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For the last two weekends I have had to battle through crowds at St. John s University, had to fight for my supposedly reserved seat along press row and basically had to deal with a bunch of yahoos I have never seen before during my 14 years as a high school sports reporter.
Who are these people? I pondered aloud as I strolled into the once (and perhaps soon to be again) legendary confines of Alumni Hall, taking in a sea of humanity who made the trek from Brooklyn and a couple of the other boroughs, Im sure, to catch the next big thing, Lincoln High Schools own Sebastian Telfair.
Maybe its the sheer delight in having someone from our neighboring borough be touted as the next LeBron James that made the masses flock to the court Lou Carnesecca and another Brooklyn kid, Chris Mullin, made famous.
Or maybe it was just the sheep following the herd.
I watched the conclusion of Lincolns five-point win over archenemies Grady from one of the walkways above the court, where I had a pretty good view of everything. Seriously, Alumni Hall hasnt jumped that much since Lavor Postell graduated.
The game was pretty much what everyone expected, a close contest between two schools that split their two regular-season games (Grady finished first in the Brooklyn 1-A standings, Lincoln second). But those who showed up to catch an awe-inspiring performance from the latest prep star to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated probably left a little disappointed.
Telfair, a McDonalds All-American, only scored a less-than-whopping 13 points one more than he managed a week earlier in a win over Boys & Girls in the quarterfinals. But a win is a win, and the next big thing got his team to the finals, as expected.
After the final buzzer sounded, I made my way to the court and sauntered over to midcourt, where a large half-circle of ravenous media had gathered around Telfair, who sat on one of the press row tables while giving a live interview over the radio.
I couldnt help but smile to myself at the scene. Heres an 18-year-old kid who has the media at his feet, fighting to hear every word uttered from his lips like it were Gospel, a kid who up to this point in time hasnt really done much with his life except play basketball really well.
This is by no means a shot at Telfair, who I dont really know at all, but at how completely whacked out of our gourds the media has become when it comes to covering high school hoop talent.
I have always been of the mindset that high school kids are just that kids. And it would be one thing if all this attention were heaped only on players like LeBron and Sebastian in their senior seasons, where the very real possibility of being selected in the NBA Draft exists. But thats not the case.
Kids like Telfair are lavished with attention for years leading up to this moment, when their high school careers come to a close and the big dollars are just around the corner.
And I dont blame them for grabbing the cash. This country made LeBron James a multimillionaire while he was still in high school and I guess that kind of thing will continue. Im sure the moment Telfair decides to skip college and go straight to the NBA someone with a bag full of loot and a new pair of sneakers will be knocking on his door.
I even heard that one New York sports writer is working on a book about Telfair. A book? Hes still in high school, for Petes sake. What the heck are you going to fill a book with, his elementary school box scores?
Its not the money or even the fame that I find a bit unnerving but rather the sycophants who surround kids like Telfair. The road to basketball ruin is littered with players who started believing the hype whispered in their ears by friends and advisers and the headlines splashed across the sports pages of all the newspapers in town. I just hope Telfair isnt one of them.
I dont want Telfair to fail. I have no ax to grind at all here. But the lions share of players who went straight to the NBA out of high school were big and athletic guys like Darryl Dawkins, Kevin Garnett, Tracy McGrady, Darius Miles, Eddie Curry and, of course, James.
Telfair doesnt fit into that mold. Hes a point guard who is listed as 6-feet tall, and while he has more basketball ability in his pinkie toe than most mere humans have in their entire bloated bodies, his ascent straight to the league might be a little more trouble than it was for those who went before him.
But that doesnt matter, either. Someone a lot smarter than me made the point that most NBA general managers would rather take a gamble on a player as highly touted as Telfair than risk the chance that they blew an opportunity to select a basketball immortal.
So even though Telfair is still committed to Louisville and hasnt made up his mind yet, most people seem to believe he is NBA-bound. And I wish him well.
But he has to remember that no one in the league will be awed by him, no one will be singing his praises after shooting 4-for-11 and everyone is just as good as he is, no matter what his friends are telling him.
Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 130.
©2004 Community Newspaper Group
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