Friday, October 1, 2010

Should Elite Players Stay or Leave to Attend High School In States?

IPRB is a huge supporter of sending elite players to the states because from a competition standpoint Puerto Rico simply doesn't have the athletes or "bigs" which is what players will end up seeing at the next level. Players 6'3 and up are forced to play out of position because of the lack of size on the island.

From a coaching and commitment standpoint, there are very few places in the world that rival Puerto Rico. The early stage development and competition are tremendous but you begin to see the fall off around 12 and 13 years old. By 14 and 15 a lot of players who were dominant in the younger divisions don't get taller or stronger and the game changes.

On top of that there is a focus on winning over development and high level competition. For the last several years US based basketball development was criticized for not truly developing players while European development was celebrated as being the model of the future.

Proponents of the "Euro model" fail to admit that what they do is not allowed in the USA or Puerto Rico for that matter. Elite players in Europe and other places around the world are identified and then turn professional as early as 14 years old. Take the case of Kentucky Freshman, Enes Kantner. Kantner and his family received over 100K in "living expenses since his early teens from a pro team in Turkey. He trained and worked day in and day out on his future profession for the last 5 years without having to attend school. Kantner's story is not the exception but the norm in Europe yet a European born player has never led a team to an NBA title. The NBA is dominated by players who are either from the USA or spent a significant amount of time learning the game and training in the USA.

So why are we so resistant to players from Puerto Rico attending school in the USA? Some of the best players including most of the current National Team attend college and benefitted from the competition the USA offers. Take the case of 2010 18U National Team PG, Carmelo Betancourt. In his first month of prep school at Montrose Christian he has had Gary Williams, John Thompson III and Jay Wright attend his practices! For those of you who don't know the college game, that is the head coaches from Maryland, Georgetown and Villanova. That type of exposure for players is critical to creating the buzz and hype which in today's recruiting world is critical to a player getting a scholarship. Hype and Buzz are what makes coaches show up at a school to watch a player and if a player has "the goods" then the hype and buzz are good things!

What's interesting here is the fact that no local based high school has decided to recruit outside of PR, bring in talent from around the region and then schedule the elite teams from the USA. The opportunity exists but for some reason nobody has done it. Programs in hotbeds' of talent around the USA have opened so that local talent can stay local versus having the leave to get the type of exposure and competition which is fundamental to developing elite players.