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|Jelani Jenkins' future is with the defending champion Florida Gators.|
Every year in our "The Future Issue," we choose a collection of graduating seniors we think will be future stars in their respective sports.
This year, we selected eight athletes: Florida-bound football player Jelani Jenkins, MLB prospect Tyler Matzek, track/football star Marquise Goodwin, softball phenom Kenzie Fowler, point guard extraordinaire John Wall, transcendent girls' hoop player Brittney Griner, Olympic-hopeful runner Jordan Hasay and larger-than-life BMX pro Garrett Reynolds.
Typically, we'd run down why we chose them and look ahead to what we think the future holds. But this year we're trying something new. Rather than give our predictions about these athletes' futures -- and the future of high school sports in general -- we're giving them the chance to look into the crystal ball.
ESPN RISE: What would be the dream scenario for your future?
Hasay: The dream scenario would be to continue to run well in college (at Oregon), improve my times and hopefully help the team win some national titles. Then I'd like to run professionally, and obviously the Olympics is the major goal. That's the way I'd see it progressing.
Good Counsel (Olney, Md.) linebacker Jelani Jenkins is the nation's No. 9 football recruit in the ESPNU 150. He has signed with defending national champ Florida, where he could see playing time right away. Click here for the full interview with Jelani Jenkins.
Mission College Prep's (San Luis Obispo, Calif.) Jordan Hasay is the nation's best distance runner. She's won multiple national titles in both cross country and track during her prep career, and she holds the high school record in the 1,500 (4:14.50). Click here for the full interview with Jordan Hasay.
Canyon Del Oro (Oro Valley, Ariz.) right-handed pitcher Kenzie Fowler is the nation's No. 1 softball recruit in the ESPNU player rankings. The nearly unhittable ace has signed with Arizona. Click here for the full interview with Kenzie Fowler.
Rowlett's (Texas) Marquise Goodwin is the nation's No. 1 boys' track recruit in the ESPNU DyeStat player rankings, he earned two gold medals (long jump and 4x100 relay) at the IAAF World Junior Championships in Poland last summer. Goodwin will compete in track and football at Texas. Click here for the full interview with Marquise Goodwin.
Though Garrett Reynolds is already a BMX veteran who finished fifth in the Dew Tour standings in 2008, you'll be hearing a lot more from him very soon. The Tom's River (N.J.) North senior stars in Nike 6.0's film, "Writing On The Wall." Click here for the full interview with Garrett Reynolds.
Already a YouTube legend thanks to her incredible dunking ability, Nimitz (Houston) 6-foot-8 center Brittney Griner is ready to elevate the women's game. The nation's No. 1 recruit will head to Baylor next year. Click here for the full interview with Brittney Griner.
John Wall is the most electrifying high school basketball player in the country. The Word of God (Raleigh, N.C.) point guard has Derrick Rose-type skills and looks like a sure-fire NBA star. He's rated No. 5 in the ESPNU 100. Click here for the full interview with John Wall.
Capistrano Valley left-handed pitcher Tyler Matzek is the nation's No. 1 baseball prospect in the ESPNU player rankings. He signed with Oregon, but he's also a potential first-round pick in June's MLB Draft. Click here for the full interview with Tyler Matzek.
Jenkins: Ultimately, a lot of money. That comes by being successful and having a great family. The plan is NFL and then business once my career is over. My dream team is the Washington Redskins because that's my home team and my favorite team.
Matzek: One day pitching in the major leagues and having a successful career and hopefully winning a World Series championship. That would be awesome. That's the ultimate goal.
ESPN RISE: Realistically, where do you see yourself in 5 to 10 years?
Wall: I do expect to be in the NBA and hopefully be a successful point guard in the NBA. Ever since I was little, that was my dream. It's gonna take hard work and dedication and time in college to make me a smarter and better player. It's up to me. Others can help, but I've gotta be the one to do it.
Reynolds: When I'm 28 I see myself probably -- hopefully -- doing the exact same thing: riding and chilling. But if I don't last that long or get hurt or something, I won't stress about it. Believe it or not, I'm 18 and young, but I already feel riding is starting to take a toll. But I'm going to try to go as long as I can. I'll hopefully be out there when I'm 40, hucking it.
Goodwin: I honestly see myself being a professional track athlete. I'm going to college next year and I'll probably graduate in four to five years. It's either join the workforce or become a professional athlete, and I'd rather be a pro athlete.
ESPN RISE: If for some reason your sport doesn't pan out, what do you want to do with your future?
Griner: I'd like to stay in sports, maybe as a coach or even a sports photographer or something like that. But mostly I'd like to be able to teach younger kids. Not just about the game of basketball, but teach them life lessons like (Tennessee coach) Pat Summitt and (Baylor coach) Kim Mulkey do.
Matzek: I wanted to be a doctor if I didn't play baseball, but getting your medical degree is a little difficult while playing a college sport. If something happens where I do go to college and I blow my arm out, I'll have a business degree. I just want to be successful.
Goodwin: Obviously, I'm going to graduate college. So if sports don't work out, I'll have something to fall back on. I always wanted to do something in architecture, but recently I've wanted to do something in kinesiology. My kinesiologist is really cool and offers me advice. He still gets to deal with sports and do something he likes.
ESPN RISE: Put yourself in charge of the high school sports world. What do you think needs to change the most?
Griner: I'd like to change the traveling schedule for girls' sports, not just basketball. Boys get a lot of exposure in most sports and girls don't get much exposure, and I think we should. There are girls now who would love to challenge the boys and compete against them, too. I think we could hold our ground head to head.
NCAA recruiting violations come in all shapes and sizes. Former Indiana coach Kelvin Sampson's impermissible phone calls and Florida State's sketchy online classes come to mind. But N.C. State freshman Taylor Moseley's Facebook page?
Those first two led to major sanctions for the universities. But what could Moseley -- who doesn't play sports for the Wolfpack -- have done to make his school's administration nervous?
He started a "John Wall PLEASE Come to N.C. STATE!!!!" Facebook page that had more than 700 members by the time he received a cease-and-desist letter from N.C. State out of concern the page violated NCAA rules.
Welcome to today's wild world of recruiting, where sites like Facebook and Twitter complement old-fashioned in-home visits and phone calls. All of a sudden, everyday fans have the ability to play roles in the recruiting process. Problem is, the NCAA doesn't look at these pages so innocently, claiming they are an attempt to influence where a recruit goes to school.
While it's safe to say someone like Wall won't base the biggest decision of his life on a Facebook group, there's no doubt the site has changed recruiting substantially. In addition to Moseley, diehards from Kentucky, Baylor, Duke and North Carolina all set up similar Facebook pages encouraging Wall to attend their schools.
Then there's Jelani Jenkins, who says he received 50 friend requests from students at different colleges.
"As soon as I'd add one, they'd send a long message about why I should pick their school," says Jenkins, who eventually signed with Florida.
Brittney Griner used Facebook to do some investigating of her own. By checking out the pages of prospective teammates, Griner determined Baylor to be the best fit for her.
While that type of interaction seems to be here to stay, it remains to be seen what the NCAA will do about Facebook recruiting. The N.C. State compliance director who sent the letter to Moseley told The Associated Press that the NCAA should address the issue more thoroughly.
What happens next is anyone's guess. Given the nature of the Internet, by the time the NCAA acts, chances are college sports fans will have moved on to something else.
Goodwin: I think people should start testing for steroids and drug use in general because a lot of that goes on in the (high school) sports world. When we were trying out for the USA team, if you were going on the trip to Poland you had to take a drug test. If you have to cheat to win, it doesn't mean as much as if you did it on natural abilities and hard work.
Hasay: I'd like to see more overall coverage of high school running. It's starting to get better. Running gets a lot of coverage on the Internet, but it's really nice to have it in written form, in magazines and newspapers. It doesn't get as much coverage because it's just high school, but that can be really exciting. We're all just in it for fun, not for the money, and I think that's really cool.
ESPN RISE: What do you think is the biggest challenge facing high school sports?
Goodwin: The number of really good athletes is decreasing. People don't want to work as hard anymore and they complain. In the future, there probably won't be as many good athletes because they won't work as hard. The world is getting lazy.
Jenkins: I think a lot of high schools should learn how to deal with the recruiting process. I know at that age, kids aren't really mature. The way my father taught me was to only say the positives about things. A lot of kids, they don't exactly think about what they say before they say it. I know that's a problem because a lot of people in the media are trying to make money. If you say something wrong, they're going to make it the next front-page article. In terms of recruiting, they should have a recruiting specialist on how to deal with recruiting sites. A lot of kids are too trusting.
Griner: Girls staying healthy and not getting injured as much. In women's basketball, I've seen so many ACL tears, so that's a big challenge. Hopefully, something will change so it won't happen as much. For me, it's a matter of working on your knees. Something as simple as getting a resistance band and working your legs out and building up the muscles. Then when you're making cuts and fast stops, you won't hurt your ACL.
ESPN RISE: How do you think high school sports will be different for the next generation of stars?
Jenkins: I think they're going to become a lot bigger and faster than they are now. A lot of high school teams will try to incorporate what colleges do now. You already see the spread offense, which is successful. I think whatever is popular in the NFL or college, they'll start using it. I haven't heard of the A-11 offense, but it sounds crazy. In my head, I'm trying to think how I'd stop it.
Reynolds: I definitely think action sports will continue to grow. I've seen it grow the last five years. I remember living in Toms River, and I'd have to ride alone if my friends couldn't get a ride over to me or I couldn't get a ride to them. Now there's kids riding everywhere. I always get psyched when I see kids riding. I never had kids riding who lived near me.
Fowler: I don't know if it would be any different, and I hope it won't be any different. Everyone goes through the same experiences, regardless of sport.
ESPN RISE: How do you think these tough economic times will impact the future of high school sports?
|The Wildcat is now popular in the NFL, is the A-11 offense the next big thing?|
Matzek: I don't think the economy is going to affect high school sports. It might a little, but I don't see it that much. What I could see is that it's going to be harder for people to pay to play on their high school teams. I've heard of kids not being able to play on their teams because of the price. It's sad to see and it's sad to hear about, but that's how it is. I could see more of that in the future.
Fowler: The only way I could see it affecting high school sports is traveling. Say we want to go to a California tournament, we might not be able to go there because of the economy. It would be a bummer because traveling in general with your teammates can be fun. Traveling to a new environment and facing new competition is what sports are all about.
Reynolds: I think the economy could help action sports. When I stopped playing sports, my mom was psyched. She said, "I don't have to pay for all these leagues. I don't have to drive you around or schedule everything around you anymore."
Sorry, football traditionalists, but a big change is brewing that makes conventional offenses like the I-formation and West Coast offense seem ancient.
The University of Florida has used the spread offense -- a no-huddle formation that spreads the field with multiple-receiver sets -- to win two national titles in three years. And this past NFL season, the Miami Dolphins utilized the Wildcat formation -- a set that allows the running back to take direct snaps -- to earn a trip to the playoffs.
As impactful as the spread and Wildcat have been, neither can match the ingenuity of an offense created by Piedmont (Piedmont, Calif.) head coach Kurt Bryan and his offensive coordinator, Steve Humphries.
Two years ago, Bryan and Humphries realized they needed to design a creative offense to compete against larger schools. So they came up with the A-11, a formation in which all 11 players are potentially eligible on any given play. The Highlanders went 15-7 while using the A-11 and brought newfound excitement to their program and the high school football world.
But that excitement was quelled a few months after Piedmont lost to Fortuna (Fortuna, Calif.) in the first round of the playoffs this past fall. The National Federation of State High School Associations ruled the formation unsportsmanlike because it skirted a loophole in the rules. The NFHS responded by tweaking its rules to state there could be only six potentially eligible receivers on downs 1-3, effectively ending the A-11's two-year run.
Humphries and Bryan are working with the California Interscholastic Federation to bring back the A-11 this fall as part of a three-year experiment. But whether or not the A-11 returns, Humphries believes offensive schemes are headed for even bigger changes.
"No matter what they do to us," he says, "there is definitely going to be an evolution in football they can't stop."
ESPN RISE: What is one change you'd like to see made to recruiting?
Wall: I don't think it's a good idea that you can recruit sixth- or seventh graders and offer them scholarships. That's a little too early. That's crazy. You don't know how these kids will turn out. I think ninth grade is pretty good to start. By then you've hit high school and you might be at the varsity level. Otherwise, you can get a big head and if you don't turn out to be that good, everyone's on you.
Jenkins: I think that there should be a lot more programs to help with the recruiting process. They could use different programs at different camps. A lot of people pick teams for their uniforms or somebody who had a good year, like a trendy school, rather than look at the big picture like the academics or how they can help you get to the NFL.
Griner: Once you sign, I feel that you should be able to call the coach as many times as you want. And if they're at your game, you should be able to talk. I don't understand how you've already signed your letter, everyone knows you're going to that school, but they can't come to all your games. That's really strange.
ESPN RISE: How will technology impact high school athletes and recruiting?
Hasay: Facebook and things like that are a way for athletes to put themselves out there. I know there are recruiting websites where athletes can post videos of themselves. I think that's a positive for athletes to put their talent out there when they're not as well-known.
Matzek: Technology is going to make it easier to find players. I guess you could say it could be a problem because you could get too many people out there who aren't quality. There are a couple of pay sites out there, and there are guys who won't be able to get their name out there because they can't pay for that even though they are a better player.
Reynolds: I think a lot of [action athletes] who came up and got good and got sponsored, a lot of them started out by having Web videos. Now all you have to do is press the record button and make sure it looks decent. It's not really hard to film, so kids can now put out their own videos. When I was a kid we were like, 'It'd be so sick to make our own video.' Now anybody can.
ESPN RISE: What's going to become the biggest trend in high school sports during the next decade?
Wall: Better training. People are working out differently than before. Young kids watch how NBA players train or read about how NBA players train and are using that themselves. You're going to see more pro-style training among high school kids.
|Social networking is popular, but it could be a problem for future recruits.|
Fowler: I haven't seen much change from my freshman to my senior year, so I don't know why it would change that much in the future. Sports are sports, and I think it's always going to be like that. It's just what you make out of your experience.
Griner: Messaging on Facebook. It's already big, and the NCAA will probably try to make a rule on that if they haven't already tried. I think it should be allowed and I really think text messaging should be allowed. I'd rather have Facebook or texts than 100 people calling me.
ESPN RISE: Is there any lesson you learned during high school that will help you in your future?
Hasay: I've learned so many lessons from my coach, but the main one is patience. He's really taught me that. Being patient with my progress and workouts and knowing that one workout isn't going to make or break you. You can't run a world record every day.
Jenkins: I think with anything, if you have the chance to think something over, it's best to take the time to make sure you make the right decision, especially with college. College coaches have their own life, too. If they get offered more money to go somewhere else, they may just do that. Don't just choose a college because of a coach. Choose it because you'll be comfortable there for the next four years.
Reynolds: Every lesson I've learned is from riding. You learn so much from riding. You learn about life -- school hasn't taught me any street smarts. Most important thing I probably learned is you can't take anything seriously. I never take anything seriously and I never get stressed out in life.
Jon Mahoney and Ryan Canner-O'Mealy cover high school sports for ESPN RISE Magazine. Ben Sylvan is the Editor-at-Large for ESPN RISE Magazine.