Detroit News columnist: State of Michigan’s basketball clout ‘disintegrating’

Posted: July 19, 2011 by Jared Field in High School

You knew it wouldn’t be long before this column was written. It’s a column that probably needed to be written for a Detroit audience, since the Motor City is the epicenter of the state’s basketball recession. Essentially the columnist makes the case (with help from several others) that the state of Michigan is no longer a basketball Mecca, as it had been for many years.

So what’s the crux of the matter? Coaching? A declining population? Instability caused by transfers?

From the Detroit News:

The changes around the state not only are affecting the NBA but college basketball, as well.

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, for instance, sees a difference when he recruits the state.

“You still have enough good players here for Michigan and Michigan State to survive,” said Izzo, who recruited players such as Mateen Cleaves (Flint), Jason Richardson (Saginaw), Marcus Taylor (Lansing) and Maurice Ager (Detroit) to East Lansing.

“But it is a little harder than it used to be. I will say that.”

Izzo blames the drop-off on key cuts in elementary and youth programs.

“I remember when teams used to fear the Michigan teams,” said Izzo, who begins his 17th season at Michigan State this fall. “It is not close to being the same.”

  1. hoopscoach says:

    Bad piece. Left out Al Horford and Wilson Chandler. Fails to mention how many outstanding players ‘not drafted’ but still played in the league. Plus, how about making a living overseas?

    Composing a blog entry now to counter his premise.

  2. Jared Field says:

    Yeah. That was a big whoopsy.

    I do think it’s scapegoating coaches a bit. I agree with his premise that our clout isn’t what it used to be, but there are a multitude of reasons for it — most of which have nothing to do with coaches.

  3. Referring to Morris Peterson as ‘Maurice Peterson’ makes it lose all credibility.

    Also, JaVale McGee is a Michigan native who should be included and Manny Harris may not have been drafted last season, but he made Cleveland’s roster and there’s no doubt he was one of the top 30 rookies in the league.

  4. hoopscoach says:

    Patrick, great call! Maybe Mo Pete changed his name? LOL

    Jared, NYC has been down a bit too. I ask you though, which State has “clout” when it comes to basketball at the youth level? I would assume that it goes up and down and that kids today don’t really buy into which State has “clout”.

  5. SBell says:

    Here’s what I wrote on UM Hoops about it:

    Lazily researched, myopic story. Wilson Chandler from Benton Harbor was a first-round draft pick, not mentioned. Al Horford from Grand Ledge won two NCAA championships — at a school not in Michigan — and was a Lottery pick … yet wasn’t mentioned. Other draft picks like Corey Hightower from Flint, Robert Whaley from Benton Harbor and Chris Crawford from Comstock aren’t listed (yet Eric Riley is .. he’s from Cleveland). Javale McGee played three years of high school ball in Michigan and was a first-round pick.

    What wasn’t pursued here is that perhaps the three of the four best actual talents to come out of the state in the last 15 years have been slackers (Hightower) to outright sociopaths (Whaley and Winfred Walton … Whaley is the most talented high school player I’ve seen in Michigan other than Webber). Jason Richardson being the one who realized his talent. There are only so many gifted, athletic 6-9 guys. Webber, Coleman made it through, Whaley and Walton didn’t, but that’s an indictment of their criminality not the “system” at large.

    Because most of the sources were Detroit has-beens, they wouldn’t know or understand that the depth and quality of basketball being played in the state as a whole — the talent that gets Oakland to the NCAA tournament, that makes many GLIAC schools the equivalent of low-major D1s, that gives Cornerstone NAIA national championships, that gives Mott juco national championships, that gets Grace Bible championships in their division (Allen Durham is better than Durrell Summers) — is at a very high level right now.

  6. hoopscoach says:

    Steve Bell,

    That’s why you are the best. Well said. Keep doing what you do.

  7. hoopsguru says:

    Sure – some guys were left off the list. But the youth / high school / prep basketball scene in Michigan the last 20-30 years just tracks hand in hand with the State of Michigan. Face it – Michigan has been moving backward in about every facet there is for the last 20-30 years. Things will turn around (albeit slowly) when good jobs within the state are abundant like they were in the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s. Until then Michigan (and the once big affluent blue collar cities) continue to be a place that people flee rather than flock to – and the people who stay are struggling big time just to surivive day to day – example – a couple of Inner City Flint basketball players with incredible hoop potential were lost to the bad side recently – possibly not buty choice but rather by survival.

    • Jared Field says:

      Hoopsguru: “Not by choice but rather survival?” That’s about the biggest pile of BS you’ve ever posted on this forum. Don’t romanticize a situation that you obviously know nothing about. What those guys did was unconscionable. They were not stealing bread from a bakery.

      As for Steve’s post, I think it’s a great defense of the state. The overall decline in talent in Flint has been evident in recent years, but of course that’s because many of us base Flint’s potential on an outlier: i.e. The Flintstones era. The state as a whole certainly hasn’t fallen as far and as fast, basketball-wise, as is described by Foster. Is it as good now as it was five or ten years ago? In my opinion it isn’t. But, again, five or ten years ago I thought basketball here was unbelievable — again, probably an outlier.

      Things are almost never as bad as the alarmists say; they’re also almost never as good as the proponents say, either.

  8. hoopsguru says:

    You miss-quoted me – I said “possibly not by choice but rather by survival”. Who really knows for sure? Not me and not you. Agree – it was “unconscionable” but kind of indicative of a lot of crap too many young people are getting into these days. My theory is with a better economy (and the resulting increased opportunities that come along with a better economy) these examples are replaced with more positive examples.

    As for the article – it was in a Detroit nespaper so obviously written with a Detroit flavor, but even you agree above with him that the state overall is not as good as it was 10-15 years ago. I do not understand why this article has struck so many nerves.

    • Well, I know…and I know it was not based on survival…let us be clear. I love the Charlie Bell reference mentioned further down and also liken it to Darvin Ham as well. I wish the article would have touched on the likes of Kevin Tiggs, Jujuan Cooley, Marcus Skinner, J’Nathan Bullock, Lamar Rice, Desmon Farmer, etc. (and I could go on) and how a city like Flint has so many players overseas making a living with basketball. The NBA is not the end all of success and talent as that article alleges. If you write a piece for that publication on that topic, tell the whole story.

  9. hoopscoach says:

    Hoops Guru,

    Well the article struck a nerve in me because the writer omitted some major players. (Al Horford and Wilson Chandler) If you are going to write something in a pretty big newspaper, on a popular topic, at least take the extra 15 minutes to research.

    It also struck a nerve because you have people being quoted in the article who have no clue as to what goes on in youth basketball.

    It struck a nerve because a D-2 assistant coach made terrible comments regarding coaching.

    Sure the talent is down, it’s like that everywhere. It goes in cycles; sometimes yearly, sometimes 5 years or even 10. You will not get high caliber D-1 players every year. (See Jared’s comments on the Flintstones)

    Take a look at NYC basketball. A city much richer in basketball tradition than most. It’s been on a downslide for years.

    Let’s not give the media a pass here. They are a huge problem with youth basketball. Why does everything they write have to be negative? Do we hear about the kids who work their asses off after being overlooked? A player like Charlie Bell who was not drafted but worked hard and turned himself into a NBA vet as opposed to Mateen Cleaves who was drafted and didn’t last as long as he had hoped?

    Overall, can we talk about HS kids striving to do their best? Working on HS basketball, possibly getting a scholarship and working hard at that school regardless if it’s Oakland, MSU, Grand Valley, Mott or Spring Arbor.

    Why does ‘talent’ have to be the gauge for success?

    • Jared Field says:

      Here’s my theory: With better choices come better outcomes.

      Bad choices, like the ones those guys made, are not contingent upon the economy. Some would rather steal than work, cheat than study.

      • SBell says:

        Speaking of choices … where are the kids going to school? Are they NBA factories? That’s some coaches’ forte, not others’.

  10. hoopscoach says:

    Jared, you are correct about the choices theory. Do these kids know the choices they make today will have a huge impact on their future?

  11. Be Real says:

    Some of you guys are being defensive with no real reason. Even Tom Izzo is quoted saying the state is down. He isn’t the be-all end all but, do you not think he has an idea of basketball in the state? He has only been here for what 20+ years?

    The article is correct in that on average basketball is down. There are good high school and good AAU teams out there but there are way too many programs that are not teaching anything. Some well known clubs are playing kids down a level in order to win. It’s legit as far as the rules go but if you are in 10th grade why play on a 9th grade AAU team? How do you benefit if college coaches are looking at 9th grade teams for 2014 players and lo and behold the dominant kid is a 2013 is on the squad. Some teams are run and gun and kids don’t learn simple pick and roll. Basketball IQ is down because the focus is on playing time not learning the game. Some teams are hampered when they try to teach because kids can easily find another team that will allow them to play “their way.”

    Even one of the “elite” aau teams has fallen from their perch as they choose kids for the team that have not been as committed to developing their full game. Some kids that are ranked in this state have super holes in their game but they are aggressive so we call them good. When they get out there and play kids that are aggressive AND fundamental, they get exposed.

    The other factor from an AAU position is that in the state of Michigan, we have too many teams. We do have a LOT of kids interested which creates the need for a lot of teams but when you have a team with 1 or 2 D1 players and the rest marginal or average high school players, the team is not as powerful as if you ran a team out with more depth.

    Kids that play basketball in this state switch high schools because the cafeteria had the wrong type of cheese for their baloney sandwich. Everyone thinks the grass is greener and when we get defensive about it we don’t help resolve the problem. Kids don’t have to “make” a team, when someone can just “start” a team, pay the fee and be in a tournament. They don’t have to develop their game if they can just transfer to another school. They don’t have to work on their character with a coach that demands character if they can transfer to a school that will allow whatever as long as the team wins. All of that affects the commitment and development of the teams and kids in basketball. That’s what the article is driving at and that is why we don’t have kids moving through as high as they once did.

    One piece that is neglected is that in the state of Michigan kids start school a year earlier than most midwest counterparts. The state of Ohio has so many highly recruited football players because on average, they are a year older in the same grade than kids in the state of Michigan. At the Kentucky hoopfest it was comical to find Ohio and Minnesota based teams with kids on the 16U and the kids were older than kids I know on 17U squads, on average. That extra year of maturity mentally and physically makes a difference. There are many that are touted as “best” in Michigan and “ranked” but when you check some, you find they are older.

    The article may have left out some pieces but instead of nitpicking it, why not take a look at what the article is saying that make sense. If you don’t think any of it makes sense, then cool, that is why we have our own opinions.

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