I have to say that this article, published on HoopsWorld.com, and written by Steve Kyler, really hit home with me. When the article discusses “runners”, these are guys I’ve dealt with and interacted with many times when scouting a player or teams:
A “runner” – an employee of the agent gets close to the player and his family – makes the initial relationship. When it’s time for the athlete and the family to make the decision, a lot of times the runner acts as an intermediary feeding informed information to the family about what teams are scouting the player and what teams may have the player in their rankings.
Yes, and those guys are the ones completely unregulated by the NCAA, and they try to get close to kids and eventually get a payoff. When you are a lifelong fan of basketball, you tend to see athletes from their televised games, and that’s usually when their presence has reached a much higher maturity. NBA players have to be really polished, comfortable in interviews, articulate. That’s something that a lot of us learn as we become adults, we shed the slang and sometimes self-conscious speech of our teenage years and become confident and communicative. But high school basketball players are kids, regardless if they are 6’8″ and can dunk like madmen, they still are teenagers. Most players I’ve personally met are actually polite and respectful, something I’m not sure could have been said about myself at their age.
But teenagers don’t have the world experience of adults. One thing you learn as you actually move out from school age to ‘real life’ is an ability to survive a very harsh world, and these ‘runners’ are slick talkers who can get into a kid’s good graces all too easily. For many young players who come from meager backgrounds, they have very little knowledge of their own real worth and very little understanding of how to find out things like if they actually have an NBA career ahead of them, or whether they are really on a coach’s radar. Many players and their families whom I’ve met don’t know basic things like the fact that college coaches don’t scout players by reading your local paper’s box score. When a guy shows up at their kid’s game and tells them he knows a couple of college coaches (which he likely does), the parents and the kid think they’ve gotten lucky and that this guy is the only person who can land them a big time scholarship.
This can be disasterous when players have a legitimate shot at a pro career. Even players who are talented enough to land on an NBA roster can miss out, especially if they are not prepared or if they are not talented enough to really make a splash in the NBA. That won’t stop the hangers-on from filling kids’ heads with visions of dollar signs and SportsCenter highlights:
Beyond the top three prospects this year – John Wall, Derrick Favors and Evan Turner – the next ten players could go in any combination of orders, and while “a runnner” may say “Dude you’re a lock for the top 19” there is no truth or substance to those claims.
That doesn’t stop players from making a bad decision on an empty promise. Have you ever asked yourself, what is this kid thinking?
The article goes on to explain a bit about how players can get paid even while in high school and college, and there’s not much the NCAA will do about it. It’s a huge gaping hole in the system, this part is 100% true:
Let’s make one thing clear: whether directly or indirectly, most of the college players projected in the top 100 have an agent or someone involved with an agent in their lives and likely have had that since AAU basketball.
It’s hard for young players to understand what they’re involved in and even harder for kids who come from families without a lot of good parental guidance.
Read the full article here.