Basketball Pressure That Has Nothing to do With the Game

Nerlens NoelI’m a sports fan. But, I must say, there are times when I wish I weren’t and those times almost always have to do with the hypocrisy of intercollegiate athletics and the NCAA.

Whether it’s the governing body’s insistence in some faux notion of amateurism that never existed; to a student first, athlete second assertion (when anyone who’s ever been around a division 1 revenue sport knows that the time required by the sport is tantamount, or more, to a full time job); to the NCAA’s, and its members, willingness to function as a minor league program for in this case the NBA.

Which brings me to two recent articles on basketball talent Nerlens Noel. (Boston Globe’s Noel Pushing Forward, but Feels the Pull & The New York Times’ Everybody Wants a Piece of Nerlens Noel).

Noel’s supremely talented on the court while at the same time a high school kid. So talented, watched, and followed, is the 6’10” Noel that he has almost 19,000 twitter followers.( BG)

He chose to leave his hometown high school and team to attend Tilton School. (Tilton plays some the best prep school basketball in the country.)

You’d think that heading off to Tilton would take some pressure of Noel- freeing him a bit- taking him away from those who project their beliefs and desires on him and those who want a piece of him- the well meaning and those who see him as cash cow.

As Boston basketball luminary Leo Papile told the Boston Globe’s Julian Benbow:

“It’s like a lottery ticket…Like somebody dropped one on the ground that’s worth $10 million and everyone’s scurrying around like, ‘Where’d the wind blow it?’ Every character in the world is saying, ‘Let me get in there.’ ’’(BG)

Alas, Noel doesn’t seem to have found peace in moving up to the Lakes Region. Everyone still wants a piece him. He’s still a great basketball talent.

The original plan was for Noel to spend two years at Tilton and, then, most likely to be selected in the 2013 NBA draft. Noel changed his mind and now will graduate from Tilton this year and, most likely, become one of the current breed of great players who spend one year on college team before heading off to the NBA.

The change of plan is where the guts, and gross, of the recruiting and cultivation of a seventeen year old major basketball player come into play. So many people seem to want to get their tenterhooks into him. Mostly, it seems, for selfish reasons.

It’s hard to maintain distance and perspective as an 18 year old. But, I’d like to see Noel play for himself and do what makes him happy. And, I’d like to see adult hangers on and coaches leave him alone.

Noel will announce his college choice tonight at 7:30 p.m. on ESPNU.

I wish for him that he puts himself first in the decision making process…I hope it works out for him.


Brian Fisher

A product of both private and public education, Brian Fisher served as a teacher, coach, dorm parent, and administrator at three different boarding schools. Brian also fills the role of Director of Development at Wolfeboro, The Summer Boarding School, in NH along with being a partner at AdmissionsQuest.

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