Mike Lantry, 1972
...and by "light posting" I mean "I didn't think this would get finished today."
Alex Legion's mother lives in Inkster, Michigan. Alex Legion does not. Legion lives in Southfield with a man named Tim Green, who is his AAU basketball coach. Green is applying for legal guardianship of Legion.
Take the previous five sentences, mix them with the vapors of dozens of similarly creepy stories involving young men with unusual basketball ability and their assorted hangers-on, and you have world-class agar for investigative journalism to bloom in. Perhaps Alex Legion's situation is on the up-and-up. Perhaps Tim Green's motivations for taking Legion under his wing are totally altruistic. But unless stunning ability with a basketball goes hand-in-hand with a level of charm so absolute that total strangers nationwide are taking in basketball non-orphans simply to be charitable, there is a class of men somewhere between agents and parasites attaching themselves to every prospective NBA player in the country. Shoe wars have turned high school basketball entirely upside down: nowadays your AAU team is more important than your high school one. Where, then, is "Game Of Shadows: College Basketball Edition"?
Don't expect that question to be answered with a "coming right up" any time soon. As Mark Jurkowitz recently detailed in The Phoenix, a Boston alt-weekly, when it comes to muckraking, sportswriters have a rich history of sitting on their ass eating donuts. "Game of Shadows" itself was penned by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, men who
are not the kind of reporters found walking around post-game clubhouses armed with microphones and notebooks. Fainaru-Wada, a former sportswriter, was working on a campaign-finance project for the Chronicle's investigative unit when the BALCO (Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative) drug story broke. Williams, a traditional courts-and-cops reporter, is a long-time investigative journalist.
While Jurkowitz's article has an odd concept of stories of import -- he cites work done that showed that certain pro athletes' charitable contributions were not as charitable as all that -- it stands as a damning testament against the sportswriter's feeble plea that their access to athletes and coaches can serve as their aegis against the unwashed blogging hordes. It took ten years, a federal investigation, and two non-sportswriters to break the "news" that Bonds was on 'roids, something that had been conventional wisdom for a half-dozen years. In the interim, sportswriters asked Bonds
- if he liked winning,
- if he liked hitting lots of home runs,
- if he thought home runs were fun to hit,
- and if winning and hitting home runs was kind of like being tickled by ponies.
"Squandered" doesn't seem to cover the totality of the failure here.
Meanwhile in college basketball, the conventional wisdom is not that a few coaches are bending, breaking, or flaunting the rules -- it's that all of them are. At least, everyone who isn't Tommy Amaker is. Even not-a-coach-but-a-leader Mike Kryzwesksisetc,etc,etc ended up entangled with Brett Bearup via Corey Maggette. The coach of your 2006 national champion Florida Gators was publicly accused of being an ATM with Eddie Munster hair by then-Stanford coach Mike Montgomery (though the uproar over those comments caused an epic CYA backtrack by Montomgery in their wake). The NCAA had to rejigger its rules because Jim Calhoun was funnelling thousands of dollars to AAU programs via sham exhibition games. That's just the tip; the iceberg is composed of recruit after recruit ending up at a funny destination for no reason in particular. There's nothing you can say about each individual case -- kids do indeed choose schools for a lot of funny reasons -- but taken together they compose a black mass lurking just under the Greg-Gumbelized surface of college basketball.
And this has been going on for not ten but thirty years (at least!), to the detriment of many but most importantly
me Michigan. It's just our luck that basketball's unspoken reptilian tail has smashed Michigan both coming (Ed Martin sinks the program) and going (Crawford, Hairston, Horford, Legion leave before even coming). We swing back and forth from a program not clean enough to one that seems too clean to do the bending that teams far below the corruption median are willing to do: Tory Jackson's scholarship was pulled, so he took off for noted nest of corruption Notre Dame. (That was sarcastic, Irish fans.) We sit idly by, wondering if there are tournaments other than the NIT. We suck, waiting for that one guy with stunning basketball skills to suck the suck away.
"We decided to open it up," Legion told Scout.com. "I'm going to Oak Hill and I'm starting over so we opened it up.
... but tells his mom different...
"Like he told Amaker today, 'I'll be away from Mr. Green and my mom and get a chance to think things over,' " Williams said of her son, referring to his guardian Tim Green. " 'I'll think about my own self and my own choices.'
...it's hard to go with mom over he person he lives with -- and what an odd sentence that is. It's hard to be the kind of person who makes his own choices when you've never done so before. Is it "we" or "I"? And will Legion pick a place his mother wants him to go, or a place that might make Tim Green some money? No one knows right now, but I've got a nickel on green, capitalized and un-.
That's not to say I know Tim Green from Adam. As noted, this could all be completely legit and Legion will call Tommy Amaker to recommit and go where his mom wants him to go... but you'll forgive my cynicism. Occam's Razor and all that.
Meanwhile, we're left with sports journalists that Ball Four author Jim Bouton describes in the Phoenix article as "fans" who are "in it because it's fun" -- an assertion that any actual fan is taken aback by, since most sportswriters are about as fun as a bag of tacks to the face. For that matter, sportswriters seem to recoil from the term "fan" as if it was three letters of hydrochloric acid. As Colby Cosh noted when Bob McKenzie said that the "fan in [him] died long ago":
McKenzie certainly doesn't mean that he no longer gets pleasure from hockey: he's using the word "fan" as a pejorative, the way Nietzsche used "human." McK's saying he has transcended, attained a higher state. The fan had to die to make way for the expert. It's kind of like a political columnist describing himself as no longer a mere voter.
It should be noted that McKenzie is an MGoBlog favorite and all-around good (seeming) guy, but Cosh is right. Anyone who's read Drew Sharp or any of his legion of crabbed clones across the country knows they're no good at fun or fandom. But they do have that precious access, and so I ask: if you'd like to prove your vast superiority to blogs, why don't you do college basketball a favor and rake some muck? We'll save the bearclaws until you get back.
(Cosh's pith via Offwing)
Posting will be light today...
...but content yourself with enigmatic basketball insider DOTMAN's trademark : ) -- generally indicative of a commitment or damn near close to one -- in re: Patrick Beverly, a guy who enigmatic Adidas honcho Sonny Vaccaro says nice things about:
Beverley was not even on the top 100 list for McDonald's,'' Vaccaro said. "He was one of those non-entity guys who didn't get a big-time name in the summer. He was good last year, and his high school was good. But the kid was still a mystery. This is a kid from Chicago, not from rural Tennessee or Mississippi. The only one I can think of to compare him to is Dwyane Wade.
"Beverley is the best-kept secret in the country. All over America, he is the singular guy who has put himself in an all-star game. All these guys that people recruit and he was going to [Toledo], and now he has a list of major schools after him.''
I'm pretty sure that quote is recycled from an earlier article about this game, but the dateline on this one says April 4th.
Of course, the whole Alex Legion fiasco puts a damper on basketball recruiting news. Maize 'n' Brew has an appropriately resigned take for your edification.
So I subscribe to the RSS feed of Scout but do not subscribe to Scout. This little gem of a headline trickled across Bloglines mere moments ago:
Legion Transfers, Re-Opens Commitment
Legion = Alex Legion, 2007 shooting guard and one of the top 20 players in his class at this juncture. Transfer = consummation of previous assertion that he's going to transfer from Detroit Country Day to Oak Hill Academy in Virginia.
Re-Opens Commitment... well, that doesn't sound good, does it? If I hadn't had my basketball will to live beaten out of me already, this would probably spur some "aaargh." As it is: looks like Crawford/Horford redux.
Update 4/5: Added OLs Lee Ziemba (AR) and Jaivorio Burkes (AZ). Linked to article on Brandon Saine's track exploits. Linked to Scout article on IN RB Darren Evans that claims a leader... Mississippi State? Uh, okay. Michigan still in it; no offer. Linked to note on SC LB Scotty Cooper that says he is going to make an unofficial visit to Michigan over spring break and brief Scout article on IN WR Adrien Robinson. Moved Ryan VanBergen to committed.
Editorial Opinion: Ziemba and Burkes both have offers but haven't had much written on them to this point.
Brandon Saine is fast. Like, very very fast:
Saine is a throwback to the days when it wasn't unusual for sprinters to focus on all three races. And at 6-foot-1, 215 pounds, he sheds the rail-thin sprinter image. He's getting faster, stronger (a 285-pound bench press and 415-pound squat) and bigger (by one inch and 10 pounds from '05).
"In 27 years, I've not seen anybody close to him," said longtime Piqua coach Ron Pearson. "The irony is, I don't think he realizes just how good he can be."
Saine's 2005 bests were impressive: a 10.69 in the 100 (at Wayne), 21.64 in the 200 (at Wittenberg) and 47.68 in the 400 (at state). ... He recently won the 60 meters at the National Scholastic Indoor Championship in New York City (6.79). ...
Saine seems equally strong at every distance. The 60 meters is little more than a great start. He won that title by a body, which in the world of fractions of seconds is like a weekend. His finishes in the 200 and 400 are even more remarkable because the distance he puts on the field is so much greater.
That? Fast. Especially at 215 -- none of this "I'm 156 pounds yayyayyayyyyy" stuff. If Saine's vision and cutting are up to... er... speed, look out.
Saine's strong resemblance to a jet engine with a helmet and his lifelong Michigan fandom are probably among the reasons that Michigan hasn't offered Indiana running back Darren Evans. Saine, Chicago's Robert Hughes, and possibly Wisconsin's John Clay appear to be Michigan's main targets at running back. Evans has an array of offers from mid-level BCS schools but is still listing non-offerers OSU, Michigan, and Iowa amongst his favorites. Evans' teammate Adrien Robinson does not have an offer, probably because he had all of 11 catches in Warren Central's 90% run offense. He'll probably have to come to camp to get one.
Scotty Cooper's intention to take an unofficial over spring break indicates serious interest, but it's hard to get kids from the south, etc, etc, etc.
And now we return to football recruits who are actually going to be on scholarship: Michigan has picked up its third commitment from Whitehall, Michigan TE/DE Ryan VanBergen. Given the recent luck of Michigan DEs with a "Van" in their name, let's hope he's a TE.
Unfortunately, the Internet turns up little on Van Bergen save the world's most unflattering photo of him:
Yeesh. Must... not... make... Special Olympics jokes... SPOCK. There is one article from the White Lake Beacon on his performance at last year's Michigan camp:
VanBergen is an imposing 6'5", 238 pounder who played outside linebacker and tight end last year as a sophomore and will be switching to defensive end this season. ...
Cannon and VanBergen each received plaques for being in the top 10 players in their position. That's impressive considering they were competing against 360 top athletes from around the country at their position.
In addition, VanBergen was moved up to the senior linemen age group despite learning a new position, and he won the "Smokehouse" trophy for running the fastest indoor 40 yard dash in his position.
He's ranked #15 on The Wolverine's preliminary instate top 25; normally that would be three stars all the way but with the surfeit of talent in Michigan this year and the fairly impressive early offers from a variety of Big Ten schools chances are he gets a four-star rating from Rivals when evaluated. The top 25 also gives some indication of what position he's being brought in to play:
Like him as a defensive end, but love him at tight end. Really looks like a wide receiver running routes, but is so much bigger than everyone else.
I'll file under TE. It would probably be wrong of me to point out that I kind of sort of predicted an offer mere days ago, but apparently I just did it anyway.
Well, at least there's a policy. Ohio State sophomore Alex Boone, the projected starter at LT, was arrested for DUI on Wednesday. Of note is the Buckeyes strict discliplinary policy in these matters:
In accordance with departmental policy, Boone, a first-time offender, is not subject to any loss of practice or playing time.
Weasel to the extreme! DUI is a serious offense that would result in a practice suspension at the very least at most schools, but not at OSU. Okay. Different strokes for mercenary folks. That's cool. What grates is the crap about a "departmental policy" that removes the decision-making process from Tressell's hands, leaving the impression that even if Tressel wanted to spank Boone for being very, very naughty the athletic department would stay his hand. Duke should have thought of this.
"The last thing we told the team after practice yesterday morning was to set their clocks ahead an hour when they went to bed at 10 o'clock last night. I am disappointed that message did not get through to everyone."
What, the mighty force of no punishment whatsoever didn't drive your message home? Aaargh!
Idaho goes potato for Gutz. The Poctello Idaho State Journal is all over new starting quarterback Matt Guttierez and his Zeus-ian thunderbolt of an arm:
What impact will Matt Gutierrez have on ISU's offensive strategy and play-calling?
For people hoping ISU would go to a fun-n-gun, spread offense that throws 60 times a game, think again. Yes, Gutierrez' right arm appears to have been blessed by one of Zeus' thunderbolts, but don't forget the Bengals return the running back tandem of Josh Barnett and Ken Cornist.... Gutierrez' maturity and arm strength will allow more freedom with the play-calling as well as the return of audibling at the line of scrimmage - something that was basically nonexistent last season.
"The passing game we had with Doug Baughman (2001-02), that's what you're going to see more of," Lewis said. "There is going to be more variation of what we can do with our passing attack. I think it will only make our running game even better."
That means the return of the deep out that Baughman loved to throw. It's a throw Gutierrez seems to make with ease.
Maybe more vital is the confidence offensive coordinator Bruce Barnum has in Gutierrez. ISU won't have to rely exclusively on quick-hitting pass plays. Barnum can now employ five-step drop pass plays that have ISU's bevy of receivers running deeper patterns, leading to more bigger gains.
One aspect that must change is turnovers. ISU committed a ghastly 28 turnovers last year.
"Last year we wanted to manage the game, but we didn't do it," Lewis said. "We had 28 turnovers with most of them coming from the quarterback position. That has to change."
Lewis believes Gutierrez can, and will, make that change, leading an offensive unit that returns everyone but Shedrack Okoebor from a year ago.
"The only position we are upgrading is at quarterback," Lewis said. "That's the only unknown, and we feel pretty good about that situation."
The most critical piece of information in this article? There exists a person named "Shedrack Okoebor."