Chicago-area recruits struggling off the courtConnecticut's Ryan Boatright sits on the bench in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against American International Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2011, in Storrs, Conn. Connecticut defeated American International 78-35 in the game. Boatright is being held out of competition while the school and the NCAA investigate his eligbility. (AP Photo/Bob Child)
Updated: May 9, 2012 9:59AM
There has never been a time when prep basketball in Chicago wasn’t full of shady practices, NCAA investigations and players sabotaging their own careers with behavior issues, but we may be entering a new low period.
Wednesday was signing day, and a number of local kids signed Division I letters of intent. Let’s hope their college careers are more successful than some recent signees. The list of players from the area currently suspended because of NCAA investigations, drug problems or rules violations is staggering.
East Aurora’s Ryan Boatright is sitting out at Connecticut. According to reports, he is waiting for the NCAA to determine whether or not club basketball coach Reggie Rose bought him a plane ticket at some point.
Four players with local ties at Central Florida (AJ Rompza, Marcus Jordan, Jeff Jordan, Josh Crittle) are sitting out for various reasons. Jeff Jordan and Rompza due to eligibility issues, Marcus Jordan and Crittle for breaking team rules. Central Florida athletic director Keith Tribble resigned on Wednesday in the midst of an NCAA investigation, which apparently involves Rompza and Jeff Jordan.
Rich South product Crandall Head broke team rules at Illinois and is sitting out for four games.
Macari Brooks didn’t qualify at DePaul, so the Rich South grad is apparently headed to a junior college.
Then there is the trio of players that were brought down by drugs. Jereme Richmond’s saga is well chronicled. Bolingbrook grad Diamond Taylor, who was booted out of Wisconsin originally, was arrested in April on a marijuana charge and was suspended by Southern Illinois. De La Salle grad Dre Henley left Northern Illinois after being charged with marijuana possession.
“All of us as coaches have had at least one or two athletes over the years that were tough to work with,” Von Steuben coach Vince Carter said. “His maturity level doesn’t meet his level as an athlete. He looks like a grown man. You don’t want your 6-4, muscle-bound kid acting like a kid. But he is a kid. He’s 12. What about the other teenagers that are acting silly? These kids just get more focus because they are athletes.”
You can’t blame the Public League for this, not one particular school or even the most popular villain, club basketball coaches. The problem is in the city, it’s in the suburbs, it’s in private and public schools.
Despite all the talent available, is there a chance college coaches could start staying away from local kids?
“There has always been that thing about academics, with Chicago kids and qualifying,” recruiting analyst Joe Henricksen said. “That’s a question with coaches. But I don’t know about the increase in off-court problems. Is it a trend or just a fluke with this group? I think it is more coincidental than anything. They will continue to recruit Chicago. It will be a ‘look the other way’ thing. That’s what it has always been.”
Henricksen has noticed a trend in college coaches checking out prospective recruits’ social media interactions.
“College coaches have started doing more homework,” Henricksen said. “I’ve heard of coaches looking at kids’ Facebook pages and getting concerned about what goes on there.”
It should be noted that the vast majority of area players that sign with Division I schools go off and have quality careers, academically and athletically. Probably 90 percent of the players that have signed in the past five years have done well. But there has been a growing trend of disturbing behavior over the past two years.
“The consequences of being a young man are catching up to some of the players,” Carter said. “In the past the youthful transgressions, people were helping to work with them. The things they got away with as kids, the rules are starting to kick in as an adult.”