What to look for in 2009: Preps
More basketball stars may follow Brandon Jennings' path to Europe
There is a growing concern across the nation regarding concussion deaths
1. The Buckeyes are putting on a full-court press. Just as North Carolina's Roy Williams raced to place a lid on the top class of 2008-09 a year early, Thad Matta and company have secured the Ohio borders and poached a Hoosier. With three top 10 recruits in Jared Sullinger, DeShaun Thomas and Jordan Sibert already committed verbally Matta need only make sure they don't change their minds between now and next fall's earning signing date. Of course, keeping the attention of a talented teen can take just as much effort as gaining his commitment these days.
2. Who will be next to head for Europe? California native Brandon Jennings blazed the new trail to Italy last summer, but Mississippi-born Renardo Sidney may be the next in line to take his game international rather than intercollegiate. Both players have been counseled by former sneaker impresario Sonny Vaccaro, who since exiting the summer circuit continues to grow his influence and peddle his wares to the next generation of lost soles. Jennings never revealed whether he qualified academically to attend Arizona, but if more top players do not clear their way with the NCAA, they, too, may wind up in Greece, Italy or some other professional setting for a year or two abroad.
3. Concussion reforms. The death of junior varsity Montclair (N.J.) linebacker Ryne Dougherty, who returned too soon from a concussion, jarred the nation's senses and brought more attention to a growing concern on football fields across all levels. Teenagers are more likely to be damaged by blows to the head than their professional models because their brain tissue is not fully developed. A 2003 study found that concussions were more dangerous in high school athletes. Government officials and scientists are still looking to strike the proper balance between hard hits and life-endangering blows.
4. Agents along the recruiting trail. Asked over the summer what he thought needed to be addressed regarding recruiting, Florida coach Billy Donovan and Louisville coach Rick Pitino both pointed to the roles that agents currently play in the game's underworld. The lessons of O.J. Mayo's procurement and involvement of agents with AAU programs will continue to be discussed. Don't think that their involvement is isolated to hoops, either.
5. How prodigies deal with the spotlight. St. Patrick (Elizabeth, N.J.) sophomore Michael Gilchrist is already being hyped as The Next Big Thing, but how will he handle the pressures that come with it? Former UConn recruit Elena Delle Donne is now playing volleyball at Delaware because she burned out from high expectations since she was in the seventh grade. As the attention afforded youth athletics increases, so, too, does the burden they bear mentally.