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Local coaches sound off on middle school NCAA recruitment

Lawton_Many kids dream of playing college basketball from an early age.  They attend elite summer camps, and play at AAU Youth Tournaments.  When they go to the events, college coaches have been able to approach them for recruitment.  However, a new rule the NCAA recently passed could change all of that.

When it comes to recruiting, coaches know who they want on their team, and some coaches see potential in students at middle school level.  However, some say putting so much emphasis on sports at such a young age can get kids' priorities out of line.  When you love to play basketball, you may do anything it takes for the opportunity to play for a Division 1 team, and it seems college coaches may do whatever it takes to recruit those players who they deem worthy.  "There's a lot of focus on AAU," says Basketball Coach Phoebe Dunn.  "I think that the kids are now starting to think if they are not part of an AAU team that they are not as good as the rest of the kids."

Several kids in seventh grade and above attend elite camps and clinics, and recruiters were allowed attend, too, until the NCAA decided the age groups coaches were recruiting weren't ready for it.  "When kids are in seventh and eighth grade, I think it is hard for them to focus on anything really at that point," said Dunn. 

Local coaches think focusing solely on sports in middle school is not an option.  "Academics is important at this time, and I don't think that the coaches and institutions should be able to talk to the students if they are in the seventh and eighth grade," said Coach Steve Gonzalez.  Unfortunately they do, and that is why the NCAA changed its rules.  "Even here in Lawton I hear of kids talking about OU or OSU, or this person is going to come down because they know of a brother - or whatever the case may be," he said.

Some think that recruiters still will find a way around the system.  "If someone wants to get something done, they will always get it done."  7News spoke with an NCAA recruiter on Thursday, and the new rule applies only to men's basketball.  They say this is the one sport where they have seen the problems most frequently.

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