Monday’s “Room for Debate” topic at the New York Times.com was “March Madness? What about Midterms?”, where writers and educators were asked to discuss how the NCAA can better focus on the “student” part of the student-athlete. Of particular note is a response from Ron Thomas, Director of Morehouse College’s Journalism and Sports Program and author of a book about the NBA’s Black pioneers. Thomas’ essay, found here, suggests that high schoolers who have their hearts set on playing college basketball should focus less on the colleges with March Madness teams and more on the schools which will give them the best overall college experience.
Thomas advises student-athletes to excel academically so they’ll be in the driver’s seat when it comes to meeting the standards of whatever schools have the basketball programs they like. Says Thomas, “If Coach Tommy Amaker’s philosophy fits you best, then you’d better have the grades to join him at Harvard”, and then cites two Harvard players who turned down basketball powerhouses to attend Harvard (who for the first time in 66 years is in the first round of March Madness). Thomas advises student athletes to follow their hearts to schools with academic strength, cultural focus or some other appealing quality, rather than chase the schools that traditionally end up in the Final Four. “Pro scouts will find you” if you are that good, he suggests.
If your middle school basketball superstar is more focused on having skills on the court than in the classroom, show him this article, and while you are discussing it remind him that less than 1% of college basketball players make it into the NBA. It can’t hurt, and it just might help him put the emphasis in “student-athlete” where it truly belongs.