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Hoop Stories

  • Writer's pictureHannah Ericksen

What does loyalty mean in 2020?

This year, COVID-19 has brought a lot of change to our sport.  Many parents or coaches have decided that it is or isn’t in the best interest of their child or their team to practice and get on the road to compete for college scholarships this year.

There are several obvious outcomes on the showcase basketball scene as a result of the new COVID landscape.

First, players that were tracking to earn scholarships that are choosing to sit out this season have a lot of new players working hard to take the absent players’ spots.  The longer the current trend lasts, the more likely that kids previously promised college spots may find themselves on unstable ground when the re-renter the field of play.  In the past few weeks, we have heard the word “loyalty” thrown out by multiple coaches all around the sport in the context of what athletes should be considering as their next steps to compete for college scholarships in this new landscape. 

So, what does loyalty actually mean these days? Remember college coaches will lose their jobs if they don’t produce winning teams.  So they have to constantly recruit rising talent that is trending higher, not kids that were the best 2 years ago that have not competed for an extended period of time.  Colleges are loyal to their desire to win games.  If a previously recruited player is not constantly moving forward while their peers are, the choice for the school to recruit someone else is not about loyalty. It’s really about the college coach staying employed or future winning seasons.

Second, there is an army of grassroots and HS teams that bring players into the showcase basketball scene to be recruited. Should a player seeking a scholarship opportunity stay glued to a travel program or HS team that is shut down (or loaded with coaches or parents that are unwilling to travel to states that are open to train and compete?)  There are tons of high ranked teams around the country still operating as normal- regular workouts, weekly games against good teams, and now the big draw for college coaches seems to be capturing cataloged game film. 

Does loyalty to a team, club, or local HS coach mean that talented players should just hang up their chance to showcase their talent for the foreseeable future when their base team is just not able to operate in a COVID landscape?  How about the coach on a grounded showcase team? Should he or she expect their kid’s to sit at home while others are on the road competing for the remaining college opportunities?  Or, does a coach’s loyalty to their players suggest that the coach cares enough about their kids’ college futures, that coaches should reach out to other teams that are not grounded and campaign to get their players a spot on a squad that is still actively competing around the nation w talent that demands college coaches attention?  Is it possible that misplaced “loyalty” could actually hurt a kid’s chance of getting recruited nowadays?

Third, and sadly, the level of the sport itself is likely to be lower for several years because there are so many extremely talented players that simply cannot get the vigorous training, intensity, contact, and competition they need to maintain their level of performance.  Both current college players and hopefuls are faced with constantly evolving shutdowns, social distancing rules, testing requirements, quarantines on a regular basis, and more.  All these barriers to regular intense training and local competition due to COVID will have a certain impact on the game unless we all, as a true community of families in the sport, find a way to set down our differences and our personal beliefs about what “loyalty” should or should not be, and work together to get as many talented players to locations around the USA where top teams are playing, training, and competing as often as possible. 

Given the high probability that school basketball will not happen this year in our area of the country, local players on grounded travel teams could conceivable go more than a full year without playing a single competitive game. If the few programs still competing in our state do not find a way to put our combined talent together (those kids that still want to compete and have a fighting chance to earn scholarships) and hit the road every chance we get to places that are not shut down, we all may have to face the fact that most players from our state will not be the stars of tomorrow on the college campuses.

Carolina Elite program director Lyn Adams cited, "Too many local kids have worked for too many years to watch their shot just slip away because we live in a state that essentially prohibits indoor basketball. The time has come to redefine loyalty-  it should mean we are all (travel teams, grassroots clubs, HS programs, all of us) become loyal to working TOGETHER to keep great kids moving forward and keeping the level of the game high - so we can watch the hopes and dreams of these aspiring athletes come true on the hardwoods.  We should all be offering to help get all these players on the road to quality events in SC, GA, AL, VA, etc, and keep them getting better together regardless of the name on their jersey." Unfortunately with 80%+ of all NC teams shut down indefinitely, “loyalty” to the name on the team uniform just isn’t going to pull in the scholarships in the next few years in a COVID world.

Next week, FBC Carolina Elite 🏀 is launching their new Basketball Academy in 3 cities in the Carolinas. It will be a comprehensive workout, training, and scrimmage program that will keep players improving and competing all winter long. It will be open to ALL advanced level players from high schools and travel basketball programs in the Carolinas, and will provide direct opportunities to showcase their individual skills (not team based) to college coaches every 3 weeks in live-streamed scrimmages with other college bound players with no team names at all on their jerseys. This may be an excellent way to help redefine what "loyalty" really looks like in our sport. Coaches, players, parents, and the community of hoopers committed to the betterment of the sport TOGETHER.

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