Are ratings overrated?

18 06 2009

A topic that keeps coming up from time to time is that of ratings and rankings. We’ve heard you ask, “What does it mean to be a three-star prospect?,” and “How do I get ranked?,” and “If I’m not rated as highly as my teammate, will I get overlooked?” These are all great questions. I came across an article recently that should shed a little bit of light onto the relative absurdity of rankings and I’ll share that with you in a minute. But first, recall a few things we’ve discussed in the past:

  1. Every coaching staff has their own criteria for evaluating players.
  2. What might be important to one staff may not be important to another (rankings included).
  3. Most staffs are trying to answer the same three questions about a prospect: what kind of player, person, and student are they?
  4. Recruiting is an inexact science that – like fashion (not that I know anything about fashion) – changes every year.
  5. Whether or not it’s fair or whether or not you like it, coaches often use rankings as an initial screening when evaluating prospects.
  6. If rankings are coming from a reputable source, like Rivals – who sees lots of quality athletes at their combines – then coaches are more apt to buy into the rankings and thus the hype surrounding the players.

But thankfully, that’s not the end of the story. For every coach that buys into the hype of rankings, there are an equal number of coaches who say, “Rankings are garbage. I want to know if you can play for my team.”

So where am I going with all this rambling?… right here: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/10/sports/10recruiting.html.

Earlier this spring the New York Times ran a great article about how first impressions can create unrealistic expectations for recruits. Oh wait, that’s actually the title of the article. Nice. At any rate… it details the prep careers of a few athletes, including Perry Dozier, Jr., the nation’s top rated point guard in his class. By the way, he’s in the sixth grade.

No offense at all to Perry (I’ve seen his film. He’s a great player.), but does anyone else find it absurd that a player in the sixth grade is having the weight of the world placed on his shoulders by grown adults who are placing this ranking on him? The same grown adults that have nothing to lose if poor Perry’s playing career doesn’t pan out as expected? Amazing.

Here’s what one Division I head coach had to say on the matter:

Georgia Tech Coach Paul Hewitt would rather not hear about players like Dozier until they are a few years older.

Each year, Hewitt saves lists of top-ranked high school seniors so he can check how many became stars. He is always struck by how many did not.

Hewitt said that if those projections could be so off-base, projections of elementary and middle school students should never be made. He said young players should develop at their own pace, without expectations.

But he knows his sentiment is not shared by all.

“Ranking these kids has become a sport of its own,” Hewitt said. “And let’s face it, it sells.”

The New York Times article was written in March, just two months after the NCAA lowered the school year a basketball player was considered a prospect from ninth grade to seventh grade. To read the full article (and you should), click here.

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