- Myron Medcalf, ESPN Staff Writer
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MINNETONKA, Minn. -- They never identified themselves, and their phone numbers were always blocked. But when they called Diamond Stone’s home, they were clear with their threats.
The intimidating correspondences were designed to steer the No. 2 prospect in the 2015 class per RecruitingNation to their favorite schools -- the nasty side of the recruiting battle for America’s best players.
“Sometimes we get phone calls, threats [from] college fans … ‘Come to my school’ and sometimes they just hang up,” said Stone, who competed at the NY2LA tournament in the Minneapolis suburbs over the weekend. “One time, [they said], ‘If you don’t choose this school, something will happen.’ It’s insane.”
The entire grassroots scene and recruiting culture are mired in controversy.
There are too many AAU/high school coaches attempting to sway kids for personal gain.
There are too many shoe companies with unrivaled power.
There are too many parents placing unrealistic expectations on their children.
There are too many college coaches promising more scholarships than they can legitimately deliver.
And there are too many players making false assumptions about their talents off one or two performances.
One AAU coach recently emailed a note about a player that included this gem: “Plus, he can dunk.”
The AAU scene often produces more highlights than genuine, quality basketball. And things can get messy along the margins of gyms that host these events when the talented players are sometimes treated more like currency than people.
But the purity that remains is tied to the notion that young athletes are auditioning for college coaches who have the ability to help them develop and grow on the next level. Both sides benefit. Plus, fans and coaches have the opportunity to assess the potential of players who could reach their respective campuses soon.
The frenzy that surrounds some of these elite prospects, however, can lead to bizarre behavior, as Stone’s situation proves.
Threats against a teenager?
The coward(s) that has harassed the elite prospect, a player who’s received interest from every high major program in the country, represents college basketball fanaticism at its worst.
The incidents also demonstrate the ugliness that the recruiting game can entail for young men seeking the complicated balance between playing basketball, executing in school and enjoying their youth.
But it’s difficult to avoid the static.
Social media has created an unfiltered pipeline to these kids.
And in good times, it’s a tool that’s often used to attract those players.
And in bad times, it can become a cesspool of hatred that’s directed toward 16- and 17-year-olds who deserve better.
“That’s just craziness. That’s just America,” said Bob Stone, the father of Diamond Stone. “It gets crazy, man. …. He gets all kinds of crazy stuff. Tweets [like] ‘[Diamond], what’s cocaine like?’ Crazy stuff.”
Both Bob Stone and Diamond Stone discussed the incidents in a nonchalant manner.
They did not seem too concerned. They view them as an innate component in the recruiting game.
They expect that nonsense.
And that’s the problem.