Surely you’ve heard of Andre Cast, the basketball whiz and potential five-star recruit from the great state of Michigan.
You haven’t? I hadn’t either until I was directed to the Coast 2 Coast Preps website that bills itself as the “worldwide leader” in prep basketball coverage.
Coast 2 Coast is filled with pictures, team rankings and individual player rankings like most recruiting sites. What sets Coast 2 Coast apart is the extent of its rankings.
Andre is in the second grade. Coast 2 Coast lists him as the No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2028.
“Ranking a kid that has yet to play in a junior high game is insane,” said Bentonville West boys basketball coach Greg White, who tweeted last week about the absurdity of ranking players so young. “If a kid still gets recess and has a bedtime, they aren’t craving competition or exposure. That’s the parent’s ego getting involved.”
True to form, somebody questioned in the comments section why Coast 2 Coast had ranked the kid from Michigan No. 1 over another child from Illinois. I had questions myself for Coast 2 Coast, mostly about why it even exists. But there was no contact number on its website I could find.
As sports fans, we’ve long grown accustomed to player rankings and the star system that may list a football player from Tumbleweed, Texas, as the No. 48 inside linebacker in the country. That’s fine, I guess, although there are too numerous examples to mention of players who were not rated highly making it all the way to the top in professional sports.
Do you remember Demetrius Walker, who was called “the next LeBron James” when Sports Illustrated placed the then-14-year-old on its magazine cover in 2005? Walker fell well short of that prediction. He played one year at Arizona State and ended his college career at Grand Canyon College in Arizona. He’s back at his old high school, where he’s coaching junior high basketball.
Don’t blame Walker for failing to live up to the hype. Blame those who put that spotlight on him before he even reached high school.
More currently, Julian Newman and his sister, Jaden, are supposed to be the next basketball prodigies coming out of the state of Florida. ESPN did an interview with Jaden after she scored 100 points in a game for her small, Christian school. Julian is a sophomore who recently finished his sixth season — yes, sixth — on the varsity level at the same, small Christian school.
Oh, and his dad is the coach. Julian is convinced he’s headed to Kentucky to play college basketball. Jaden has already picked out Connecticut.
Again, don’t blame the kids. Blame those who take part in hyping and marketing them at such a young age.
It’s preposterous to gauge a child’s potential as an athlete when he’s still in grade school. By 10th grade, if you’re getting out of bed and going to practice on your own and not because your parents want you to, you have approached the stage where you might be worth a look. But that’s only a start. Your development on the varsity level will determine whether college coaches will show interest.
“Kids don’t get scholarships based on rankings or on coaches,” White said. “They get them based on talent.”
White identifies with a movement by USA Basketball that emphasizes more skill development and fewer games for young players. The goal is for the kids to have fun and, hopefully, fall in love with the game.
Meanwhile, back at Coast 2 Coast, a team from Missouri has moved ahead of Tennessee in the Class 2028 rankings and parents are questioning the age of some of the players. Can’t let a travel team sneak a third-grader onto the team when he’s supposed to be in the second grade.
And the countdown has begun for Andre Cast, who has yet to narrow his many choices for college. Will the No. 1 player in the country for the Class of 2028 commit before the school year is over or wait until this fall when he begins third grade?
The suspense is overwhelming.
Rick Fires can be reached at rfires@ nwadg.com or on Twitter @NWARick.