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True Confessions - Rating High School Basketball Talent is Far from a Science

Correspondent
January 23, 2010 - 3:48pm

Unless theres a team doing interventions for womens basketball writers, then Im just going to have to do this on my own. Yes, Im going to have to face up to the truth, and as my sixth-grade teacher suggested on my report card, I need to look at myself under a cold, harsh light.

OK. Ive taken the deep breath. I straightened up in the chair. Here it goes: Im not nearly as good as I think I am when it comes to evaluating high school talent.

There. I feel much better. I dont know if that does much for any of the players Ive doubted, but then again, most of them probably havent read a word Ive written and are as likely to know their mailmans name as mine. Still, its time to fess up, though I don't know if others will be willing to join me in taking the plunge.

For example, I thought Jasmine Dixon was too much of a tweener to succeed at the BCS level. After transferring from Rutgers, and becoming eligible after the first semester, Dixon is averaging 12.7 points per game, 7.9 rebounds per game, is shooting 47.8 percent from the field and has more assists than turnovers.

I was convinced Abi Olajuwon would never be effective at the BCS level. Right now, shes averaging 12.4 points per game and 6.4 boards per game for Oklahoma which is more points than Amanda Thompson averages for the Sooners, and I thought Thompson was going to be awesome.

I thought Brittainey Raven would be an All-American at Texas, a flat-out superstar, who would lead the Longhorns to glory. Sure, Raven is averaging 15.5 points per game, but shes only started seven of 17 games, and isnt exactly on track to make the Olympic team.

I thought Lindsey Moore would rip it up at Nebraska, and though shes started all 16 games as a freshman, shes shooting just 26.9 percent.

And I had my doubts about Sammy Prahalis, whos merely the successor to Sue Bird as Americas point guard.

Of course, I do get some right. The tall girl at Baylor whats her name again? I figured that one out, but that was about as difficult as determining that the sun rises in the east. I thought Nneka Ogwumike and Tiffany Hayes would be tremendous college players, and I loved Skylar Diggins game.

I could go back over the years, and find the hits and misses, but I guarantee Ive erased a lot of the misses from my fading memory, and held on tight to the ones Ive gotten right.

And thats part of the point of this column: We all think were better than we are, but unless we write down our predictions, and then go back and check, well convince ourselves we make many fewer mistakes than we actually do. (I kept going after one New York message board poster to tell me one player he hadnt evaluated correctly, and all he could come up with was Nicole Kaczmarski, who had come out of high school a decade before our frank exchange of views. So I guess he had been perfect for 10 years, but was still selling insurance rather than scouting for a BCS team or the pros.... Go figure.)

The other important aspect of this whole rating game is that no one should take the predictions too seriously. In the end, all the players get to prove it on the court, whether at the college or pro level, and thats where the real decisions are made. I would suspect that my percentage is probably a little better than someone who hasnt been around as long, but there will be times that a 22-year-old newbie will nail an evaluation, and Ill be wandering around in the ozone, thinking the athlete in question cant play at all.

This is exacerbated, of course, by the fact that even the most diligent follower of the sport -- even the pros, whether here or at Hoopgurlz or any of the high school rating services such a Blue Star and others -- often dont see the girls more than a couple of times. And we all know players who can only be appreciated after many viewings, and others whose flaws are not immediately apparent.

In the end, everyones wrong some of the time, and everyones right some of the time. And the only way it ever gets sorted out is out on the floor, where the cold harsh light of reality casts distinct shadows, and dispels opinions like the flimsy fog they really are.