Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Editorial: A difficult decision to make

High school athletes’ choices to commit have come to be scrutinized by fans and media across the country

During their sophomore year, they dominate the high school landscape, and make themselves household names in basketball, football and baseball camps around America.

Eventually, top-notch schools take notice, begging these top recruits to be a part of their athletic programs.

Yet, for most high school athletes, the decision to continue to play a particular sport at an Ohio State, Texas or Syracuse may become a nightmare more than a blessing, sometimes due to social media.

With the emergence of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, fans of these schools may become a pivotal part in recruiting. However, they may be more of a negative than a positive.

“Those things (social media) have affected recruiting enormously,” Georgia State Head Coach Bill Curry said to
espn.com.

Some high school athletes are even being recruited during their freshman year. Athletes are often quick to commit to a college without first weighing their options. While there are rules in the NCAA that prohibit high school freshman from verbally committing, by the time they are sophomores, coaches barrage these amateur athletes
with pitches of all sorts.

Texas recruits attacked
Although Demetrious Knox and Daniel Gresham committed to one school early, to the dismay of fans, they may still take official visits to other universities. This is where social media comes into play. College students and fans alike may attack these 15-18 year old amateurs, questioning their loyalty to their “commitment.”

University of Texas recruits Knox and Gresham faced
criticism after the two took unofficial visits to another
university.

“Certain stuff — like name-calling — kind of hurts,” Knox said to longhornation.com. “I have to restrain myself from tweeting something back to that person. Everybody feels threatened that they’re going to have another big-name decommit. That’s understandable. But if I was going to do it, I would’ve done it by now.”

Texas, along with the University of Oregon, University of Michigan and Georgia Tech, have closed doors for recruits to visit other schools once they have made their commitment so that these prospective athletes will not be enticed by other schools.

College Park reunion
After committing to the University of Maryland basketball program in 2011, current Virginia Cavalier freshman forward Justin Anderson faced scrutiny after decommitting because of the departure of former Maryland Head Coach Gary Williams.

It got to the point where Anderson had to delete his Facebook and Twitter accounts to escape the daunting and threatening messages he received from Maryland fans.
In February, Anderson returned to Maryland’s campus wearing Virginia Cavalier gear and led his team to victory.

“Before (Anderson) went out there, I told him not to do anything out of character,” Virginia guard Doug Bowman said to NBC 29. “We are your family and we got your back.”

The crowd heckled Anderson the entire game and booed every time he touched the ball. The Maryland fans chanted “traitor” to the 6-foot-5-inch freshman forward. However, Anderson was unphased by the crowd, finishing with 17 points and nine rebounds.

“I tuned it all out,” Anderson said to the Daily Progress. “I felt like we needed to come in here as a team and get a collective win. I think we all bore down as one unit and that was part of our success. … That’s what it is all about.”

Seth Curry transfers
Before his three-year stint at Duke University, guard Seth Curry was a highly touted freshman for Liberty University. During the 2008-09 season under former Head Coach Ritchie McKay, Curry led the Flames to a 23-12 record, scoring 20 points per game.

However, Curry decided to transfer after one season with Liberty, and McKay later left the program as well.

Liberty students criticized Curry’s decision to transfer to Duke. On Liberty forum boards, fans said that he set the program back years and that he was also the reason why McKay left.

Journey to LU
Liberty freshman Steven Thomas was a highly recruited shortstop from the state of Georgia who was primed to accept a scholarship to play at the University of Auburn. Unfortunately, he tore a muscle in his shoulder during his senior year of high school and chose to attend Liberty instead — but is not to playing baseball.

“I faced a little backlash from friends and such, but never from fans,” Thomas said. “They said vulgar things to me and said that I was a traitor for playing for Auburn instead of Alabama, I got through it though. It is funny because I never went to play ball there.”

For now, Thomas says that he has put his baseball career on hold and will focus on his global studies major.

“I was going to tryout and walk-on to Liberty’s baseball team, but I see bigger and better things for me than athletics,” Thomas said. “I will play intramural sports during my free time.”

Sports have become a crazed activity for those athletes who play them, and for the fans that watch them as well. Still, fans have to remember that it is only a game. Added pressure and criticism placed on high school athletes is unnecessary. Where the athlete goes to college is not the fans’ choice.

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