  And, to certain extent, they are not wrong. They are just shortsighted.  As long as you are performing in sanctioned contests that generate approximately $900,000,000 annually for the NCAA, they will let a LOT of shit “slide.”  Up to and including sexual assaults…

However, when you are no longer eligible to play or become ineffective at toting the rock or dunking a ball… When you can no longer contribute to victories and earn $$$$ for BIG state, the reality of America’s long standing fear of Black sexuality will rear its’ ugly head.  You will quickly come to understand the extent to which America continues to be fearful of the Black penis.

Eddie Johnson-page-0Young fella… Let me give you a quick history lesson on this subject.  They have always reserved the “legal” right to cut your dick off for that same shit y’all did to Becky.  In 1769, Colonial Virginia established a law which “authorized the castration of any slave who attempted to have sex with a white woman,” but it had no similar provision when white men attempted or in fact ravished black women.  Young fella… pay attention…  In 1775, Colonial Georgia formally enacted the prohibition against teaching a slave to read or write. The penalty for violating this prohibition was set at fifteen pounds sterling. That fine was was 50% larger that that for willfully castrating a slave or cutting off a limb.  That means the penalty for cutting off your balls was only half as much as the fine for teaching you to read.  I know what you are thinking: “I would have escaped, I would have run off…” You had better make to freedom if you tried.  In Colonial South Carolina, a third attempt at escaping to freedom warranted castration.  This mysterious fascination with and simultaneous fear of Black penises was not limited to the South.  In Colonial Pennsylvania, all Black males, free and enslaved, found guilty of attempts to rape a white woman were castrated.  The macabre behavior continued, in extra-legal forms well after independence from England.

In his recent film, Quinten Tarantino captured the essence of the issue at hand when Django was hung naked upside down in a barn while he awaits castration. The white man longing to execute the job, Billy Crash, one of the overseers, delighted in the thought of cutting off Django balls.  But, young fella, I don’t have to rely on cinematic fiction to illustrate how this is part of America’s DNA.

Throughout American history, when Black males were lynched the murderers would routinely cut off their penises. Sometimes, Black dicks were kept as souvenirs in pickle jars. In other instances, they were shoved into the mouths of the victim as he dangled from a tree. Eighty years ago, on October 26, 1934 Claude Neal was lynched in Marianna, Florida for having an affair with Ms. Cannidy, a young white neighbor.

A member of the lynch mob described the gruesome episode in great detail:

“After taking the nigger to the woods about four miles from Greenwood, they cut off his penis. He was made to eat it. Then they cut off his testicles and made him eat them and say he liked it. Then they sliced his sides and stomach with knives and every now and then somebody would cut off a finger or toe. Red hot irons were used on the nigger to burn him from top to bottom.” From time to time during the torture a rope would be tied around Neal’s neck and he was pulled up over a limb and held there until he almost choked to death when he would be let down and the torture begin all over again. After several hours of this unspeakable torture, “they decided just to kill him.”

The mob of angry whites tied Neal to a rope at the rear of an automobile and dragged over the highway to the Cannidy home. Somewhere between 3000 and 7000 fervent whites from eleven southern states were excitedly waiting his arrival. When Neal’s corpse arrived, it was immediately mutilated by the onlookers. It was then taken back to Marianna, where it was hung to a tree in the courthouse square.  Young fella, pictures (see below) were taken of the mutilated body and hundreds of photographs were sold for fifty cents each. Neal’s fingers were sold as souvenirs.

Claude-Neal-1934-Marianna-FLClaude Neal, Marianna, Florida 1934

In some important ways, times have changed significantly.  Think about it young fella.  For the better part of four centuries, brutal lynchings and castrations accompanied even the slightest thought of engaging in sexual relations with white women.  Yet, today young Black men are engaging in sexual relations with white women on college campuses in Florida, Texas, South Carolina, Kentucky, others states throughout the former Confederacy and all across the country. Even when white women cry “rape” the cases are frequently made to go away.

By now Young fella… I know your asking: How does this make sense? What is going on? What changed?

Incredibly, at this historical juncture, it is apparent that many white police and University officials place more value on the alleged Black perpetrator’s athletic services than they do on the “honor” of the putative white female victims.  The investigative reports are there for all to see.

Most recently, mainstream media outlets like ESPN, the New York Times and the Washington Post reported that white males in positions of authority are  hindering investigations of Black males suspected of sexually assaulting white women.  University presidents, athletic directors and coaches are routinely siding with prominent young Black athletes and questioning the accounts of alleged victims.

Young fella, you wanna know what’s really going on?

In the immortal words of Raekwon, Inspectah Deck, Method Man and the rest of the legendary Wu-Tang Clan, “Cash Rules Everything Around Me” C.R.E.A.M./Get the money; dollar, dollar bill, y’all.  The fear of Black male sexuality still exists, but it has been overridden by naked greed.  Elite collegiate athletes generate huge sums of money for their respective institutions.

Young fella , as soon as you are no longer a substantial source of revenue, the fear will become readily apparent.

Your Ol’ Heads understand this innate fear. Unfortunately, truth be told, just like the white males cashing in at the colleges, a lot of Ol’ Heads have been blinded by greed.  Hoping to cash in if you make it, many Ol’ Heads are not willing to impose behavioral expectations on guys like you.  They are afraid of being cast out of your inner circle.  They are worried that you will make it to the NFL or NBA and they won’t be around to share in your success and reap financial rewards.

In short, the game is fucked up!!

Fearful of losing access, Ol’ Heads fail to provide guidance for dealing with these situations.  You have never been subjected to logical consequences for your negative behaviors.  As a result, you have no idea how the larger society views these types of sexual escapades. Because you can ball, people have been letting you get away with all types of transgressions since you were 10 or 11 years old.  Young fella you have been socialized to believe you are above the rest of society.  You are part of a generation of gladiators incapable of consistently exhibiting socially appropriate behaviors in all settings.

Mike Tyson-page-0Far too many of today’s Ol’ Heads view their role as making problems go away. In the past, Ol’ Heads prepared youngbucks to deal with a complicated, confusing and discriminatory society. These days, Ol’ Heads just say, “Don’t worry ‘bout it, I’ll fix it.”

That is extremely unfortunate.  Your generation is paying a high price for this.  More than anyone else, Ol’ Heads are in a position to spell out the truth.  Ol’ Heads know their youngbucks. They know if y’all are capable of assaulting or raping women. They have spent countless hours in cars, gyms and classrooms with youngbucks. In many instances, they have diffused sensitive situations involving inappropriate behaviors with girls and young women.  The responsibilities of Ol’ Heads are much deeper than the responsibility of college coaches, given the unique relationships and access that Ol’ Heads enjoy.

Reuben Patterson-page-0Ol’ Heads also understand the dynamics of race as they have historically applied to Black athletes.  From 1905 through the early 1970’s, major NCAA college basketball and football programs fielded teams that were predominantly white.  In the south, “Affirmative Action” was firmly entrenched in the recruitment process.  Participation in major college athletics was exclusively (100%) the preserve of white males for these seven decades. Highly skilled and supremely gifted Black athletes were barred from participation and lesser white athletes were awarded scholarships.

After explicitly denying Black males an opportunity participate for seven decades, the pendulum has swung entirely in the other direction.  One watching two top SEC teams on television today could easily envision the same game taking place between Grambling and Southern in the mid 1960’s. Outside an occasional center or quarterback, dominant college teams are predominantly African-American.

The money has really changed things young fella… The rise of the Black athlete and the accompanying exponential growth in revenues has led us a point where many white fans, boosters, coaches, administrators and even law enforcement officials value winning college athletic contests (and the generating millions of dollars) more than they fear Black penises.

But… youngfella… please… please… Don’t be fooled, it’s all about the money.

Let’s look at the investigation of a rape allegation against the reigning Heisman winner and quarterback of the national champion Florida State football team.  This incident and the ensuing actions on the part of authority figures provides a clear picture of just how far the pendulum has swung.

Darren Sharper-page-0On Jan. 10, 2013, a female student alleged that Jameis Winston has raped her about a month earlier and reported him to the Tallahassee police.  According to a statement released by the university, senior athletic department officials met with Mr. Winston’s lawyer, Mr. Jansen, within days of his identification as a suspect and quickly concluded that “there were no grounds for further action.” The accuser’s former lawyer, Patricia A. Carroll, said the department did not contact her at the time to get her client’s side of the story.

What the fuck is up with that?  Fifty years ago a mob would have tried to drag Winston out of his home and hang him up on a tree a few feet from the courthouse steps.

Young fella… If we remember what Wu-Tang tells us, that “cash rules everything around me” then things start to make sense.  On the field, Winston is a dynamic force and a dominant leader. Florida State has yet to lose a football game in the in year and a half he has been the starting quarterback. Wins translate into dollars. County officials estimate that home games generate anywhere from $1.5 million to $10 million into the local economy, depending on the quality of the opponent.  Last year Florida State reported a football profit of $20 million, which covered much of the expenses for other sports teams while also helping the athletic department contribute $2.6 million back to academic programming on top of athletic scholarships.

The New york Times has reported that the police investigator who handled the case, Scott Angulo, “has done private security work for the Seminole Boosters, a nonprofit organization, with nearly $150 million in assets, that is the primary financier of Florida State athletics, according to records and a lawyer for the boosters.”

As long as he has eligibility left, FSU and the authorities in Tallahassee will continue to let a LOT of shit slide.  Winston as of October 14, 2014 is 19-0 as the starting QB.  He also has a Heisman trophy and a National Championship in hand.  You… young fella… you ain’t Jameis Winston.

Act like you got some sense!!

NJ Playaz, Team Final and WE R1: AAU Done Right

Steve Kerr-page-0

Is Steve Kerr correct?  Has the process of becoming a better team basketball player “become completely lost” within the now dominant world of AAU basketball?  Kerr’s sentiments have been echoed by many within the basketball hierarchy.  Detroit Piston’s Head Coach, Stan Van Gundy says, “[AAU] is a bad system for developing players… They aren’t learning to handle the ball, they aren’t learning to make plays against pressure. The emphasis with our high-school players is to get exposure and play as many games as you can and show everybody how great you are.”

The deeply held pessimism is enough to make one wonder if there are any redeeming aspects of AAU/grassroots basketball.  Nonetheless, any knowledgeable basketball person will tell you AAU/grassroots circuits (NIKE, Under Armour and Adidas) have superseded high school in importance for aspiring collegiate and professional players.  Hence, parents face a quandary, do they forgo the most significant platform in terms of exposure and high level competition because of the concerns expressed by coaches like Kerr and Van Gundy?  Or, do they try to identify AAU programs doing the things the “right” way?  I’m going to assume that virtually every parent will choose the latter course of action.

This begs the question:  What does AAU/grassroots basketball look like when it’s done right? Of course, first and foremost the program must be competitive.  Of course, a good AAU program has to win tournaments.  Kerr complains that winning is devalued.  He significantly overstates his case.  Winning matters and it matter a lot.  No one wants to play for a program that get’s smoked game after game. Nobody wants to be on the wrong end of 20, 30 even 40 point blow outs in front of ACC, Big East, Big 10, SEC and A10 coaches. Good AAU programs win games. Some of the very best AAU programs are in the mid-Atlantic region. NJ Playaz, Team Final and WE R1 are doing AAU/Grassroots basketball the right way. They win and their players consistently go on to play at next level.

These are grassroots organizations with well-established support structures and developmental programs that have improved the quality play among their participants. It should be noted that high quality programs enhance the athletic, educational, and social development of the student-athletes. It can’t be all about winning AAU games and tournaments. But, make no mistake these programs win a lot of AAU games and tournaments.

Playaz Peach Jam2014 NIKE Peach Jam Champions, NJ Playaz

In 2014, Team Final, led by Rob Brown, was the regular season champion of the NIKE EYBL circuit. Their 14-2 record was the finest in what is widely considered the most competitive grassroots league. Jimmy Salmon’s NJ Playaz (pictured above), led by All-American Isaiah Briscoe (Roselle Catholic HS) won the prestigious Peach Jam title. The Peach Jam Tournament provides a culmination for teams playing on the NIKE sponsored the travel team circuit and allows 40 teams to compete for an ultimate goal each summer. It is the premier tournament of the summer. The Final Four of the Peach Jam wan nationally televised by ESPNU (see below).

Peach Jam ESPNUAnother nationally recognized AAU program has emerged out of Middletown, Delaware. Under the direction of Terrell Myers, WE R1 took home both the regular season and UAA Tournament championships in 2014.  Led by Derrick Jones and Malik Ellison We R1 defeated highly regarded Sports U to capture the Under Armour Association title (pictured below).  WE R1, like NJ Playaz and Team Finals, is generally considered one of the most competitive grassroots programs in the nation. All three are consensus top 25 teams, with NJ Playaz and WE R1 coming in 1, 2 in most national rankings.

2014 Under Armour Association Finals2014 Under Armour Association Champions, WE R1

So, they win big games and bring home hardware from the biggest tournaments.  What else makes these programs special?  Some obvious questions immediately come to mind: Do their players get recruited? Do they get scholarships? The track record of Jimmy Salmon and the NJ Playaz in this area is beyond reproach. Tim Thomas (Villanova), Wayne Ellington (North Carolina), Gerald Henderson (Duke), Eddie Griffin (Seton Hall), Marcus Toney-El (Seton Hall), Vince Carter (North Carolina), Kenneth Faried (Morehead St.), Dahntay Jones (Duke), Sean Singletary (Virginia), Earl Clark (Louisville), Jeremiah King (Drexel) and Kyle Anderson (UCLA). Of course J.R. Smith and Kobe Bryant would have been included had they elected to play collegiately instead of jumping straight to the NBA. Another Playaz alum is NY Giants ALL-PRO wide receiver Victor Cruz.

Kyle AndersonKyle Anderson, NJ Playaz

Team Final alumni roster includes NBA lottery picks Tyreke Evans (Memphis), Mike Gilchrist (Kentucky) and Dion Waiters (Syracuse). This year alone, seven Team Final players have committed to NCAA Division 1 programs. This list includes Malachi Richardson (Syracuse), Donte DiVincenzo (Villanova), TreVaughn Wilkerson (Hartford), Trey Lowe (Temple), LaMarr “Fresh” Kimble (St. Joseph’s), Ahmad Gilbert (Geaorge Mason) and Levan Alston, Jr. (Temple). Khaif Wyatt (Temple) and JaQuan Newton (Miami) are also recent high profile Team Final Alums.

dion waiters

Dion Waiters, Team Final

We R1 alums include Dexter Strickland (North Carolina), Ben Bentil (Providence), Markus Kennedy (SMU), Jaylen Bond (Temple), Jared Mann (Stanford), Charles Cooke (Dayton), Khalid Lewis-El (LaSalle), Isaiah Washington (Penn St), Austin Tilghman (Monmouth). This year’s UAA Championship team featured Tim Delany (Villanova-commit) and Derrick Jones (ESPN #22, 2015). Also in the program is Sedee Keita (ESPN #34, 2016).

Ben BentilBen Bentil, WE R1

By any reasonable measure, these programs produce kids that get recruited at the highest levels.  But, what else should you look for in a “good” AAU program?  Well, a good AAU/grassroots program build social cohesion and and increase social capital among young people and adults in their respective communities. The younger kids in the program and the larger community should benefit from the success of the older kids.  By the time the players participate on the 16u and 17u teams, they are generally very well known and look up to by younger players in the program and the surrounding community. Pay attention to the twitter and instagram accounts of the players in the program.  Read what they write.  Look at the images they project.  Is this how you want your child to portray himself publicly?  Watch how the student-athletes interact with younger kids and other members of the increasing AAU fan base. For programs like NJ Playaz, Team Final and WE R1, basketball is used as a practical tool to engage young people in their communities through volunteering, resulting in higher levels of leadership, community engagement and altruism among young people.

Dion book bag 2Dion Waiters, Team Final, interacting with youth during Book Bag Giveaway

Another indicator of a good program is the intensity of the relationships between the players and level of respect players (and former players) have for the coaches.  The relationships between AAU teammates are just as strong, perhaps even stronger, than those among high school teammates. Young people regularly spend 7,8 or 9 hours in vans traveling out of state to play in tournaments. They eat and sleep together on the road. In each of the highlighted programs, positive peer relationships are encouraged through coaching. If you spend anytime watching the teams practice and play it becomes apparent that social inclusion is very important to the coaches.  Talk to the kids that aren’t the stars on the team.  How do they feel about the program?  Of course, the guys getting all the attention and limelight are likely to be happy.  Are the non-starters benefiting as well?  Do they speak highly of the coaches and their teammates?

Social inclusion also relates to offering equal opportunities to educational programs regardless of ethnicity or basketball ability. There is a great deal of attention paid to ensuring Division 2, Division 3 and NAIA level players are academically eligible.  Rob Brown, Jimmy Salmon and Terrell Myers are consistently monitoring report cards, arranging SAT tutors and tracking GPAs.  Each treats the low D1, D2 and NAIA recruits the same way they treat the ESPN top 50 kids.  When evaluating programs, find out how the last man on the bench is treated.  That is a true indicator of the quality of the program.

Sedee

Sedee Keita, WE R1, ESPN #34 (2016)

Lastly, find out if their players exhibit a pattern a negative acting out behaviors.  Do they get suspended from high school or college?  Are there allegations or accusations of sexual misconduct or assault? Have their alums been arrested while in college?  Given the recent explosion in the number of criminal incidents involving high profile athletes, it is important to know the people you trust with your children.  There can be little doubt that NJ Playaz, Team Final and WE R1  have a positive impact on character-building in their participating players. The thugh element is virtually non-existent in these programs.  These young men go off to college and the overwhelming majority are highly successful on the court and they graduate.

This can be largely attributed to the respective roles Jimmy Salmon, Rob Brown and Terrell Myers  play within their respective organizations.  Plainly stated, they have high expectations and as a result have a positive influence on the degree of ‘character-building’ within their programs.  Research suggests that participation in organized athletics such as AAU basketball can be used as a means to reduce delinquent behavior. But it’s important to understand that playing basketball alone does not directly impact on negative behavior. Accordingly, good AAU programs combine basketball activities with academic, leadership and job-skills development and training to address risk factors in children and youth.

If you want to see AAU done right visit any one of these programs.

Ask AAU and HS Coaches the Hard Questions!!

Young fella:
It’s hard… I know… believe me, I know. You are just trying to find your way. I’ve been there. I’ve done that. I flunked one year in school at 13. I was arrested at 16. I was a teenage father at 17. I lived in subsidized housing. I was raised by a single mother. In my early 20s, I smoked blunt after blunt after blunt… I played high school ball. I played college ball. My homies moved weight. I have been profiled by police several times. I have been strip searched for no reason. My car has been searched on the side of the road. My close friends have done bids in the penitentiary. By 23, the University of Michigan, the University of Delaware, The Ohio State University and the University of California were offering to pay me to attend their graduate programs.  As I approach 50, I have gained some perspective that may be of use to you as you begin your journey.  But, you gotta pay attention and listen closely…

Philly Pride Triple Threat LogoMore than anything else… More than exposure… More than playing time… More than trips to Vegas… More than fly gear… you need to surround your self with people that are knowledgeable about the ever changing NCAA eligibility process.  Make sure you participate in AAU and high school programs that genuinely care about college preparation.  Good programs have early-alert systems that flag student-athletes with spotty attendance, low test PSAT, SAT and ACT scores, too few core courses and low GPA’s.  Great programs will reward you for meeting academic goals and implement  consequences when you come up short.  Young fella, that’s the ONLY way to avoid being one of the thousands of young Black men who will inevitably fail to meet NCAA eligibility requirements in 2016.  Time is short, you have to grow up quickly.

As you embark on your journey, you will find yourself struggling with the conflicting ways the larger society views Black males. The relationship between America and Black males is really complex and can really be confusing for young men such as yourself. On one hand, for the better part of 400 years, Black males have been viewed as a menacing threat to all that is good about American society. Deeply ingrained white supremacist and racist traditions led to the exclusion of Black males from many major collegiate athletic programs up to the late 1960s and early 1970s.  To this day, young Black men can be literally shot in the face or choked to death in the middle of American streets while armed with only Black skin, loose cigarettes, iced tea and a bag of skittles. On the other hand, Black male athletes and hip hop performance artists are revered and rewarded with multimillion dollar contracts and enormous endorsement deals. Under Armour and Nike just emerged from an unprecedented battle over who gets to pay Kevin Durant $300 million over the next decade.  Of course, you want access to the latter, but everyday you have to navigate the reality of former. It ain’t gonna be an easy journey young fella…

Odds-of-Making-the-NBAIn the immortal words of Run-DMC, “It’s Tricky”…. But, for now, you just wanna play ball… You just wanna go to college, preferably D1. You know the odds are more than stacked against you. You have heard it all before. You fully understand that only 0.03% of high school players make it to the NBA. You realize that there are about 546,000 high school players and every year only about 48 college players are drafted into the league. But, shit… you could be one of the 48. I get that… I really do… As you see it, all you need is one coach in the right program, in the right conference to give you a chance. If they let you on that stage, you know you’re gonna shine. In your mind, you are better than many of the guys playing college ball right now! Given a fair chance, you will have the NBA contract and the massive endorsement deal. Maybe… Maybe you will young fella, but then, again, maybe you won’t. Be ready either way!

Mark MaconMark Macon, Temple/NBA

It’s possible… I’ve seen a lot of Philly high school and college players make to the NBA. Maurice Martin (St. Joseph’s), Lionel Simmons (LaSalle), Doug Overton (LaSalle), Randy Woods (LaSalle), Bo Kimble (Dobbins), Tim Perry (Temple), Mark Macon (Temple), Aaron McKie (Temple), Eddie Jones (Temple), Jameer Nelson (St. Joseph’s), Delonte West (St. Joseph’s), Kerry Kittles (Villanova), Rasheed Wallace (Gratz), Marcus & Markeiff Morris (Prep Charter) and Dion Waiters (Syracuse) were all 1st round picks.

I must also tell you, I’ve also seen guys who were good enough suffer injuries and illnesses that curtailed their NBA dreams. Rap Curry (St. Joseph’s), Bernard Blunt (St. Joseph’s), Bernard Jones (St. Joseph’s), Donnie Carr (LaSalle), Jason Frazier (Villanova) and Granger Hall (Temple) were fantastic collegiate players denied an opportunity in the NBA because of health issues. You have to simultaneously prepare to play at the highest level and get ready for the day the ball stops bouncing. It could stop bouncing at any time. First and foremost, we have to get you through high school and off to college.

donnie carrDonnie Carr, LaSalle University

Young fella… The first thing you have to do is become aware of and avoid the traps that have been set for you. Your future, your freedom and in some cases your life are at-risk every time venture outside your home. Every year, somewhere between 8,000 and 9,000 African Americans are murdered annually in the United States. The overwhelming majority of these victims are young males. You should know that 93% of these murders are in fact perpetrated by other blacks.  Black people account for about half of all homicide victims in the US almost exclusively at the hands of other African-Americans. Every year Black men kill more Black men than the total number of U.S. service men and women that been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan combined over the course of decade-long wars fought in those nations.

I know… I know… You know your way around the “hood.” You know the gun-toters. You know the killers. They respect your game. You don’t have nothing to do with the neighborhood “beefs.” You ain’t really worried about dying in the streets at the hands of other Black men. But, you should be. Be careful. Be respectful. I can’t expect you to avoid all interaction with real “thugs.” Some of them are your uncles, cousins, neighbors, friends. In many cases, they love you and you love them. Nonetheless, you have to exercise extreme caution when interacting with them. Don’t take no rides. Don’t hold no packs. Don’t stash no burners in your crib. Be smart. You have other more important things to worry about.

6446-000031Young fella… there is a drug arrest every 19 seconds in the U.S. In 2009 alone, there were more than 1.6 million drug arrests and 82 percent of those were for possession alone. Despite the unquestioned fact that white boys use drugs just as much, if not more, than your homies, they are focusing their policing efforts on our community. As Blacks, we are only 13 percent of the U.S. population and we proportionately account for 13 percent of the nation’s drug users. Yet, Blacks represent 34 percent of those arrested for drug offenses and 45 percent of those held in state prisons for drug offenses. We are the enemy in the “War on Drugs.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice, in 2008, there were over 846,000 black men in prison, making up 40.2 percent of all inmates in the system. The brilliant Michelle Alexander notes that “More African American men are in prison or jail, on probation or parole than were enslaved in 1850, before the Civil War began.” We are drastically overrepresented in the courtrooms, jails and prisons. We are about six times more likely to spend time in prison or jail than whites. According to recent research, we receive up to 60% longer federal prison sentences than whites who commit similar offenses, and 20% longer prison sentences than whites who commit the same offenses.  It’s so easy to get tripped up.

Keep these statistics in mind while you listen to multimillionaire hip hop artists promoting violence, misogyny, drug abuse and crass materialism. Jay Z, Young Jeezy, 50 Cent, Lil’ Wayne and all the rest have bloody hands. They are purposely filling your head destructive messages, while accepting payments for lyrics that extol alcohol and drug use. A recent study by Dartmouth Medical School, analyzed 793 songs from Billboard charts starting in 2005 and found that 160 songs (about 21%) referred explicitly to alcohol.  The study found that the majority of songs that referenced alcohol were rap, followed by R&B/hip-hop and country.  Approximately 42 percent of the lyrics referred to alcohol in a positive way and mentioned specific alcohol brands.  The brands in most cases are associated with advertising that depicts a luxury lifestyle of drug use, partying, sex, and wealth.

Another study by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found that music listened to by teenagers aged 15 to 18 affects long-term attitudes and behaviors.  That study looked at 279 top Billboard songs and found that 33 percent included explicit substance abuse references.  Be strong young fella, they are after you.  The majority of these songs linked substance abuse with positive sexual, financial and emotional rewards.  There are very consistent messages within corporate-sponsored hip-hop that promote the murder of young black men, sexual irresponsibility, excessive consumerism, drug/alcohol abuse and other forms of illegal behavior.  The plan is to convert you into a blunt smoking, drug addled, liquor drinking corporate consumer for life.

Wiz KhalifaIn 2002, Busta Rhymes and P. Diddy released “Pass the Courvoisier.”  That song led to a 19 percent increase in sales for Allied Domecq, maker of Courvoisier. Young Jeezy has an endorsement deal with Belvedere Vodka. A number of hip hop artists are creating their own alcohol labels.  Pitbull, whose real name is Armando Christian Perez, is part owner of the Voli Vodka brand.  Other rap artists who are part owners of liquor brands include Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg and Ludacris.

LudaThe myth is bullshit, Young fella… They tell you, “Jay Z sold drugs, he came up… 50 Cent sold drugs, he came up.” That’s the narrative being repeatedly fed to you and your homies through the media and the hip hop lyrics. Meanwhile, one of every three black American males born today can expect to go to prison in his lifetime compared to one out of every seventeen white males. Most will go to prison for the same “hustlin” behaviors celebrated in hip hop. I need you be discerning. I need you to see what they are doing. For every Kanye, there are 100,000 Nates, Bruces and Jamals on probation, parole or in prison.

The aim, the goal must ALWAYS be to hone and leverage your athletic ability and gain access to higher education. Then use education to improve your life and the lives of your family members. Once this goal is achieved, you have won. A professional basketball contract is the gravy.  The college degree and the knowledge gained along the way constitute the nourishing meal.

Playaz logoToward that end, you have to exercise solid judgement in selecting AAU and High School programs. Don’t sell yourself for a mere pittance. When the AAU guys come around offering a couple dollars, a new cell phone bill and 5 new pairs of KD’s, ask then the tough questions: How many of the guys in your program did NOT meet NCAA eligibility requirements? How many of your guys in the past 5 years had to go JUCO? Exactly, what does your program do to make sure guys are eligible? Does your program have homework assistance and/or SAT/Prep? Do you provide practice SAT exams to see where I stand?

We R 1 logoReally good AAU programs won’t have a problem answering these questions. Really good program administrators understand what you are up against. They do everything they can to get you in college. Some of the best programs I have encountered are NJ Playaz, Philly Pride/Triple Threat, WE R 1, Baltimore’s Finest and Mississippi Basketball Association. These programs focus on academics as well basketball preparation.

Mississippi Basketball AssociationMany of these same questions must be directed to high school coaches. This is especially true for kids attending urban public schools. In urban districts across the country, budget cuts have eliminated guidance counselor and assistant principal positions. You must ask the coach: What is the “eligibility plan” for me? Exactly what courses will I take that will lead to you being eligible? Can I see the list of NCAA approved courses for your school? What is the average SAT score at your school? What scores did your players get over the past few years? Does your school offer summer school courses? What is the grading scale at your school? How many of your players have gone onto play Division 1, Division 2 and NAIA?

As young Black “baller” you may find yourself struggling to attain self-conscious manhood while avoiding traps permeating the landscapes you traverse everyday. As you inch closer to becoming an elite basketball player, the “love-hate” relationship America has with Black males will become more and more apparent. Your challenge is to both keep it “real” and represent your family and your “hood” while simultaneously accessing institutions of high education and playing at the highest collegiate level. Shit ain’t easy. But, it can done, but, you must start right now by asking the right questions.

Sincerely,

Delgreco K. Wilson