Top Recruit's Dilemma: Mid-Major vs. High-Major

Tue, 04/06/2010 - 9:48am

By Ian Powers

Year after year, the NBA draft is filled with prospects that come from traditional college basketball powers.

Stephen CurryStephen CurryThose high major programs (North Carolina, Kansas, Kentucky, UCLA, etc.) of the college basketball world will always produce the majority of NBA players because of their ability to recruit the top high school talent in the country.

But in recent years, schools with less rich basketball traditions have produced their share of quality NBA players. New Mexico's Danny Granger (transferred from Bradley), Davidson's Stephen Curry (son of NBA sharpshooter Dell Curry, grew up in North Carolina, passed over by entire ACC), Rider's Jason Thompson, and VCU's Eric Maynor to name a few.

Back in 1993, Hartford bigman Vin Baker was the 8th pick in the draft and was a 4 time NBA all-star until alcohol problems derailed his career.

Scottie Pippen hadn't even made a name on the national stage when he was taken 5th in 1987 by the Seattle SuperSonics (traded to Chicago) out of Central Arkansas.

But that (Pippen and Baker era) was a day and age before the internet and national media made the recruiting and draft processes much more visible. AAU basketball has also evolved to the point where top players have all played one another in numerous events before they reach the college level.

Many of those small (basketball) school success stories were late bloomers and there was never any option to go to the big name programs.

Nowadays high level recruits are identified earlier and prospects with NBA potential are at times faced with a decision: Go to a school where they may or may not be the star but are assured of getting national exposure, or roll the dice at a smaller basketball school with a better opportunity to be featured.

This year alone, we have seen prospects emerge from smaller schools like Marshall's Hassan Whiteside, Fresno State's Paul George, and Nevada's Luke Babbit.

Babbitt, a legitimate top 20 recruit turned down offers from major programs (Arizona, UCLA) for the opportunity to be close to home and get immediate playing time. Scouts see him as a possible first round pick in this year's draft.

It is tougher to get the same respect and visibility playing at smaller schools, but not impossible. And in many cases, the opportunity to be featured and develop is highly beneficial. Granted in some cases the coaching and competition level limits the development ceiling.

Butler's Gordon Hayward is another example of this. Hayward passed up bigger schools such as Michigan and Purdue to be a big fish in a small pond, and he's become a national hero taking Butler all the way to the championship game tonight against Duke. He has also passed up numerous higher rated recruits as a draft prospect and is now projected to be a first rounder.

Hayward also benefited from a late growth spurt, along with skills he developed by being a guard most of his life.

Too often recruits get caught up in the name of the school and end up making a decision for the wrong reasons. While the school with the big name and tradition has it's benefits, the second tier kids should look at which school will give them the best opportunity to succeed.

The major programs will essentially recruit "over" every position, every year. For a late blooming kid who may not be a top 20 nationally ranked player, that may ultimately mean having to compete with both underclassmen and upperclassman, and in some cases backing up an underclassman. For some, the opportunity of being featured never presents itself.

Meet Ray McCallum Jr.

Ray McCallum Jr. / Photo: The Detroit NewsRay McCallum Jr. / Photo: The Detroit NewsThe 2010 McDonald's All American has become one of the best point guards in the country and is being courted by the likes of Arizona, Florida, and UCLA. McCallum also has the opportunity to play for his father, Ray McCallum Sr. at Detroit [Editor's note, Ray McCallum Jr's decision is now down to two teams: Arizona and Detroit].

He along with a number of other top point guards, in a growing trend, have waited to make a decision on their college destinations. Apparently waiting to see where the others will go before making a choice.

After displaying surprising stand out athleticism in the McDonald's AA dunk contest to accompany his coach's-son-feel-for-the-game and natural point guard instincts, McCallum Jr. is quickly developing into a top 20 level player nationally and a legitimate NBA prospect.

All 3 of the bigger name schools have guards currently on their rosters who may be there an additional 2 years. McCallum Jr. may be forced to sit and wait his turn for a couple of years before he is able to fully display his talents for NBA scouts.

The other 3 schools also won't restrain from recruiting "over" his position every year and the possibility of getting caught up in a political game with a local (or national) phenom will always factor into the equation.

If he chose Detroit, HE would be the local phenom.

The benefits of playing for Detroit are numerous. First and foremost would be the chance to play for his father. While I don't expect Coach McCallum to show favoritism towards his son, the question must be asked. Who would have his best interest in mind more than his own father?

Secondly, with the emergence of Butler, the Horizon League is gaining respectability as a conference and NBA scouts are beginning to take notice. Detroit is coming off a 20 win season and could be poised to challenge Butler and compete for an NCAA tournament berth. Ray could be the piece that gets them over the hump for an automatic bid or an at-large berth.

McCallum Jr. is faced with a tough decision, stay at home and play for his dad with a guaranteed opportunity to play, but for a school with less exposure, competition, and without a proven track record of producing NBA players. Or go with a bigger school and run the risk of potentially having to deal with big school politics and getting lost in the shuffle.

At the end of the day, a kid should choose the program with a coach that will give them the best chance to realize their dreams, regardless of the school's name.

esperanzafleet69's picture
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detroit country day isnt far

detroit country day isnt far from my house... i wish i saw this kid play...

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McCallum is the truth.

I live in detroit, and i watched him play about 3 times, great player.

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He should stay home, his

He should stay home, his father may be tougher on him but he will make sure he son gets NBA attention and more likely he will stay 3 years for his father if things work out well and they should.

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go to ZONA,, play for sean

go to ZONA,, play for sean miller ,,,he could benefit a lot from being coached by a former point guard..

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Saw him a few times online throughout the year. He reminds me of a J. Bayless just with a better basketball IQ at his age. He has a chance to put Detroit on his back and make a name for Detroit basketball...Or..He could go to Arizona where he'll be the starter since there is no more Nic Wise, play against better competition, and get better exposure...I say go to Zona..Sean Miller's style is perfect for this young man.

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Univ of Detroit has several NBA players as alums. Start with Dave DeBusschere and Spencer Haywood, both NBA All Stars. Throw in Earl Cureton and currently Willie Green of the '76ers. That's a lot more than Butler, and Butler seems to be doing ok.

Stay home, Jr., and start immediately for the Titans.

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I had no idea he could get up like that at 6'1..heady point guard who doesnt turn it over, high basketball IQ. How many times in his life will he get to play for his pops? Only once..take advantage.

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I had no idea he could get up like that at 6'1..heady point guard who doesnt turn it over, high basketball IQ. How many times in his life will he get to play for his pops? Only once..take advantage.

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Count me in as one of the

Count me in as one of the people hoping he goes to play for his dad. Detroit should have a team that can compete with Butler whether Hayward returns to the Bulldogs or not. If McCallum goes to UDM, the Horizon would have a great chance at 2 (or if neither wins the conference tourney, 3) bids to the dance

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back to the past

lately scouts have looked further into smaller schools to find NBA caliber talent as opposed to just settling for players from bigger schools who may be overrated. 10-15 years ago so many players were drafted simply because they went to an elite school; now teams just want guys who can play regardless of where they went to college.

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