It is important to preface what I am about to say with a bit of context.
You aren’t likely to find a more traditional Indiana high school basketball fan than me. Class basketball? Hate it. The growing trend of kids transferring to prep schools? Not a fan. I wish Indiana high school basketball was still like it was in the late 80’s and early 90’s when I was growing up, but it isn’t — and it never will be again.
And you know what — that’s okay.
Sometimes, you have to be smart enough to realize the shortcomings of your own opinions. Sometimes, there is a larger context. Sometimes it isn’t just about basketball.
Every year, young students across the country are accepted into elite boarding schools to pursue academic endeavors. Parents of these high ability students jump at the chance to give their children a head start in life.
Every year, uniquely talented young artists are accepted into various pre-college programs such as the Juilliard School in New York.
The media coverage for such events, if there is any at all, is often a flowery, beaming-with-pride story about the local boy or girl about to go off to bigger and better things.
These aren’t ordinary kids. They are gifted, high-ability, unique talents that have the potential to reach heights in their particular endeavors that ordinary folks like you and me can only dream about. Almost universally, we support these kids and their parents in their efforts to pursue what they think is best for their respective futures.
But somehow, in Indiana, if a young, gifted high school basketball player decides to pursue their passion at a prep school, segments of the population lose their minds. And the media coverage? At least in some instances, it is frankly, well…embarrassing.
Take Tom Davis and the Fort Wayne News Sentinel. Before that publication showed their cowardice and changed the headline, this was their reaction to the rumors that local star and IU recruiting target Keion Brooks, Jr. was going to transfer to La Lumiere prep school:
“The Keion Brooks, Jr. Saga is Just the Latest in a Growing Line of Parental Neglect in Athletics”. (emphasis added)
Likely due to negative feedback from the family, local residents and just about anyone with an ounce of deceny, the News Sentinel changed the headline. It now reads “The Keion Brooks Jr. saga is just the latest in a growing line of troubling trends in athletics.”
Not good enough.
The new headline, while at least no longer ridiculous, is still wildly misguided. Whether for academics, the arts, or basketball, there is nothing troubling at all about a family doing what they think is best to help their son or daughter reach their dreams. Nothing.
That is the decision that was made by the Brooks family. Basketball isn’t really relevant here. A family decided what was best for their young gifted son. Period.
What is troubling is that a dying local newspaper struggling to be relevant would direct its click-bait driven agenda negatively towards a 17 year-old.
To be sure, it isn’t just the News Sentinel. While most of the responses to Keion Brooks, Jr.’s announcement on Twitter of his plan to attend La Lumiere were positive, there were of course responses like this one.
You expect the cheap shots from the cesspool that is the comment sections on social media — but not a news organization.
The News-Sentinel article begins with a trip down memory lane to a time (in the early 1970’s) when you are led to believe that high school basketball in Indiana was pure, and at its pinnacle. The reality is a bit different.
By the early 1970’s, high school consolidation was well underway. The likelihood of another Milan Miracle was more remote than ever, and the set of circumstances that would lead to class basketball were starting to take shape.
Things outside of the control of high school basketball players started changing the game then — and they are still changing the game today. Keion Brooks, Jr.’s decision to attend a prep school is in large part driven by something that didn’t exist in the early 1970’s — college freshmen entering the NBA.
The News-Sentinel article attempts to compare a player from Davis’ hometown in the early 70’s, Bruce Parkinson, to Keion Brooks, Jr. today.
Let’s be clear here — the situations couldn’t be more different. When he left Yorktown in 1972, Parkinson had no illusions of leaving college early for the NBA. While a talented player, he was no George McGinnis — the very rare player of his era that actually did leave early to play professionally. Parkinson was going to spend four years at Purdue (less than two hours from home), with plenty of time to grow up, develop his game, and figure out life.
There really would have been no reason for Parkinson, or just about any other player of his era to go to a prep school. Keion Brooks, Jr., on the other hand, has the potential to become a multi-millionaire in less than two years, and his personal and basketball development between now and then will determine whether that happens.
But the News Sentinel wants you to believe that there is something wrong with this, insinuating here that there is a problem with moving to a different school for basketball purposes:
“There is certainly nothing wrong with a young person attending La Lumiere School. It is one of the most prestigious academic environments that a student can immerse themselves. However, challenging academics play no part in this matter. This is a basketball decision, pure and simple, and anyone that disputes that is being naïve or ignorant or both.”
You know what? Who cares what is driving the decision. Keion Brooks, Jr. is gifted in a way that 99.99% of Indiana high school basketball players are not. Just like a gifted student or young artist, Brooks, Jr. and his family have very unique set of considerations before them that most of us quite simply cannot relate to.
In less than two years Brooks could realistically hear his name called in the 2020 NBA Draft. That’s one helluva leap from just wrapping up your junior year of high school. Many young professional athletes have crashed and burned in the face of such dramatic change.
Who are we to suggest that a kid in Brooks, Jr.’s position might not do well to have a change of scenery at a prep school to help him get ready for the coming chaos?
Not satisfied, the News Sentinel article continued.
“That is sad on the state level, but closer to home, what it also demonstrates is the continued practice that representing yourself is far more important than representing your community, which is exacerbated by self-aggrandizing adults.”
What? No, what we see here is a self-aggrandizing writer that lacks the ability to see the bigger picture here for Brooks, Jr. and his family. Brooks, Jr. isn’t your run-of-the-mill local Johnny Football, and he isn’t Bruce Parkinson.
This isn’t about representing your community, although Brooks, Jr. seems willing to attempt to do that in his own way based on his Tweet above.
Is it the right decision to transfer from Fort Wayne North Side to La Lumiere? We wouldn’t pretend to know what is best for Brooks, Jr. and his family — and that is the whole point. This is their own personal decision, and their own unique set of circumstances. Keion Brooks, Sr. summed up the family decision in three words:
Comfortable being uncomfortable
— Keion Brooks (@keion_brooks) August 3, 2018
The point is that big changes are in front of Keion Brooks, Jr., and he’d do well to start getting comfortable with being uncomfortable sooner rather than later. Otherwise he could end up like the real “Johnny Football” — Johnny Manziel.
There are most certainly pros and cons to the decision to go to a prep school. What makes sense for Keion Brooks, Jr. and his family perhaps wasn’t as compelling to Romeo Langford. Neither made the wrong choice, because it was the right choice at the time for them and their respective families.
It isn’t about basketball, and it isn’t about someone’s fanciful memories of the glory days. I wish Keion Brooks, Jr. wanted to win Mr. Basketball and be an Indiana All-Star more than worrying about the NBA right now — but he doesn’t, and that’s just fine. The world isn’t coming to an end, and a spot on the All-Star team just opened up for someone else.
Just like they were in the early 1970’s — times are changing — and families are sitting at home at their kitchen tables planning for the future.
When you distill it down, that’s really all this is about. And some people just need to start getting comfortable with being uncomfortable with that.
(Note: Bruce Parkinson was drafted but never played in the NBA)
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