Opinion Sports Columns

Young Athletes and the Media

Jimmy Kelley

Assistant Sports Editor

As the 24-hour news cycle continues to take over our world, we see more and more young athletes becoming the center of media attention. These young men and women are constantly asked about where they will play at the next level by reporters at AAU tournaments, high school games, showcases and camps to the point that they actually begin to resent the reporters and as the years go by, they give us less and less to work with.

Earlier this month at the 2012 Hoophall Classic, I heard more diplomatic answers from 17- and 18-year-olds than I have seen coming from the Republican presidential candidates throughout the primaries. These kids have been taught how to answer questions and rarely do they give honest answers.

Some of these kids grow up with this kind of attention. Players like Austin Rivers were being given class ranks when they were in fifth grade; the recruiting attention began the second they stepped into high school and as they approach graduation, every media outlet and college coach is beating down their door wanting to get the first word on where they are headed.

As frustrating as the diplomacy is from our point of view as media members, it is that much more frustrating for these kids. We all want to know where these kids are going, hoping that they will go to our favorite team and we can watch them grow as basketball players. That’s fine. That is certainly within our rights as fans.

But take a step back: how would you have reacted to five people asking you where you were going to school every time you went out in public? Wouldn’t you get frustrated with the same questions over and over and over again when all you want is to go hug your parents?

The No. 2 junior in the country is Nerlens Noel of Tilton School in New Hampshire. Noel is a seven-f o o t – t a l l s h o t – b l o c k i n g machine with a high top fade reminiscent of the early 90’s. He is on the radar of every major college basketball program; he performed so well at the Hoophall that he almost jumped up to the No. 1 ranking.

He is also 17-years-old.

Like any 17-year-old, all he wants to do is go to school and play basketball, but instead he deals with questions over and over again to the point that he gets frustrated. After Tilton lost to Brewster Academy 57- 53, he actually told a reporter, “Watch ESPN later, I just told them,” when asked in a separate interview about recruiting.

I am not saying that we (the media) are wrong for what we do to these kids, but I am saying that when they get fed up with the incessant questions, we should not be surprised. I hope that when Nerlens is walking across the stage to shake David Stern’s or Adam Silver’s hand in 2015, he will be past the frustration and I will have an opportunity to talk to him.

And you can bet I’ll ask him what he’s thinking about the next level.

Jimmy Kelley may be reached at jkelley@springfieldcollege.edu

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