Last week the program at United Faith Christian Academy (Charlotte, N.C.), ranked No. 30 in the preseason POWERADE FAB 50, was banned from the North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association (NCISAA) playoffs this season and next because of a violation of the NCISAA's rules on recruiting. The basketball program was also placed on probation for two years, according to the Charlotte Observer.
The violation stemmed from an email sent out in September by school headmaster Dr. Joe Siragusa, a NCISAA Board of Directors member, to guardians of the basketball program's international basketball players. The email was intended to inform its recipients the program was still going to compete at the national level in light of former NBA guard Muggsy Bogues replacing Shaun Wiseman as coach in the off-season.
"I never would have thought ...that my email would have waded into the area of recruitment," Siragusa told the newspaper. "They still will play a decent schedule. I feel terrible for the juniors and seniors who this directly affects."
The Falcons are still FAB 50 eligible. The playoff ban stems from a ruling determined to be an act of recruiting potential student-athletes. As we interpret it, the violation had nothing to do with player eligibility issues regarding UFCA's current roster.
The Falcons' 2011-12 season is going to end sooner than it normally would otherwise, hence they will play fewer games and see less quality opponents. At some point as other teams advance in the post-season in their respective state, the playoff ban will effect their national ranking.
“Unguarded,” the ESPN documentary about the trials and tribulations of former NBA, Fresno State and Durfee (Fall River, Mass.) standout Chris Herren, premiered last week and made a strong impact in the basketball community. Current NBA and college players quickly hit their Twitter accounts to express respect for Herren’s courage to speak publicly about the drug addiction that nearly took his life.
“Man this Chris Herren story really hit me. One of the strongest people I've ever seen. Made it through all he has been through,” said Duke freshman guard Quinn Cook (@QCook323).
“This story on Chris Herren on ESPN is amazing!!!!!! Drugs will tear a family down. He might of lost millions but he MADE it,” said Phoenix suns forward Jared Dudley (@JaredDudley619).
The documentary centered on Herren detailing his story in various public settings. He’s spoken at correctional facilities to recovering addicts and shared his gripping experiences at last summer’s Boost Mobile Elite 24 with the event participants. What viewers didn’t see, however, was any interviews or commentary from Herren’s former teammates.
"How can Chris' story be told without Dominick Young? I'm the one who kept him eligible to play and stayed up night after night,” said former Fresno State teammate Dominick Young. “Chris is one of my best friends, but he was a wreck, a mess and only I can explain that because we lived together the whole time. But that's why we parted over the years because my battle with trying to get him to shake drugs."
In Jerry Tarkanian’s first year coaching at his alma mater in 1995-96, Herren sat out the season as a transfer from Boston College. That team was made up of holdovers from the Gary Colson era -- guards DeAndre Austin and Young, forward Darnell McCulloch and center Khary Stanley. They blended in with late JUCO signees James "Gumby" Gray and Kendric Brooks to form one of Tark’s Bulldog teams that actually played up to expectations with a 22-11 record.
The next season Herren, former prep All-American Terrance Roberson and JUCO All-American Daymond Forney joined the fold with Young, McCulloch, Brooks and Stanley, but the team finished with two less wins than the year before. In 1997-98, an ultra-talented team that lost the core from 1995-96 was replaced by playground legend Rafer Alston, 1994-95 Pac-10 Freshman of the Year Tremaine Fowlkes, and former prep All-Americans Winfred Walton and Avondre Jones. That unit limped to a second place finish in the WAC’s Pacific Division before a late run landed them in the NIT semifinals.
As documented in “Unguarded,” the team lost Herren for a few weeks when he left for drug rehab. Forney, Fowlkes and Roberson were also suspended for failed drug tests. Alston was out at the beginning of the season because of a domestic incident and Jones was kicked off the team during the Bulldogs’ NIT run for famously brandishing a samurai sword during an argument with an acquaintance at Jones’ apartment.
“Every guy they brought in was a pro, but they didn't put the work in the gym,” Young (@iceneeko) said. “It was crazy, there was always a suspension, an injury, or someone who could only play a certain amount of minutes.”
Amazingly, many of the stories surrounding the team were chronicled by a production crew that followed the players throughout the 97-98 season. The final product, “Between the Madness” was an eye-opening look at a dozen or so scholarship student-athletes who were as unfocused as they were talented.
The documentary not only foreshadowed Herren’s troubles, but was a prelude to today’s popular sports reality shows such as HBO’s “24/7”.
Herren, Roberson, Fowlkes and Alston eventually made it to the NBA, but only Alston enjoyed prolonged success.
“They were great guys, but they didn’t work on their game and get better,” Alston said.
Dorial Green-Beckham Bucks Trend
ESPNHS has honored the nation’s best football-basketball combo athletes for over two decades, names such as Ron Curry of Hampton (Hampton, Va.), Greg Paulus of Christian Brothers Academy (Syracuse, N.Y.) and Terrelle Pryor of Jeannette (Jeannette, Pa.). A majority of the nation’s top Grid-Hoop athletes have aspirations to play both sports at the Division I level, but the reality is most end up focusing on one sport and the sport that materializes into a pro career more often than not is football.
With the competition so fierce to earn an athletic scholarship, there are less great Grid-Hoop athletes than ever before. Many top football recruits graduate mid-term and skip basketball in order to participate in spring drills in what would normally be their spring semester of high school. Others simply drop basketball to prepare for their freshman season in college.
A recent example of the trend is quarterback Cody Kessler of Centennial (Bakersfield, Calif.), the 2010 Gatorade State Player of the Year in football who entered his senior year with a school record 1,771 points, but did not play basketball in order to participate in spring football practice at USC.
Record-setting wide receiver/forward Dorial Green-Beckham of Hillcrest (Springfield, Mo.), the No. 3 prospect in the ESPNU 150 for football, confirmed to ESPNHS he will play basketball for the Hornets in his senior year. On October 27, Green-Beckham set a reported national career record for receiving yards, becoming the first gridder ever to surpass the 6,000 yard-mark.
Last season on the hardwood, the 6-foot-6 forward earned ESPNHS second team Underclass All-American and Ozark Conference Player of the Year honors for a team that reached the state Class 4 quarterfinals. As a sophomore, he led Hillcrest to the Class 5 state title while averaging 20 points and 8.5 rebounds per game.
Green-Beckham has a solid chance to earn All-American honors in both sports this year. He’ll be hard-pressed to earn ESPNHS Mr. Basketball USA honors, but look for him on our early season watch list next week.
Oak Hill Academy Now 4-0
On November 1, Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.), the No. 3 ranked team in the POWERADE FAB 50, had an early road test against Quality Education Academy (Winston-Salem, N.C.) and came away with a 84-69 victory.
Jordan Adams, a first team ESPNHS Underclass All-American last year headed for UCLA, led the Warriors with 22 points. Point guard Tyler Lewis, a transfer from Forsyth Country Day (Lewisville, N.C.), dished out 14 assists and had 19 points. Guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, a newcomer from North Central (Indianapolis, Ind.), added 18 points.
If early results are any indication, Lewis might challenge Rajon Rondo's single-season school record of 494 assists set in 2003-04. That season, Rondo and forward Josh Smith led the Warriors to the No. 1 ranking in the FAB 50 with a 38-0 mark.
In their latest game on Saturday, the Warriors defeated Stoneridge Prep (Tarzana, Calif.), a non-member of the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) whose program is ineligible for the POWERADE FAB 50. In the 80-64 victory, Adams finished with 29 points and eight rebounds while Lewis also has 20 points, dished out six assists and reportedly had zero turnovers.