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Sports At Large: Should A Sixth Grader Be Recruited? Even If His Name Is Lebron James, Jr.?

LeBron James
LeBron James

LeBron James
Credit Keith Allison via flickr
LeBron James

LeBron James proclaimed he was stunned that his 10-year-old son was already the subject of recruitment by college basketball coaches. James has to be acting if he wants to convince anyone that he’s not aware that recruiting of kids is going on. How could he not? The practice of attempting to attract youthful talent into the pipeline of sports has gone on for well over a century, back to the dawn of intercollegiate athletics.

Heck, people have likely been after the 30-year-old James in one form or fashion for close to 20 years, ever since he first displayed his hoop prowess on the playgrounds of Akron, Ohio. But while James was able to avoid the snares of college recruiting by going straight to the NBA out of high school, his son, also named LeBron James, has to at least make a one year pit stop in college before going pro.

Surely, it must have occurred to the elder James that someone would wonder if the progeny of a four-time NBA Most Valuable Player with two league titles and a pair of Olympic gold medals in his resume, had just a tenth of his father’s basketball acumen and pursue him. Indeed, James himself played into the hype by well, hyping up his son Bronnie’s skills. Before a practice, James mused that his kid quote plays just like I did. He has great awareness and he’d rather pass first and set guys up. Most kids nowadays just want to score unquote.” James added to the buildup by dropping a video of his son’s exploits on the Internet. Not surprisingly, the video went viral in a short time.

With that as prologue, it would seem hypocritical of James to say that recruiting 10-year-olds should be declared an NCAA violation. The thing is, he’s right. Virtually every part of the youth athletic process has been distorted beyond recognition.

It was bad enough when it was just avaricious coaches who were doing any and everything possible to attract kids to their colleges. Now, that greed extends all the way down past high schools to recreational and amateur leagues. We’ve even reached the point where recruiting services are ranking sixth graders in terms of their playing ability. When you add in the slanted influences of television and apparel companies to the mix, it’s no wonder that many otherwise sane parents have thrown their common sense out of the window and sacrificed the wellbeing of their kids in the name of a college education.

LeBron James Sr. could help LeBron James Jr. and millions like him by lending his considerable weight and influence into a comprehensive overhaul of the system.

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Milton Kent hosted the weekly commentary Sports at Large from its creation in 2002 to its finale in July 2013. He has written about sports locally and nationally since 1988, covering the Baltimore Orioles, University of Maryland men's basketball, women's basketball and football, the Washington Wizards, the NBA, men's and women's college basketball and sports media for the Baltimore Sun and AOL Fanhouse. He has covered the World Series, the American and National League Championship Series, the NFL playoffs, the NBA Finals and 17 NCAA men's and women's Final Fours. He currently teaches journalism at Morgan State University.