This Martin Luther King Day Weekend in Chicago, Illinois had some of the state's best 8th graders participating in an all weekend event. Colleges all across the country have dipped into the State of Illinois for its rich basketball talent, including one of the nation's top programs - Duke. These kids are very young, I know that, but talking to a couple of scouts and Chicago legend in AAU hoops Larry Butler, 8th grade is not too young.
One Big Ten Division I assistant coach who asked to remain anonymous spoke with me yesterday and said they were fully aware of the 8th grade class in the State of Illinois. "We are already putting together a list of names to contact kids. If we don't, others will beat us to the kids."
Butler's Illinois Warriors didn't have the greatest showing this weekend and a team from Peoria called the Irish dominated them. "Oh yeah, there are some good players out here. But from what I've been told, this class has a great a group of players down at the southern part of the state this year that will be playing AAU basketball," said Butler.
Some of the players I saw this weekend I know for a fact will be playing varsity basketball as freshman in high school. Their skill level, speed and knowledge of the game at this age are something special. The last two games I took in were the Peoria Irish and the Illinois Heat; both teams had players with unlimited potential.
The tournament committee didn't put together a list of names for scouts to look at, but what some did was collect a database for a ranking system. Most wanted to know ages, schools attending now and where they plan to attend high school. Could this be too young? You tell me. But I do know this - coaches are taking notice more everyday.
During a recent conversation with Illinois recruit Eric Gordon, it made a big impression on him that Illinois started with him early. "Yeah, they have been interested in me for a long time. I mean other schools showed interest, but it definitely made a difference for me that they saw my talents very early," said Gordon.
So you tell me - is 8th grade too young? I don't know, but coaches are peeking more and more each year.
Photo courtesy of Chicago Foreman High School Website