Earlier this week it was announced that 6′4″ Michael Avery out of Lake Sherwood, California, had committed to the University of Kentucky. No big deal, right? Wrong.
What is most surprising about Avery’s commitment to Billy Gillispie’s Kentucky basketball program is the fact that he has never played in a high school basketball game. Yes, the 6′4″ Avery is currently enrolled in the eighth grade at Ascension Lutheran School in Thousand Oaks, California.
Five years ago Orange County native Taylor King stunned the entire nation by committing as an eighth grader to UCLA. King’s commitment started a trend of high school freshmen and sophomores committing to big-time programs such as Kentucky, Kansas, UCLA, and USC.
Nowadays, Avery’s commitment is no longer a surprise like King’s, but a growing trend among high school prospects. It is fairly common to see coaches accepting commitments from prospects before they have even proven themselves against adequate high school competition. However, it is important to question whether this is a healthy trend?
I don’t think so.
In most circumstances, I don’t blame the parents for allowing their child to accept a scholarship offer from a Division 1 basketball program. If Harvard promised to pay for your child’s education, you probably wouldn’t stop him from accepting their offer. Basketball scholarships are estimated to range from $40,000 to $160,000. That’s a lot of money and making sure their child’s college education is taken care of when he is in the eighth grade is a big relief for many of these families.
However, it appears as if the coaches are the ones to blame here. To some extent, I can understand why a mid-level program make take a chance on an early commitment from a prospect who the coaches feel might develop into a high-caliber player. But when the big-time programs like Kentucky and UCLA, become involved in this “premature recruiting” it is important to note that this has officially become a widespread trend.
As we saw with Taylor King, 14, is way too young for players to be choosing colleges. King originally committed to UCLA but ended up decommitting and listening to other schools. He eventually chose Duke over Gonzaga and UCLA. Following a disappointing season at Duke, King decided to transfer to Villanova University.
His constant flip-flopping shows that this recent trend might not be so beneficial for college basketball.