2020 Rankings Set to Debut, with a Twist
It is traditional that in either late fall or early winter, NERR releases our initial freshmen class rankings.
While these rankings are often widely anticipated by young players, their families, and the greater basketball community, they always come with a bit of trepidation on our part.
That trepidation has only grown in recent years in correlation to the amount of glorification young players are receiving prematurely, not just in New England but throughout the country.
The reality, as we’ve said publically countless times, is that there isn’t a high school freshman anywhere that is a sure thing yet (if you don’t believe us, go look up the new NCAA Eligibility Center requirements). Yet, too often these 14 or 15 year old boys are coddled, celebrated, and led to believe they are entitled to success without being pushed, supported, and guided to live up to their potential. The cumulative effect is a culture of entitlement that far too many young people (and too many adults around them quite frankly) have fallen victim to in recent years, leading to complacency on the court as well as in the classroom.
The other reality is that history, even local New England basketball history, remembers those who make it, and forget those who don’t. How many celebrated underclassmen have we seen in the last decade fail to live up to their potential because they lacked the work ethic necessary to maximize their tools? Worse, how many have we seen who weren’t even eligible for an athletic scholarship because they didn’t put the proper focus on their academics? Worse yet, how many have we seen taken by violence and/or bad decisions away from the basketball court.
The answer to all three of those questions is far too many, and unfortunately today’s young players don’t realize it, because no one talks about the guys who didn’t make it.
Even in specific situations that might not be quite as sad, any experienced and credible evaluator will tell you there is often a vast difference between the most impactful 9th grade basketball player and the best long-term prospect with far too many variables yet to reveal themselves. Favoring the former can set those players up for disappointment once others begin to catch-up or evolve physically and unnecessarily burden young people with expectations that can impact them both on and off the court. The latter feeds into the culture of entitlement noted earlier.
Consequently, after a great deal of consideration, we’ve decided to alter the way in which we present our freshmen rankings.
We aren’t going to do away with them altogether because the truth of the matter is that there is too much demand for them, not just from the grassroots community but even from college coaches as well, and to do so would be to create a void for less well-intentioned people to try to fill for their own personal benefit (as New England has seen over the years with fake media outlets created by travel coaches). Additionally, the current senior class of 2016 is example enough that while evaluating young talent is difficult at best, it isn’t impossible (current top ten players Tremont Waters, Makai Ashton-Langford, Jermaine Samuels, Kimani Lawrence, and Hasahn French were all well known as freshmen).
Instead, we are going to release a list of the 25 top prospects we’ve seen thus far in the freshmen class. The players will be listed alphabetically by last name and not otherwise ranked. In other words, the accomplishment is making the list, not the spot on it in which you currently sit. Because with this freshmen class in particular, there is not yet a clear cut #1 or #2. What there is, are several highly talented young players, all on unique spots on the sliding scale between potential and production, who have a chance to have very bright futures within the game through continued hard work on the floor and in the classroom supplemented by good choices away from the court. There are also, undoubtedly, numerous high level prospects who have yet to reveal themselves either because they just haven’t been found yet or because they are late bloomers physically.
The bottom line, as always, is that if you're on this list hopefully it serves as positive reinforcement and encouragement to only work harder, both on the court as well as in the classroom. If you're not on the list just yet, hopefully it motivates you to work that much harder, because ultimately, people won't remember this list, only the names on it that made it when it is all said and done.