Daily Archives: January 18, 2010

“High School Basketball as We Knew It”

I just watched the number 1 ranked high school basketball team in the country get beat by the number 3 ranked team on ESPN U.  Findlay Prep out of Nevada knocked off St. Patrick’s Prep.  This was a phenomenal game.  St. Patrick’s star player who is heading to Duke next year, missed a free throw with one second left to come up one point short in a thrilling 71 to 70 contest.

At first glance, when putting on this game, it would be hard to tell you were watching high school basketball.  First of all the game was being broadcast on ESPN U.  There was a jam-packed gym with thousands of people screaming.  Each team had predominantly players over 6 3 and fantastic athleticism.  Both teams were sponsored by big time apparel companies such as Nike and Adidas. 

There were two give away factors though that made it known this was high school ball.  First of all the amount of college basketball coaches in the crowd.  Generally you do not find bundles of head coaches attending another school’s game this time of year.  Secondly, St. Patrick’s had a player starting that had no business in the starting lineup.  Yes, I am talking about the coaches kid.  This happens in high school frequently and was quite evident in this game.  The kid could play.  But did he deserve to be a starter on the number 1 ranked high school team in the country?  No way.

Watching this game made me think about what I was really witnessing.  The transformation of high school basketball.  It is no longer a game where teams can simply just play rival schools within their city and then participate in the state tournament at the end of the season.  It seems that every other weekend there is some sort of National Invitational going on matching up powerhouses from various states.  This weekend there was the Spalding Hoop Haul Classic.  Later in the year, there is a National Championship tournament which invites the top teams in the country.  Findlay Prep won this tournament last year and therefore is the defending National Champion..

Both of these teams had multiple signed division one players on their roster.  The Findlay Prep team does not even attend Findlay Prep for school.  They attend a high school by Findlay Prep for class, and then play ball for Findlay.  All the players live under the same roof, and they traveled over 35,000 miles for games last year.  Seems like a college team or an AAU team to me.

High school basketball is just becoming a branch off the AAU circuit.  Each year, more and more traveling all-star teams are forming like Findlay Prep and Oak Hill Academy.  These kids do not even really attend school.  They are already basically D1 college basketball players. 

So is all this good for high school basketball?  Is it raising the level of play?  Or is it hurting the maturity and development of these kids as people on and off the court?  I guess only time will tell and I cannot argue with it in that College Basketball is still as entertaining as ever.

Hats off to Columbus Northland, the defending Ohio State champs.  They have knocked off both the traveling all star teams this year in Oak Hill Academy and Findlay Prep.  Though I wish they did not travel to some of these invitationals, this team is currently ranked second in the country and will be moving up to first after St. Patrick’s loss today.  This is a real high school, with players who attend the school for all 4 years.  They play a normal conference schedule and will play in the Ohio state tournament at the end of the season.  They even have a coach’s kid in their starting lineup (Jared Sullinger, number 2 ranked player in the country).  That is real high school basketball. 

So what are  your thoughts on what high school basketball has become?  Is it a good thing?

Stay tuned for the next edition of Sportskraze.

-Kraze

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“Sharapova No Longer Down Under”

The Australian Open took flight this evening (Monday morning in Australia).  This is always a great event in January and is a very exciting time for all the tennis junkies that have really lost interest since the conclusion of the US Open in September.  All the big names are back and many are arguing that this is the most talented and deepest draw for both the men and women in years.  I am not really sure how one can make this statement with evidence to back it up, but I am definitely still very excited.

The first match that I got to witness was a stunning upset of the once top ranked Maria Sharapova.  How the mighty have fallen.  Sharapova has battled injuries the past couple of years and now is out in the first round at arguably her best tournament.  Down Under, Sharapova has exited in the semifinals twice, lost in the finals once, and won the tournament in her last appearance in 2008. 

The stunning beauty is just not what she once was.  I will not say that it is a lack of focus.  I mean obviously she is going to model and be a big time marketing tool for many companies. Her beauty is unquestionable.  But I will simply blame her lack of results the past couple of years solely on injuries.  This is not the Kournikova effect.  Ms. Kournikova blew her career due to a lack of focus.  She was blinded by her own beauty and lost the work ethic that got her into the professional ranks.  Many do not realize the talent that Anna  Kournikova once possessed and threw away.

Sharapova still has a great work ethic.  Though I wish she would tone down the grunting at times, she has always put in the time.  Injuries have really ruined her chances of becoming a legendary type player on the women’s tour.  Maria goes big or goes home every time she steps foot on the court.  Whether it is with her style of play, where she is a mean baseliner, to her clothing where she goes all out with her outfits, not to mention her obnoxiously loud grunting, she goes hard all the time. 

This at times can hurt her.  And in tonight’s match against little known Maria Kirilenko, it did.  She made far too many unforced errors to beat a counterpuncher like Kirilenko.  Hats off to Kirilenko in staying within herself and grinding out this over 3 hour match.

So unfortunately for Maria, at normally her strongest tournament, she is out on Day 1.  I wish Maria the best of luck in her comeback this year as she tries to recover from her many injuries. 

Strap in tennis fans and welcome to tennis Down Under.

Stay tuned for the next edition of Sportskraze.

-Kraze