Musings on Seattle and New York Prospects
MORE LOVE FOR SEATTLE-TACOMA BALLERS
Last fall, we spotlighted our area of residence as we pointed out that the Seattle-Tacoma area was the home to players rated no. 1 in the country in the high-school classes of both 2010 and 2011 at that time.
Amazingly, the hits just keep on coming for a region which is increasingly one of the premier hotbeds for producing basketball talent.
The season-ending ESPNU 100 for the Class of 2009 was released on ESPN.com today, and the new no. 1 player is Avery Bradley, who attended the somewhat questionable "high school" called Findlay Prep outside Las Vegas this year.
Bradley, a 6-3 guard and an excellent two-way player who is headed to Texas, is a Tacoma native who teamed with fellow McDonald's All-American Abdul Gaddy at Bellarmine Prep in Tacoma prior to this year.
That means that the Seattle-Tacoma area is home to the following players in the ESPNU rankings:
- Class of 2009: No. 1 - Avery Bradley, 6-3/G (Tacoma/Findlay Prep/Bellarmine Prep)
- Class of 2010: No. 2 - Josh Smith, 6-9/C (Covington/Kentwood H.S.)
- Class of 2011: No. 2 - Tony Wroten, 6-5/G (Seattle/Garfield H.S.)
It's a remarkable achievement for the 15th-biggest market in the U.S. - consider that there are zero New York City players in the top 10s of the 2009-11 classes (the no. 1 player in '11, Michael Gilchrist is from Elizabeth, NJ), and just two L.A. players ('09's Renardo Sidney (no. 7) and Jordan Hamilton (no. 8)).
And, if that's not enough, the Seattle-Tacoma area is also now famously home to the no. 1 player in the class of 2014, Allonzo Trier of Federal Way, he of the celebrated cover story in the New York Times Magazine last month.
Of course, that one's to be taken with a grain of salt, due not just to the ridiculousness of ranking 7th-graders, but also because the ranking has been bestowed by Clark Francis of Hoop Scoop, who seems to get blinded by hype - currently he rates Lance Stephenson no. 1 in the class of '09 (more on him below), and he was quoted in the Trier story as saying, "Brandon [Jennings] had to be the best player all the way through, just like LeBron James, Kevin Garnett and Sebastian Telfair. That's the challenge. How do you stay up there?" Huh? Which of those three players doesn't belong. Hint: it's the overhyped New Yorker, who was not better than Dwight Howard in the class of 2004, not even close.
BORN READY FOR MORE OVERHEATED NYC HYPE
Back in February, we asked "What Happened to the NYC Ballplayer?" as we noted that what New York basketball produces more than anything else in this era is hype, based on a reputation which no longer has any basis in reality, especially considering that there are exactly 0 NYC All-Stars in the league, compared to the 2 NYC-bred players who were asked to stay away from their teams all season in Marbury and Tinsley.
The trail of ridiculously over-hyped NYC players includes Felipe Lopez, Lenny Cooke and the most over-hyped high-school player of the last 25 years, Sebastian Telfair. Now it appears that we may have another Lincoln High product to add to the list in Lance Stephenson.
Remarkably, Stephenson is currently featured on the covers of both SLAM and Dime magazines, and was the subject of a front-page "The Bonus" feature recently on SI.com.
Stephenson is clearly a talented player, but you know what? So is Xavier Henry, and so is DeMarcus Cousins, and so is Derrick Favors, and so is John Wall, and so is Avery Bradley. There is no single standout superstar player in this class right now. [Correction: After watching the Hoop Summit, I'd like to say that there is a standout superstar prospect in this class, and it's John Wall.]
Let's be clear here: the only reason that Stephenson is being singled out to draw this type of attention and hype is because he is from New York City. The ONLY reason.
The evidence from respected analysts such as DraftExpress is that Stephenson seems poised to waste away his talent and follow in the recent tradition of New York head cases. ESPNU has him all the way down to no. 12 in its year-end list of prospects for the Class of '09.
When can we get over the outdated idea that there is something inherently special about New York players? If anything, they are fundamentally *unprepared* for higher levels of competition in this day and age. There used to be something uniquely savvy and street-smart about the NYC player. No more. Now, top New York players seem to be leading symbols of everything that is wrong with the player-development system in the U.S., with summer teams run amok.
We're sorry, SLAM, we love you, but we are going to need to see the evidence before we believe all this hokum. We've seen this Lincoln High movie before. Don't believe the hype.
ALLONZO TRIER THOUGHTS
Since we're talking player development and Seattle and New York, we just wanted to touch upon the Allonzo Trier story, which we haven't previously commented on.
We thought the story was quite well done overall, and that author Michael Sokolove was not overly judgmental. We think it's interesting that one's first instinct is to say, "Oh my god, they're ranking 6th graders! What is the world coming to?!" But the portrait of Trier was a lot more nuanced - he really comes across as a kid who just really wants to be a great player and absolutely works his butt off, of his own motivation rather than being pushed in a Marinovichian fashion.
He just comes off as an impressive kid, and how can you really complain, other than to say (from a paternalistic standpoint, I might add) that it's all good as long as he keeps up with schoolwork, so as not to put all his bags in the one basket of his basketball dreams. Put it this way: there are a lot of kids worth worrying about in this country, but given his demonstrated work ethic, Allonzo Trier will probably be just fine, one way or another, even if he never makes it to the league someday.
Related to what we were discussing above, this was one of the more disheartening elements of the story to me:
- [Mom] Marcie herself has become immersed in grass-roots-basketball culture. She worries that her son does not encounter sufficient challenges close to home, expresses her opinions to his coaches and is open to opportunities for him beyond Seattle. In recent years, several players who have come through Trier’s A.A.U. program, Seattle Rotary Style, have gone on to the N.B.A. But Daryll Hennings, the senior athletic director at the Rotary Boys and Girls Club, which sponsors the team, told me that Trier is flying at a higher altitude — traveling more, competing for a greater number of teams, mixing with more out-of-town coaches and promoters, creating more buzz. "Every year, everything gets bigger, the whole scene, and he’s caught up in it," Hennings said.
In just three months last summer, Trier flew on four separate occasions to the East Coast to play in events in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia — in addition to making shorter excursions to Los Angeles and San Diego. When I was with him in January, his mother took a call from a coach in Southern California who wanted to fly him down for a tournament the following weekend. (She declined; he was already committed to play in Texas one week after that.)
The father of a top player in New York, Jerron Love, had also been in touch and was hoping to lure Trier to a new team, one that would not practice together but rendezvous in various cities for big tournaments.
This is a big reason why there is a disproportionately large number of Seattle kids in the league (with more coming) - they spend their summers being coached and working to improve their games, whereas so many summer programs are really just vehicles for glorified pickup games.
We're not breaking news here - there's been national coverage lauding the quality of the player-development programs in the Seattle area on both ESPN.com and NYTimes.com.
Among the many people who deserve credit for building these programs is George Karl, who helped get the program rolling when he was the Sonics head coach in the mid-90s - he even coached some practices of top area high-school players back in the '90s.
Allonzo Trier would not only be just fine in the Seattle program, but he is probably actually best served to continue to develop his game within the programs of the 2-0-6.
LAST RANDOM HIGH SCHOOL NOTE
We attended a state quarterfinal game last month between Garfield from Seattle (featuring Tony Wroten from the Class of '11, as noted above) and Gonzaga Prep from Spokane, whose point guard was David Stockton, son of John, who played at the same school 30 years ago.
It was just amusing to look across the court and see one of the greatest point guards who has ever lived - who was about to be selected to enter the Hall of Fame - just standing and cheering and looking like any of thousands or millions of dads cheering on their kids at high-school basketball games. Man, we're getting old here at TPA.