The trend of players choosing a college before a high school (cont.)
Spongebob and scholarships
So why do some coaches feel as if they must make players choose a college before they need to choose a brand of razor?
Instead of waiting for players to mature into blue-chippers, some coaches gamble. They offer early and hope puberty, girls or grades won't keep the player from developing into a blue-chipper in high school. They also hope they don't get fired before the recruit makes it to campus. It's a risky proposition.
If the player falls short, the coach must find a way to slither out of the scholarship offer and recruit a better player without staining his reputation. Remember, coaches are the ultimate adopters. If one coach enjoys even a modicum of success after locking down middle schoolers, other coaches will start offering kids who still watch Spongebob Squarepants after practice.
That's why Floyd feels he must offer players early. Two years ago, Floyd landed a commitment from Los Angeles forward Dwayne Polee Jr. prior to Polee's freshman season. Last year, Floyd famously offered Aurora, Ill., guard Ryan Boatright, and the eighth grader quickly accepted. "What am I supposed to do?" Floyd asked in an interview with Time last year. "Should I wait until another school offers and then come in? I can't do that. Because they're going to say 'Well, you're late.'"
One man believes Floyd and Gillispie could have waited a few years and still landed Boatright and Avery. Clark Francis is the founder and publisher of Hoop ScoopOnline -- the only publication that routinely evaluates and ranks middle schoolers.
"That's where the trend is," Francis said. "You have no idea how much interest there is. Those are ($499 annual) subscriptions."
Francis doesn't believe the 5-10 Boatright will develop the game to compete in the Pac-10, and he said that while Avery is a "great kid" who "may turn out to be a very good player," Avery remains at the mercy of his DNA.
Avery will graduate with the class of 2012, but he is the same age as the members of the class of 2011. If Avery grows taller, Francis said, he could be a high Division I player. "He's very skilled," Francis said. "But at 6-4, if what you see is what you get, he's a Missouri Valley Conference player."
Howard Avery respectfully disagrees. So does Moye, who believes Michael likely will play shooting guard or small forward at the college level. While Moye isn't sure Michael can develop the quickness to guard a power-conference point guard, Moye seems certain Michael's shooting range, his quick release, his aggressiveness and his work ethic will allow him to succeed at Kentucky even if Michael -- who wears a size 15 shoe -- doesn't grow another inch.
"If he's taking a three from 22-23 feet, I feel as comfortable with him taking that shot as I would if he was standing under the bucket shooting an uncontested layup," Moye said. "He's that efficient."
'What kid wouldn't want that?'
So why commit now? Certainly, if Avery is as good as Gillispie and Moye think he is, he will have plenty of scholarship offers. Howard Avery, whose accounting firm bears his name, admitted he isn't much of a basketball fan except when his son is playing.
The younger Avery, however, is a basketball nut. When he finishes his two to four hours of daily training, he watches hoops. No customer of ESPN's FullCourt package got more bang for his buck than Avery. Howard said Michael watched about a dozen Kentucky games this season. Also, because he is a student of the game, Michael understands Kentucky's place in college basketball's hierarchy.
"When that kind of offer comes along, I don't care if the kid's in the third grade, the eighth grade or the 12th grade," Avery said. "You take it as a parent who is interested in getting a good education for their child."
Some may scoff and say that only a scholarship to Harvard or to a similarly prestigious institution would require such early acceptance, but remember this. Michael Avery wants to pursue a career in basketball. When it comes to basketball, Kentucky may not be Harvard at the moment, but it's at least Yale, Princeton or MIT.
"What kid who loves the game wouldn't want to play for Duke, North Carolina, Indiana, Kentucky, UCLA?" Howard Avery said. "And what parent wouldn't want to at the earliest possible time provide for the full education for their kid?"
Howard Avery's statement sounds strikingly similar to those made last year by Boatright's mother, Tanesha, who told reporters that she couldn't in good conscience tell her son to decline an offer of a $35,000-a-year education.