Print and Go Back ESPN.com: College Basketball Nation [Print without images]

Thursday, April 15, 2010
On signing day, it's good to be Dad

By Eamonn Brennan

If I told you that the No. 17-ranked player on the ESPNU 100 list committed to play his college basketball at a Horizon League school, and that school wasn't Butler, what would you say? What about if I said the No. 33-ranked player just told the world he was going to spend his college career at Central Michigan? You'd be more than a little confused, right?

Then, being the smart person that you are, you'd investigate further, only to find that both of these players -- Detroit's Ray McCallum, Jr. and CMU's Trey Zeigler -- committed to those schools because their respective fathers are the respective coaches. Hey, this is easy! Recruiting has never been so simple.

Yes, McCallum and Ziegler both officially announced their decisions to go play for their dads on Wednesday. Amid jokes of less yard work (funny) and increased allowance (a little too close to the improper benefits bone to be really tasty, but oh well), both players said they'd relish the opportunity to help their fathers build programs at places that are known less for their NBA players and more for their, well, um ... hmm. Exactly what are Detroit and Central Michigan known for?

That's the point, actually. McCallum and Ziegler made very clear choices on behalf of their families. Instead of going to any number of elite programs with gigantic budgets and a history of developing NBA talent -- when you're No. 17 or No. 33 in the country, you pretty much have your pick of the litter -- they chose to help their fathers attempt to build something Butler-esque at otherwise low-profile places. (Or, at the very least, put a few good years together in time to take a power conference job. Ahem.)

The question is whether that's the right strategy for the players. Sure, it's selfless. Some selflessness is great. But since when should college basketball players with potential NBA futures be entirely selfless? There's an NBA out there, and it would stand to reason that playing somewhere high-profile like Kansas or Kentucky would increase your odds of getting drafted at a exponential rate compared to, say, Mt. Pleasant, Mich.

This isn't an unheard-of view, either. The Sporting Blog's always-excellent Chris Littman almost made this argument yesterday. To wit:

While I can't really argue with that point, isn't there something to be said for going to a program that has a rep of producing NBA players? [...] And really, my point was more playing Devil's Advocate anyway, but there is something to be said for the high-major route to the NBA. Sure, you could star at a school like Davidson, but big numbers are always viewed with great skepticism at low and mid-major institutions. Look at some of the guys declaring early from high-major programs and think about the numbers they would've had to put up at a smaller school to even think about declaring.

There's no question there's a tradeoff there -- playing and succeeding at a big school simply confers more legitimacy in the scouts' eyes in regards to a potential NBA player's chances of succeeding in the pros. No question. At the same time, though, it's 2010, and in 2010 we have satellite TV and the Internet and all sorts of really awesome telecommunications things -- to say nothing of the legion of scouts each NBA team employs -- which ensure that a really good, NBA-worthy player at a small basketball school doesn't go unnoticed. Will Ray McCallum and Trey Zeigler get the same level of attention at Detroit and CMU that they would have gotten in the Big Ten? Probably not. But they can still get to the NBA. If that means helping Pops build his program in the meantime, well, that's just loyalty. And there's nothing wrong with that.