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Out of Bounds: When is young too young?

James needs college - He said/james would go - She daid?

by Derek Clarkston, Sports Editor


Heís a high school phenomenon who is taking the nationsí eyes by storm with his actions on and off the basketball court. He will soon join the ranks of some of the biggest names in the game.

If what athletes say is true, that they play for the love of the game, not the money, thereís no reason to jump right from high school to the NBA. The money will come soon enough, and college provides not just an education but an opportunity to develop skills against a better class of players. However for one high school basketball phenomenon, college is just a road block to a quick career.

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This youngster is LeBron James out of St. Vincent-St. Maryís in Akron, Ohio. James, a 6-8, 240 pound senior whom everybody in the sporting world is predicting will be the number one pick in the upcoming NBA draft. If he is, James will soon join a long list of high school players who have forgone college.

James, a media darling already at the ripe age of 18, is getting ready to make history in the NBA as he is expected to become the first high school player to be taken first overall in an NBA draft. When that day comes, will the signing mark a day when the NBA becomes forever known as a childcare center?

Ever since Kevin Garnett left high school to become the fifth pick of the 1995 draft, youngsters have been sprouting up from high school playgrounds in every NBA draft. Some are worthy of playing in the NBA, while others should have decided to play college ball instead. This year is no different, as James is acrobatically dunking over hapless defenders and hitting countless three pointers enrout to grabbing attention away from those who, by being just as successful against better opponents, deserve it, the college players.

The talent that James sees day in and day out at the high school level doesnít exactly compare to the talent that college athletes see everyday, and itís not even close to the talent that the NBA is made up of. More than half the players that James plays against in high school will end their career there. Most of the other half will fizzle out in college ball, and a lucky few, like James will establish professional careers.

Just how good is James? James has been putting up gaudy numbers against his high school counterparts, but what makes him think he should automatically skip a level of competition? Itís the media. ESPN and others have been pumping his veins with just how good he is.

Whether he can play successfully at the NBA level is not known at this point. Nobody knows if he can hack it with seasoned veterans. All we have seen at this point is James dominating little known high school players. If James is an emotionally typical 18-year-old though, he must love the attention that he is getting. If somebody is willing to pay him that much money to play basketball heís not going to turn it down. Heís going to take it and cash in on his childhood dreams. The thing is, James is still a child in the sporting world and has yet to prove himself outside of the high school level. Letís put James on a top-10 college program and see how he stacks up. If he does then he can move on to the next level.

The media needs to be a little more responsible. James can see his mug regularly on the 11 oíclock SportsCenter while the anchors boast about how much skill he has. James has already received more TV coverage than the NBAís own Memphis Grizzlies get for their entire season, and has also graced the cover of Sports Illustrated twice, the first in his junior season.

Once again, this is an 18-year-old student who is juggling school and athletics and doing interviews with Deion Sanders on the CBS morning show. What 18 year old wouldnít want to be in his shoes?

But isnít schooling the top priority in high school, not athletics? But when coaches, parents and the media are pumping young athletes as ďgod given talents,Ē itís easy for the student to loss focus on education.

Whatís next if James does get drafted, itís going to get parents thinking of establishing their own sports darling. Soon we will see Little Leaguers jumping from 12-year-old baseball to Major League Baseball contracts, Pop Warner football midgets being recruited by National Football League teams. Parents signing agents for little tykes that have a unhittable curveball or for 10-year-olds who have a Jordan esque fade away.

So what were you doing at 18? I was working at Target.

Should athletes have to attend college?
by Yonie K Espiritu, associate editor

In mid-June 2003 the National Basketball Association (NBA) will hold its annual draft. Expected to go first is an 18-year-old phenomenon who may be the most hyped recruit of all time. Some critics argue that if LeBron James does not have an opportunity to play against college level talent, he may fail to achieve greatness.

Other critics say heís not emotionally ready for NBA play.

The first critics are ignoring Jamesí talent. The second ones have a misconception about education and ignore this young manís experience in the school of hard knocks.

Originally from Ohio, James lives in a two-bedroom apartment with his unemployed mother. He spends the weekend visiting his father, not because of custody issues, but because his father is behind bars. His stepfather is an ex-convict as well, but has been there for James so much so that he refers to him as ďDad.Ē

As a child he had a record of improvement. In the forth grade he attended only 84 days out of 160 school days. In the fifth grade, in foster care, he received an attendance award for 160 days. Today, he maintains a record close to that and has a 3.5 GPA.

Over the years many young people have enrolled in college early because they were more intellectually advanced than their peers. However uneasy their transition was, as they tried to relate to their older, more mature classmates, it was always assumed that this would be the best thing for them. James is more athletically advanced than many college graduates. Similar criteria should apply.

Here is a young man who has so excelled that no high school basketball court could hold him. Holding him back, as is the argument against holding back other geniuses, could be detrimental to his growth.

James has talent beyond most college basketball players. He has a history of having to act as an adult in difficult situations. And as far as transitions go, his cell phone already memory dials the phone numbers of NBA superstars Antione Walker of the Boston Celtics and Shaquille Oíneal of the L.A. Lakers.

Another argument discouraging James from entering the NBA is his physical capabilities. Although the 18-year-old stands at a whopping 6 feet 8 inches, physically he may not be ready for the contact that comes with the best basketball league in the world.

But that is probably the same argument that Kobe Bryant, of the L.A. Lakers had to endure. Bryant, at 6 feet 6 inches is a bit shorter than James, began scoring 22.5 points a game his fourth year in the league, a feat that no rookie out of college has accomplished. Clearly, Bryantís early NBA experience made him a better player than college would have.

James is good, and he seems to have his head screwed on pretty well. He may be making a mistake, but if he is, he will learn from it, just like everybody else. Although education can be beneficial to anyone, James has been preparing for the NBA, through hardships and practice, his entire life.


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