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Dribblephilia
Rick Reilly
November 25, 2002
He's ranked No. 1 nationally in his class. Basketball coaches ask about him constantly. He'll play more than 80 games this year around the nation.
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November 25, 2002

Dribblephilia

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"To rank a kid that young," says Kendall's dad, Dennis, a computer network administrator, "who would do that?"

Clark Francis, that's who. He runs HoopScoopOnline.com, a service that 150 coaches pay to read.

"Of course I haven't seen every fifth-grader," Francis says. "But the best ones go to the big camps and the AAU nationals. You see them. You hear things."

Francis says he doesn't really want to rank fifth-graders, but "the college coaches who pay my bills want to know. So you put kids' names out there, and if they turn out good, then you were the first to write about them. It helps."

But why, for the love of God, do coaches want to know about kids still in SpongeBob Squarepants pajamas?

"Let's say you're a college coach," says Francis. "You know that you have to beat Kentucky, Duke or North Carolina. To do that, you have to get the star players onto your campus when they're in junior high."

Can't you see it?

Kendall, welcome to Trey State. Check it out! Bunk beds! All the Lucky Charms you can eat! And I know a guy who can get you the key to the Slurpee machine at night!

And it's not just college coaches who want them tagged and identified. High school coaches want to know so they can recruit (often illegally). AAU coaches want to know so they can win national titles, like the 11-and-under championship that Kendall led his team to this year. Shoe companies want to know so they can get a leg up on the race for soles. Even sleazy street agents want to know so they can start turning heads.

Look, kid. You could use a nice new Schwinn, am I right?

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