College Hoops’ Slimy Side

The incredible array of talent on display during the NCAA tournament makes it obvious that recruiting is the backbone of success at the highest levels of college basketball. But the processes that lead to the arrival of star players on the campuses of big-time basketball schools have long been populated by the presence of shifty characters, player agents and the odor of corruption.

Let me introduce you to the world of Nerlens Noel, a gifted 6-foot-10 shot-blocking player who is surrounded by people who are trying to capitalize on his future prospects.

Noel is a junior at the exclusive Tilton School in New Hampshire after having been influenced to leave Everett High, his public school in Everett, Mass. One of four children of Haitian immigrants, Noel’s story is a cautionary tale about the recruiting of top basketball prospects.

Since being identified as a potential standout in sixth grade, Noel has had six or seven adults outside of his immediate family attempting to direct his basketball future. Some claim to want to help; a couple of them even sound believable.

But not the former Providence assistant with a diploma mill degree who is now banned from the Tilton school campus, or the low-level agent from the Creative Artist Agency who hangs around at games, nor the eight agents who bombard the family and school with phone calls looking for access. All of them apparently with an agenda, hoping that the website that lists Noel as the likely top pick in the 2013 NBA draft will be correct.

Colleges now let the runners or the coaches and handlers for the summer travel teams do the dirty work. Lost in the shuffle is the welfare of this young man who is trying to graduate early in hope of accelerating his path to fame and fortune. Some scouts say the attention has caused his game to stagnate, and he may not qualify to play in college even for the minimum one year.

Many of the vaunted one-and-dones are dealing with these same pressures and situations. High-level basketball recruiting is a broken system screaming to be fixed.

* A recent UH fundraiser for Norm Chow’s football program had his entire staff introduced and speaking to the assembled supporters.

What was evident was the mix of young and veteran coaches, and an undeniable level of enthusiasm to get started this week in spring practice.

All spring practices are open to the public and, as every coach knows all too well, it won’t be that long before the UH team runs onto the field at the Los Angeles Coliseum to take on USC.

* As good a value as a UH baseball game is, Rainbow Wahine softball goes one better with free admission.

But don’t expect a lot of room to stretch out – at some of last week’s games it was SRO. This team may compare favorably with the World Series team of 2010.

Both baseball and softball put on an excellent show, so bring the family and make an afternoon or evening of it.