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The errors in Francis's report are numerous. Chandler, Childress, Bozeman and Sampson never played together on the Inland Stars, and Demetrius's father was not 6'8"—not even close. But the most astounding (and telling) aspect of his report was that after watching Demetrius play for only one quarter (about eight minutes), Francis likened him to Chandler, a high school senior who at the time was months away from being selected in the first round of the NBA draft.
Francis might be forgiven for taking erroneous information from Keller and plopping it into his report. How could he know Keller would lie to him about the height of Demetrius's parents? But comparing Demetrius to Chandler revealed an iniquitous truth about his mission. Francis would say he ranked and evaluated kids, but he was really in the business of hype. College coaches did not consider his rankings when they chose the kids they recruited. Francis was writing to titillate the rabid fans who dominated his readership. He was a salesman, and he wrote what he thought his readers wanted, which was whispers of greatness in a kid still shy of middle school.
As Konchalski points out, this puts immense pressure on players very early in their lives. From the moment Francis compared Demetrius to Chandler, the bar was set. If Demetrius didn't become the next Tyson Chandler, he would fail to live up to his potential. It didn't matter that his potential had been determined after only eight minutes by a man with no real experience playing or coaching basketball. Fans knew only what they read: Demetrius was as talented as and worked harder than a player who would ultimately be the second pick in the 2001 NBA draft.
Francis continued to listen as Keller gushed about Demetrius's ability. After the Inland Stars defeated Team Maryland in Baltimore in March 2003, Keller urged Francis to watch the team play in April at the Las Vegas Easter Classic. "Demetrius is the best player in the country," Keller told him. After the classic, which Keller's team won easily, this appeared on The Hoop Scoop's website: Walker, who had 18 points in the game we attended ... had incredible moves, athleticism, and skills for somebody his age and, as a result, is the best 6th grader in the nation.
Now Keller could print Francis's words and mail them to coaches, parents and reporters. He could e-mail a link to The Hoop Scoop all over the country and use it to sway other recruiting analysts. ("Clark Francis has Demetrius number 1; why don't you?") What Francis had written substantiated the course Keller had set for himself and his family. He always talked as if Demetrius's stardom were a foregone conclusion, but strands of uncertainty existed. Following Francis's stamp of approval, all qualifiers were removed. Demetrius was the next Tyson Chandler, and Keller was going to make millions when Demetrius turned pro. Case closed.
Rare were the moments when a subject other than basketball penetrated Keller's world. If you weren't discussing the Inland Stars or Demetrius's bright future, he tuned you out. But in early June 2003, a few weeks before the Inland Stars departed for Newport News, Va., for the 12-and-under AAU Nationals, Keller's singular focus was challenged when the obstetrician attending to his wife, Violet, scheduled a C-section for the birth of their second child, a girl, during the same week as the tournament. It presented the ultimate test of Keller's priorities: Would his obsession with Demetrius, the Inland Stars and roundball riches trump even the birth of his child?
Days before the team's departure, Keller told John Finn, the father of Inland Stars guard Jordan Finn, that Violet's doctor had advised her to have a C-section. "So what day is it?" Finn said.
"It's for the Tuesday night we're at nationals."
"So who's going to coach the team?"
"I'm going to coach them. I'm still going."