"It's All About The Game"

Guest Oped: When coaches and administrators don't do their jobs, kids suffer






Malcolm Battle, Head Coach, Chavez Charter School (DC)

Successful high school coach identifies how coaches at his level and collegiately, plus administrtors, are failing kids.


October, 29, 2013 - I can remember as a kid going to my neighborhood playground with admiration, as the older guys played ball all summer before heading back to colleges such as Georgetown, Rutgers, Auburn, Northeastern and Boston College, just to name a few. Outside of all being from the same neighborhood, they had another tie that bound them together; they were public school players and from what was known at that time as the Interhigh.

Fast forward some decades later and now I'm coaching in what amounts to a present day Interhigh program - Northeast D.C's Cesar Chavez Charter School. I find myself asking the same question over and over - Why aren't public school kids being recruited anymore? It's a question I've posed countless times to well informed former players and present day high school and college coaches. Their answers have left me with more questions than answers.

That's Malcolm Battle (center), a committed, talented coach whose accepted a charge of being in the trenches for DC kids, regardless if they play for him.

Ultimately, there are three issues that sum these problems:

1) The NCAA has placed more of an emphasis on AAU/travel ball or more to the spring/summer evaluation period:

The emphasis on April/July has in some instances removed high school basketball and its coaches from the equation. That's a huge issue for a kid at a public school because our kids tend not to play on travel teams for a number of reasons; i.e. kids aren't good enough, some high school coaches withholds try out information for fear a kid might not return if he plays well - to which I have seen firsthand - and it's not financially feasible for a kid coming from a low income situation to take the entire summer off to travel around the country playing ball, as there is a need for money (travel, lodging) to do that. Highlighting that reality, I have personally been asked by a parent if I was on drugs when I gave her the summer itinerary for her child.

2) A lack of educating regarding requirements at the high school level:

We, and by that I mean public school coaches have not done a good job educating our parents and kids to the NCAA Clearinghouse and what it entails to qualify as a student-athlete at the DI, II or III level. A lot of times parents and kids have no idea the measures one must go through to complete the clearinghouse process.

WE (again those involved with basketball in the DC public school arena) also have to do a better job of 'selling' or kids when coaches show up at our gyms, because DC has players. WE have to call, email, use social media and literally harass college coaches if need be.

3) College coaches not earning their pay:

Finally, there is a significant portion of college coaches that are frankly, stealing a paycheck. I know that' s a strong statement and I will alienate some people with it, but that will probably be someone that doesn't return a call or email about a kid, so I'm not concerned.

What I have noticed is -once again some not all - coaches believe that in this area most of the talent lies within the private schools, so they bypass public school workouts. They don't follow up on kids yet bombard you with emails and calls for team camps/coaching clinics, which of course are attached with a fee. Most don't trust their own eyes so they will either rely on a recruiting service to tell them who is a player, instead of doing their own leg work.

Or they ask the off-uttered question, "Who else is recruiting him"? In doing so, they end up missing out on Raf Gutherie (Cardozo High School, Towson University), Jeremy Underwood (Coolidge HS, NC A&T), Anthony Myers (McKinley Tech, Robert Morris), Phil Hawkins (Eastern HS, Texas State), Louis Bell (Friendship Collegiate , UMES), Maurice Jeffers (Coolidge, Delaware), Khalen Cumberlander (Coolidge, Central Conn. State) and Markee Mazyck (Chavez, Austin Peay) - all current NCAA Division I players that are products of public schools in DC, guys that more or less flew under the radar for much if not all of their high school careers.

Now I'm not crazy or delusional, I understand these aren't the days of my youth. I know that the level of play - on the team and individual level - isn't what it used to be in the city.

Nonetheless, there are players, college level players, that are being overlooked year after year. Until we can address the aforementioned issues, quality players and kids will continue to be overlooked, while coaches shop their resume at the Final Four.


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