Times are changing. Sports at all levels have evolved and adapted, leaving parents, players, and coaches left to learn on the fly. Transferring or changing teams is the kneejerk reaction to any tinge of adversity. Loyalty is becoming a rarity. These observations wouldn’t be a big deal if they were paying dividends for the players, but that simply isn’t the case. Folks are being sold a dream by a salesman rather than a realistic vision from a trusted source. Too many parents are comfortable being uninformed and blindly handing over their child’s future to strangers. How can this be prevented? Research. It sounds obvious, but it’s a practice that has continually declined over the recent years. Now, the best promises or biggest wad of cash is all it takes to secure a talented prospect. Do those promises come true? Maybe. Is the money worth potentially mortgaging your future? Who knows. We aren’t going to sit here and pretend like individuals should be turning away massive dollar amounts, but there are a lot of real problems with how things are trending right now.

Before any of this can somehow get misconstrued, let’s establish that everyone is free to make their own choices. Nothing stated here is meant to talk about any specific people or attempt to influence anyone to do anything. The primary takeaway and overarching point is doing research to make informed decisions. You wouldn’t walk onto a used car lot and purchase a vehicle without being thorough, so why would that be the case when making a possible life-altering decision? While the concept of “handlers” is nothing new, parents have to stop putting so much stock into folks with their own agendas. However, the opposite is also true. Uninformed parents can be as detrimental as informed crooks.

This problem, like most, starts at the top—the NBA. Too many people see star talents teaming up and think, “we can implement this.” In reality, the teams that have success have one thing in common: cohesion. Everyone was so determined that the Phoenix Suns were going to break the league after getting Bradley Beal, but the result was exactly what should’ve happened. Three talented players with overlapping skillsets, poor cohesion, and not enough surrounding help inevitably underperformed. Really not surprising. So, when the same thing happens at the high school/travel ball level, why are we confused?

Anyone who wishes to ask about programs like Montverde or IMG Academy are merely proving the whole idea of cohesion. Those coaches piece together teams based on fit, not just attempting to accumulate the most notable names. Let’s be clear, talented players will always want to play with other talented players. This is not advocating for public, private, or independent teams (or circuit/non-circuit), merely imploring people to avoid hitting the road when things don’t go exactly the way they planned.

Consider when Kobe and Keyshaun Langley went to Wesleyan Christian for their respective junior seasons. They joined Jaylen Hoard (former NBA), Aaron Wiggins (Oklahoma City Thunder), Khyre Thompson (UNCG), Shawn Walker Jr. (George Washington/Mercer/Murray State), Drew Greene (UVA Wise/Bethel/Milligan), and Deandre Wilkins (Wagner). They had a highly successful season, yet still fell short to Greensboro Day in the championship. The team had everything from high-level players to coaching to depth at every position, but it still wasn’t enough. Coincidentally, they go back to Southwest Guilford the following season and made their mark in history—ultimately becoming one of the best teams across the last decade. Not everyone can be the Langley’s, but everyone can learn from their journey.

There are countless other examples. Imagine if Ja Morant left Crestwood or transferred from Murray State after his freshman season. Would everything unfold in the same manner? We will never know. But we do know that he stayed put, embraced the situation, and positioned himself to be one of the NBA’s big stars. What if Isaiah Evans left North Mecklenburg? Would he have been able to showcase the same level of dominance? Being in a position where you can play, develop, and succeed should matter more than everything else. What’s the point of sending your child to a school or travel ball team that has a track record of players being unprepared or unsuccessful in the collegiate ranks? How many times must we see the same thing before realizing your kid is more likely to follow a similar path rather than be an exception to the rule? Again, doing research is the bottom line. Looking into where you are sending your son/daughter, seeing if the coach/program has success, and (most importantly) how their players perform at the next level.

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