THE THIN LINE
I was reading an article today about a sixth grade basketball phenom by the name of Allonzo Trier. Trier lives in the Seattle area with his mother and the article described the lengths that Trier and his mother take in order to keep his game on point.
Before I go any further, I would like to first say that I wish Trier all the best in his basketball career and in life in general and this post is not meant to criticize him or his mother in any way. I am just using his example as a means to talk about a bigger, growing problem within the game.
Trier is a 5’5” 110-pound sixth grader who is an aspiring NBA superstar. He maintains a daily workout that consists of about 10 minutes of ball handling work—many of the drills based on the workouts of “Pistol” Pete Maravich.
The bulk of Trier’s workout focuses on shooting where he must make a total of 450 shots from various spots on the floor. When he misses two shots in a row, one gets subtracted from his total and shots that bounce off or roll around the rim do not count.
After completing this workout, twice a week his mother drives him to a local gym where he continues his work with a private basketball tutor. After his private session, his mother then drives him to another two-hour long practice session with his AAU team. After nearly seven hours of practicing and traveling between practices, Trier’s day comes to an end at about 9:30 pm.
This exhaustive workout is all to maintain Trier’s national reputation and No. 1 ranking in his class.
Let that last statement sink in for a minute...“No. 1 ranking in his class”... as a sixth grader. One minute I’m reading an article talking about the difficulty of projecting a player in college basketball into the NBA game and the next minute I’m reading about a sixth grader ranked No. 1 in his class by a national scouting service. Mind boggling!
At what point is all of this a little too much. We are talking about a sixth grade kid here. A sixth grade kid who has his own line of clothing with his own signature and motto. A sixth grade kid who receives endless free merchandise from shoes to a shipment of Under Armour gear from Brandon Jennings, who now plays professional basketball in Italy after being ranked as last year’s top high school point guard prospect.
A sixth grade kid who has been flown around the country by AAU teams and basketball promoters to play in their events. And a sixth grade kid who has his private school tuition and academic tutoring paid for by the charitable foundation of an NBA player and receives free dental care.
His mother has an interesting quote in the article, “They’re doing nice things for my son, things that he needs and I can’t afford. So how can I say no?”
I thought about that quote and asked myself, being a parent, would I do the same thing? To be honest, I would have to say I don’t know.
My problem is at what point do we allow our kids to just be kids? Where do we draw the line between supporting our children to achieve their goals and exploitation?
I can see how grassroots basketball is becoming big business and it is easy to get caught up in the whirlwind, but doesn’t a line need to be drawn somewhere?
I also found another quote his mom said interesting, “If his game falls off, they will kick him to the curb. That makes me nervous, and I don’t want it to happen.”
That seems to be a lot of pressure for a sixth grader.
Just this year a freshman female basketball player left the University of Connecticut and quit playing basketball citing burnout after being a highly recruited player since seventh grade. She now plays volleyball at the University of Delaware but that example speaks to the pressure that a lot of kids feel to live up to other people’s expectations.
The author of the article went on to talk about attending the Adidas Junior Phenom Camp, which is the premier annual event for pre-high school talent. He gave an example of an interesting conversation he had with one of the kids in attendance. The kid made comments such as, “I just want to stay humble” and “I’m just trying to get my family out of the ghetto."
Wow! Already at 12 or 13 years old, these kids already have their cliché one-liners rehearsed and ready to let fly in any context.
The last statement was the most interesting. I must admit, I have heard this line many times. While that may be true for some players, not all of these kids and players are living in the ghetto. In fact, the author stated that many kids that attended this camp came from middle-class families who paid the $450 entry fee themselves.
The real issue here is that we have to start giving these kids other options. As much as I love basketball, it cannot be seen as the "only way out.”
It can be used as an avenue to get where you want to go, but it doesn’t have to be the only way. We all know the percentages of players who make it to the NBA and they aren’t high.
At the very least, basketball can provide a kid with a college scholarship and a free education. That education can lead to success in many different avenues and careers. If the desire to play basketball is still important, then there are various minor and overseas leagues that can be pursued if the NBA is not an option.
Unfortunately, the motto seems to be “NBA or bust” and when that doesn’t happen, these kids are lost. So in the end we need to support our children to strive to achieve their athletic goals, but we need to be honest in presenting all the options to them as well.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that you should shoot down your child’s NBA dream. But just like you owe your child your support in striving to achieve their dream, you would be doing them a disservice if you didn’t have a conversation about all of their options. I just hope that Allonzo Trier’s mother is having that conversation with him.