Notes From Wonderland: Youth is Served

Arizona is the new leader for center recruit Johnny LeDoe. The first grader from Los Angeles has listed Arizona along with Kansas, Duke, North Carolina and UCLA as his leaders. The 5-1 big man from Martin Luther King Elementary dominated his YMCA league this past season averaging 24 points and 17 rebounds.

Of course I am just kidding.

Basketball is becoming a younger and younger game. Players are being evaluated at a much earlier age. The NBA is drafting high schoolers and evaluating them before they attend their junior prom. Elite college teams are giving scholarships to players who can't even drive to the gym to shoot around. Unless something goes drastically wrong, this trend will continue and prospects will get younger and younger.

A few weeks ago the Cleveland Cavaliers were fined for allowing uber-recruit LeBron James to play pick-up with them. Normally the NBA could care less if some 16-year old kid shot around with one of its teams, but this time they were evaluating a player who may very well be the best player not in the NBA.

Duke made headlines by accepting a verbal commitment from super-soph DeMarcus Nelson. That's right he's only half way finished with high school and he's heading to Duke.

It's a disturbing trend. It's only a matter of time before someone sues the NBA and we see a 17-year old riding the pine for a bad NBA team. Could you imagine being 17 and having millions of dollars? Could you imagine being 17 and fending off groupies, con men and hanger-ons? When I was 17 I had trouble saying no to skipping class. How is a 17-year-old going to say no to a groupie offering illicit temptations? How could you tell your friends no when they want to borrow your car, your house, your money? Vets like Damon Stoudemire and Alan Iverson have trouble saying no. How is some teenage boy going to do it?

How long before the rest of the ACC tries to keep up with Duke. Duke signs a sophomore, so Carolina goes after a freshman. Clemson, a team that has been down for years, looks at a highly touted eight-grader. Not to be outdone, the Tar Heels offer Michael Jordan's sons. Wake Forest sends a letter of intent to Tim Duncan, just in case he has a son.

Would Maryland offer to clone Joe Smith and Juan Dixon? Would paying for cloning constitute illegal benefits or just an expensive recruiting costs? Who would have better clones Duke or Carolina?

How long before the NBA starts holding the rights of 12 year olds?

"With the seventh pick of the first round the Phoenix Suns select Mikey Smith, forward, Gridley Middle School."

How long before I have to conduct this interview:

Cat Tracks: I hear Arizona is your new leader?

Johnny LeDoe: Yeah.

CT: What do you like about Arizona?

JL: They are really good on the Play Station. Plus Lute Olson looks like my pa-pa.

CT: Pa-pa?

JL: Yeah, my Grampa LaDoe.

CT: What are your strengths?

JL: Finger painting, recess and I read at a third grade level.

CT: I meant on the basketball court.

JL: I like basketball. It is fun. After the games we get orange slices and juice boxes. I'm taller than the other kids. I also have a new bike. Have you seen "Shrek"? I like that movie. Do you want to be my new bestest friend?

Don't laugh. At this rate it's just a matter of time before a 14 year old skips his sophomore year in high school to play for the Clippers.

Other Stuff

*Has anyone realized that the Stanley Cup Finals are much better than the NBA Finals. If you didn't see the three-overtime game on Saturday, you missed out. There is nothing more dramatic than NHL playoff overtime.

*An actual quote from the World Cup as an announcer described Sweden's goalie, "He really has a good reputation as a shot blocker." I should hope so. What else should a goalie do than block shots? I'd hate to have my goalie have a good reputation for drinking Jagermeister.

*I love watching the World Cup, but I'm losing a lot of sleep. I am kind of happy France has been eliminated. Argentina too.

*There are a ton of people with ties to Arizona in Sacramento. Forget that I have four friends from the UA living there. I met no less than 10 people with ties to the Grand Canyon State while on a weekend visit there for a wedding. Every single person at my table during the reception had ties to Arizona. It was random seating and I had an ASU grad (who's brother was a UA grad), two people with parents who live hin Tucson, one girl considering UA and ASU (I gave here the sales pitch) and another who's best friend was moving to Phoenix. The most surprising encounter was the surfer guy behind the counter of a record store who is from the Old Pueblo.

*Even more proof that it is a small world, I met UA football player Clay Hardt's brother at the Phoenix airport. He was escorting his daughter (Clay's niece) to a track meet in San Francisco. Apparently she is pretty talented.


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