The Panacea for Basketball

A few days ago I was eavesdropping on a conversation between a group of middle school boys and one of the young men was stating how he was going to reclass.  He went on to explain to the other boys listening that it would give him time to get stronger and be able to dominate his younger peers in order to get high school “looks”.


This phenomenon of reclassing student-athletes has become a conversation of the day in the Washington DC Region, but it was my first time hearing it amongst the youth themselves.  Countless Facebook debates between coaches and parents arguing the merits verse the hazards of unilaterally holding their adolescent boys back academically in an effort to elude the customary formula for scholastic success causes me to pause.  Definitely, there are circumstances whereas reclassification is permissible and highly encouraged, but it should be facilitated in a spirit to preserve the integrity of competition.  It should never be acceptable as an isolated athletic tool to reposition a value system where basketball/sports becomes primary to academic and social development. But undoubtedly, this reclassification trend has become an affront to our academic institutions and diminishes the core values of a combined work ethic with patience, and individual principles.


This misguided position taken by parents of our communities has embedded in our children that their athletic ambition supplants their academics. The familiar rationalization presented is that they are giving their child every advantage possible to be successful and that another year of physical and emotional maturity is the remedy.  But in reality, their shortsighted and myopic viewpoint devalues academics and obscures the benefits of the youth development process.


As a youth coach and father of adolescent student-athletes, I share similar goals for my kids, albeit with a conservative value system that places a premium on respecting the unpredictable growing and learning process and the life lessons that are attached.


But today, I am so thankful for having a role model such as Markelle Fultz, whose story exemplifies everything right about scholastic sports.  I often mention his name to parents and youth who are eager to bypass the process in search of immediate gratification or benign competition that would give the appearance of triumph.


Markelle stayed the course and enrolled at DeMatha High School as an unheralded freshman whose commitment to improvement in the classroom and on the court never wavered as he remained on junior varsity through his sophomore season.  Even though there were opportunities to transfer and reclass, he endured the traditional but obsolete methodology to a Division 1 scholarship.


His diligence and fidelity to the process precipitated his meteoric rise in an era that temporarily rewards those who cheat the process.  By the time Markelle appeared on the Varity roster as a junior, he was the best player in the Region and his faithfulness to the process propelled him in two short years, to become the best amateur player in the world.


Congratulations Markelle Fultz, You are the Panacea for Basketball!

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