Lawanda stands by Oscar's decision.
Peter Read Miller/SI
Oscar Bellfield was sitting on the wooden bleachers at the Westchester (Calif.) Recreation Center on a recent Sunday watching his younger sister play an exhibition basketball game when a teenage girl spotted him and hurried over. Her silver filigreed earrings rocked as she sat down one bench beneath him.
"So, what school are you looking at?" she asked.
"Different ones," he said.
"I heard you were up visiting [the University of] San Francisco?"
"You gonna go there?"
Bellfield sighed softly. "I don't know."
"You don't know?"
Unhappy with the answer, the girl offered a half-hearted "See ya" and bolted down the gym toward someone else. Bellfield had engaged in two similar conversations in the last hour -- in each case sensing that his questioner was really asking, Why don't you know? -- and seemed close to his breaking point. "It's not easy to explain what I am doing," he said later.
In simple terms, what Bellfield is doing is gambling with his future. Last week, during the eight-day window for senior basketball players to sign letters of intent, Bellfield did not commit to a college. It was not because he lacked the talent or the grades (he has a 3.2 GPA and a qualifying SAT score). Nor did he lack for suitors; San Diego State, Santa Clara, San Francisco and Washington State all offered him a scholarship. Bellfield didn't sign because he has always dreamed of playing for a prominent Pac-10 program. There is a chance that between now and next summer he won't receive an offer from a program fitting that description, and also a chance that the four schools that currently want him will give their scholarships to someone else. But the 6' 2" Bellfield, a starter at Westchester High (26-7 last season), was once offered a scholarship by Washington and just last spring was being recruited by Oregon and Kansas. He believes he can get at least one of those schools interested again. "It's kind of like I am betting on myself," he says. "Do I really believe in my talent?"
Bellfield is one of an untold number of good players across the U.S. who aren't ready to settle. The risks are real: With schools encouraging kids to verbally commit earlier and earlier, players who haven't signed with a school by November of their senior year seem like spoiled fruit; they are assumed to have flaws. "I know some people would say, 'You got a scholarship offer, you take it,' " says Lawanda Bellfield, Oscar's mother. "But Oscar, like a lot of boys, has a dream, and I wouldn't ever want him to give up on his dreams."
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