Marvin Bagley III is the latest middle schooler to be offered a college scholarship (actually two: one from Northern Arizona and one from Arizona State). He's a 6'8'' Forward who is obviously dominating all competition because of his size. You can check out his highlights. The tape looks absolutely ridiculous, going against kids who come up to his waist.
This has been a troubling trend in recent years, and it hasn't been limited to basketball. 8th grade prospect Dylan Moses recently received football scholarship offers from both Alabama and LSU. No matter the sport, it's a problem, and there's finally some science to back up what many have been saying for years.
The researchers think physical maturation is behind the disparity, with athletes who mature early reaping the benefits early, seeing their best times, jumps and throws at a younger age than Olympians, many of whom mature later.
"You see it in a lot of sports," said Robert Chapman, assistant professor in the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington and a former cross country coach at IU. "Elite performers in senior sports tend to be the ones who mature later. But it's hard to measure, particularly in men, the rate at which they mature. I had a very successful runner grow 4 inches in college while he ran for me."
Though the study was conducted on track and field athletes, the premise is clear: Most athletes are not physically mature when they enter college, let alone enter high school. Handing out scholarships to kids who mature early is guesswork at best.
The other element of guesswork is whether the coach will even be at the school. Bagley won't enter high school until 2018. In all seriousness, how many college basketball coaches can you guarantee will be at their post in five years? How many are you confident will still have the same job?
With the "what have you done for me lately" attitude permeating college sports, it's as impossible to predict the outcome of an 8th-grade athlete as it is to predict where a given coach will be coaching basketball. The case of Billy Gillispie and Michael Avery, who was in 8th grade when Billy offered him a scholarship to play at Kentucky, is a perfect example. Though initially heralded as a hero who would be at Kentucky for years, Billy G was fired after two seasons. Avery, though a talented youngster, ended up at Sonoma State.
The only thing that comes with these kind of early scholarships is an inflated ego, further decreasing the likelihood of fulfilling potential, and newspaper clippings for the fridge. It is a practice the NCAA ought to discourage, but it's the NCAA so who the hell knows.