02.25.09

The Biggest Jump: WaPo On D.C. High Schooler with 3.8 GPA, 50-Inch Vertical, 0 Scholarship Offers

Posted in Basketball, College Spurts at 2:49 am by

From the Washington Post — and then, as per usual, from Brendan Flynn — comes the story of a D.C. prep star named Travon Smith. Smith is his class’s valedictorian, possesses a vertical leap that would would get the soles of his feet over at least one member of the Geto Boys with ease, and yet isn’t being recruited by D1 schools because…he lacks hoops fundamentals? Which is interesting considering, like, the last generation or so of college basketball recruiting. The Post‘s Alan Goldenbach reports:

Smith is learning that the hops alone don’t write the ticket in basketball. An 18-year-old who stands 6-5 and weighs 300 pounds or who can run the 40 meters in 4.3 seconds likely will find a football scholarship opportunity simply because coaches know they cannot teach someone to be that big or that fast. A baseball program will take a chance on a left-handed pitcher who can’t find the plate but can throw 90 mph. Aside from height, though, basketball is not a sport that chases raw skills.

“There are some positions in football where strength and speed can overcome a lack of skill or technique,” said Chris Caputo, an assistant basketball coach at George Mason, speaking in general terms because NCAA rules prohibit college coaches from discussing potential recruits. “In basketball, it’s ultimately your skill set [coupled] with your athleticism. When we look at strength and jumping ability, we also look at a skill set. Can he shoot? Can he pass? The athleticism is certainly a nice piece of the puzzle, but there’s more to it. At our level, it’s hard to teach technique, and that’s what makes the difference. In basketball, they really don’t care about your 40 time.”

…Smith shifted to guard this season, because that’s where he likely would play in college. Now, he’s working on his ball-handling and outside shot.

“I just want to go to college,” Smith said, “Yeah, I’d love to play, but I really want to go to college.”

It’s enough to make you miss the days when kids like Smith — or, say, C.J. Miles — could make the jump to the NBA because of abilities like that (with non-sociopathic personalities as fringe benefits). I may not be watching college hoops well enough or intelligently enough, but the GMU coach’s comments just seem entirely wrong to me. I can believe that CAA teams aren’t chasing athletes lacking certain basic fundamentals, but isn’t that the entire recruiting philosophy for schools like Georgia Tech and Wake Forest, among others?

Those programs’ unpolished athletes are McDonald’s All-American pedigreed, but it is baffling that some run-and-gun D1 team — Duquesne, UMass, pick your local spazz-core shoot-first squad — couldn’t take on such a ridiculous athlete, teach him to play perimeter D, and watch what happens on some Bravo TV shit. If Slim Charles and the Junkyard Band can show some love to Anacostia, why wouldn’t some program — it could be any that has fans who enjoy dunks and that likes graduating players — take a chance on this dude? (And why aren’t there YouTube clips of Travon available? Come on, DC!)

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