Player RankingsBy Alan Stein

I am 100% opposed to publicly ranking youth basketball players.  Why?  Too many players use rankings as a barometer of their value on the court, parents wear it like a badge of honor and coaches use it to pump up their own prowess.  Kids should play basketball for 2 reasons:

  1. They truly love the game
  2. They can use it as vehicle for unique life experiences (and a free education)

My eyes opened to the Player Ranking cult about a decade ago when the Washington Post ran a story claiming a Baltimore kid was the ‘best 10-year-old player in the country.’

I couldn’t believe it. 10 years old? Really?

First of all, how could you possibly claim a kid was the best 10-year-old unless you had seen every single 10-year-old play?

And what is the point of even trying to determine whom the best 10-year-old is? Who does that benefit? What positive could possibly come of that?

Why would anyone want to burden a 10-year-old kid with the pressure of being ‘the best’? Or 12-year-old. Or 14-year-old for that matter?

These are kids we are talking about!

Now, I am fine with naming All-American teams or even publicly ranking players right before their senior year in high school… but I believe in doing so as a way to recognize them for what they have already accomplished… not trying to prematurely predict their future.

But even then it is a slippery slope, as success is never guaranteed.

What 3 things do Shaheen Halloway and Kenny Gregory have in common?
  1. Both were the MVP of the McDonalds All-American game (Halloway in ’96 and Gregory in ’97)
  2. Both went undrafted in the NBA
  3. You have never heard of either of them
Publicized Internet Player Rankings are polluting youth basketball.

If a player is ranked really high, they often become complacent and get enabled by a swarm of vultures and hanger-on-ers who see this kid as their conduit to riches and fame.  Everyone in his entourage becomes a ‘yes man’ and kisses their butt.  How does that help their development and growth?

If a player is ranked low or not ranked at all, they often become frustrated and question the hard work they have already put in. Often times they become selfish players in order to ‘Go for mine’ when playing in tournaments and events.  They start playing THE game instead of playing THEIR game.

This selfish mentality happens to highly ranked players too… they know that if they don’t fill up the stat sheets their ranking will suffer.  The result is selfish play at most youth tournaments and AAU events.  Too much dribbling, forced shots and no extra passes – the exact opposite of how the game is supposed to be played!

If you want real insight to the dangers of player rankings, I highly recommend you read George Dohrmann’s book Play Their Hearts Out.

Going hand in hand with this infatuation with Player Rankings is the need for exposure.  After all, you need exposure to get ranked, right? How can you get ranked if no one ever sees you play?

I get a dozen emails a week asking me “what is the best way for me to get exposure?”

My answer?

Become the best player and teammate you can be, the exposure will follow.  If you can play – they will find you.

Players, parents, and coaches… I challenge you not to get caught up in the Player Rankings.
  1. Focus on development and daily improvement.
  2. Focus on getting better every day.
  3. Focus on the purity of the game.
  4. Focus playing because you are passionate about the game and you want basketball to help you earn an education, make lifelong friends, and travel to new places.

If you do that, everything else will fall into place.

As the legendary Morgan Wootten used to say…

“Make sure you use basketball, don’t let it use you.”

Player Rankings have already caused dissention in my home.  Several magazines and scouting services have my son Jack ranked #3 and his twin brother Luke ranked #7 in the class of 2028.

Maybe I should re-consider letting the ‘Born Backcourt’ play in the National U-5 AAU event in Las Vegas in July?

Respect the game,

Alan Stein
Hardwood Hustle Blog

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