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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Friday, September 05, 2014

My thoughts on the UConn/Mo'Ne Davis situation

When I heard Geno Auriemma mention that an unnamed school contacted the American Athletic Conference to claim he committed a recruiting violation with his call to congratulate groundbreaking Little League star Mo'Ne Davis, I figured the story and blog would create some immediate buzz and then that is where it would stop.

That's a major oops on my part and UConn announced yesterday that the NCAA ruled the call to be a recruiting violation even though Auriemma isn't actually recruiting Davis and admitted that he has no idea is she can even play.

The popular refrain is to unload on the school making the complaint and while I'm fine with that due to the utter absurdity of this story, I have some other thoughts.

First, if there is to be blame assignment perhaps starting with the UConn compliance department would be a good place. As Auriemma said and UConn AD Warde Manuel confirmed in the statement the university released yesterday, the Hall of Fame coach checked with compliance officer/officers to see if it would be an issue if he were to call down to Little League headquarters to congratulate the 13-year-old Davis, who went on national television to say her ultimate athletic goal is to be the starting point guard on one of Auriemma's UConn teams. Had due diligence been practiced Auriemma would have been advised to tread carefully so when he called down to Williamsport to leave his message for then to be passed onto Davis, perhaps he would not have been quite so quick to suggest they hand the phone to Davis. Auriemma could have told them 'here is my number and if she wants to call me, that is fine.' If that had occurred, no secondary violation would have been committed.

The part of this story that I feel most compelled to address is the foregone conclusion that Davis will be good enough to play at a school like UConn. Maybe she will be the next big thing in women's basketball in a few years and will be part of a full-court press by the powerhouse programs to secure a commitment from her but history suggests something different could end up happening.

I've covered my share of events involving 12 and 13 years olds. Back in 1989 as a recent college graduate I was the sports editor of the now-defunct Trumbull Reporter and my first assignment featuring an overnight stay was coverage of the Trumbull National's run to the 1989 Little League World Series title.

How many of that star-studded team ended up playing professional baseball? Well, to my knowledge Chris Kelly (who played for a few seasons in the St. Louis Cardinals' organization) is the only one. Of course, had Chris Drury chosen baseball instead of becoming a Stanley Cup champion during a distinguished  pro hockey career, maybe he would have made it to the majors. Success as 12 and 13 year olds does not mean that they will be the next Justin Verlander or Mike Trout.

Using an example more pertinent to the girls' basketball universe, in 2001 the AAU 12-and-under national tournament came to New Haven and surrounding communities. Just out of curiosity I dug up the rosters from some of the top teams playing in that event. Those players would be in their mid 20s and be playing in the WNBA, right?

Well, the champions Memphis Lady Hawks team featured players who played collegiately at Harding, Austin Peay, Arkansas State and North Alabama.

The biggest name on the roster of national finalist Maryland Mystics is head coach Keith Brown, the former coach at Georgetown. Paulisha Kellum, a former star at Virginia, is the player whose name I first recognized with other players from that team landed at North Carolina Central and Wofford.

There was an interesting note that each of the teams had a player who would eventually play for Jose Fernandez at South Florida as Alexis Givands played for the Lady Black Hawks and Porcha Grant was a member of the Mystics.

The Fairfax Stars, who finished tied for fifth, included players who played at Towson, Longwood, Rider and Maine.

So basically that is a long-winded way of saying that the next couple of years could be a lifetime for a prospect like Davis. If she proves to be as good on a basketball court as a 15-year-old as she was with a baseball in her hand when she was 13 then I am sure I will be writing about her again as a UConn recruiting target but those assuming that she will one day be a member of the Huskies of Honor are certainly jumping the gun just a little bit.

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