Like any college basketball coach, Herb Livsey spends a good part of his time identifying the nation's top high school players and wooing them. His current target is Lamar Odom, a 6'9" New York City phenom, and though he has yet to meet Odom, he has made inroads with Odom's AAU coach and with his aunt.
Livsey, however, is not a coach. He's the Continental Basketball Association's director of player development, and he's recruiting Odom at the behest of CBA commissioner Steve Patterson. "We are pursuing [Odom] through the same avenues as college coaches," says Patterson. "And we are pursuing him for the same reason: He can have a financial impact. The difference is, we'll pay him."
The pursuit of Odom is the first step in Patterson's plan to transform the CBA from a forum for failed or fading pros into a farm system similar to baseball's minor leagues, which develop young players and are subsidized by big league organizations. The NBA, which drew 45 players from the CBA last season, has not yet taken a position on the league's more aggressive approach to recruiting teens. "I believe in everybody getting the best education he can," NBA deputy commissioner Russ Granik says. "But there's some sense to the notion that if a player's not interested in an education and not good enough yet to be in the NBA, he ought to have some place to play."
Though Odom may still attend college, he was released from a letter of intent to play at UNLV after the validity of his ACT score was called into question (SI, July 7). Even if Odom had enrolled, the lure of the NBA undoubtedly would have cut his stay in Vegas short; Rebels coach Bill Bayno went so far as to call him a "one-year player." But unlike Kobe Bryant and Jermaine O'Neal, high school players who went straight to the NBA last season, Odom would probably not have been a first-round pick in the NBA draft. Patterson hopes to sign a dozen such prospects a year—including college freshmen and sophomores who may be tired of school—to contracts that average $30,000.
The league's teams are located away from the limelight—for example, the Sioux Falls (S.Dak.) Sky-force and the Rockford (Ill.) Lightning—which could ease a teenager's transition to the pro game. The CBA is also working with Northeastern University's Center for the Study of Sport in Society to develop a life-skills program similar to the one the center formulated for the NBA. "Xerox and IBM come to college campuses to recruit students at a job fair," Patterson says. "Maybe the CBA should, too."
Blistering sun, flying sand, vicious deer ticks, cheek-stinging wind from excessive cart speed: Golf is murder on the complexion. That's why Morelle Enterprises, a New York City-based cosmetics firm, has introduced Par Excellénce, a line of skin-care products "formulated to anticipate the rigorous demands on a golfer's skin." The company promises that its products, which run the gamut from facial mist to foot gel, will "pamper, nourish and protect." Isn't that the caddie's job?
With spring training 1998 only six months away, major league clubs still don't know if they'll have a designated hitter, what league they'll be in or what teams they will be battling for a division title next season. Realignment plans continue to be so changeable that owners—not unlike their fantasy-league counterparts—are faxing their own proposed league makeovers to faux commissioner Bud Selig, who says a plan will be decided upon by Sept. 30 and that "it's entirely possible" one could be put in place at an owners meeting on Sept. 17 and 18 in Atlanta.
The owners have been slow to acknowledge obvious mistakes in previously discussed realignment plans, such as the geographic folly of putting the expansion Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the American League West and the scheduling nightmare of creating two 15-team leagues, which would have effectively required interleague play every day of the season. Now, thankfully, several owners have begun to see the warts on the so-called radical realignment proposal, which would divvy up teams by time zones with scarcely a nod to tradition. Though one owner says the plan has "at least two-thirds support," that's not enough, because no team can be made to switch leagues without its consent.