Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Wright Way - Straight, No Chaser #7

By: Sharone Wright

Sharone Wright was an All-state performer at Macon's Southwest high school as a McDonald's All-American. He played basketball for 3 years in the prestigious ACC conference at Clemson University where he is one of it's top 10 all-time players. Sharone was drafted 6th overall by Philadelphia in 1994 and also played for the Toronto Raptors. After 5 years in the NBA, he went to Europe as a player for 7 years and now coaches.



I’m a product of a basketball powerhouse in Macon Georgia called Southwest High school. It's a huge school and even bigger in sports history because of one man’s teachings.

Donald "Duck “Richardson was a father figure and a bball God to all people in the south. He changed lives with his teachings and his basketball knowledge. He was a cross between Bobby Knight, Attila the Hun and Vito Corleone. I still have night mares about some of the lessons that he taught me.

But ya know what, it all helped in becoming a man.

At these so called powerhouses it seems you had everything from equipment, shoes and different clothes and such. It was a good situation especially because it was hard time in the 80s and 90s. Everyone was struggling back then even more than now. It was like a boarding school but you got to go home. We even had study hall and Nike was a sponsor so we got free shoes, bags and clothes.

Before the AAU teams existed there were just programs that even played throughout the summer. If not for the Boston Shootout program back then, I’d probably would have spent my days in the Southwest gym all day throughout the summer. There were others too. Hyattsville Dematha, Mater Dei in California, Chicago's King High School, Jersey Cities St. Anthony High School, New York’s Christ the King High School, St Raymond's High school, Atlanta Douglas High School and so on. Only a handful of these were around back then.

But there is one school that you could say is an assembly line for NBA players.

Oak Hill Academy is the Ford Company of high school basketball and has a long history of producing great players.

I guess you could argue that they were already good players when they got to Oak Hill because they played on other high school programs and teams but I’m told Oak Hill can make or break you.

With Legendary Coach Steve Smith at the helm, they've amassed one heck of a record in his tenure.

He's had incredible success.

• National Champs: 1993, 1994, 1999, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2007
• Runners-Up: 1990, 1992, 2000, 2002, 2006, 2009

In basketball life, everyone knows that you can be the best coach in the world but if you don’t have players you'll never be successful. I agree.

That’s why you have to recruit well. But when you’re at Oak Hill, you don’t have to spend a lot of time recruiting because your success will attract the best players.

Let’s name a few:

Carmelo Anthony- New York Knicks
Michael Beasley – Minnesota T-Wolves
Sagana Diop – Charlotte Bobcats
Kevin Durant – Oklahoma City Thunder
Stephen Jackson – Charlotte Bobcats
Brandon Jennings – Milwaukee Bucks
Ty Lawson – Denver Nuggets
Rajon Rondo – Boston Celtics
Josh Smith – Atlanta Hawks
Jerry Stackhouse – Former first round pick of the Philadelphia 76ers

Let's not forget the great Rod Strickland!

It's players like these that made Oak Hill a pipeline for greatness.

Nowadays it’s the AAU program and its greediness that conquers high school ball.

It’s amazing to see how much of these kids and parents get exploited.

If you have a kid that’s a very good ball player, 9 times out of 10 your kid will be on an AAU team and will be treated like a king. I’ve seen it as an AAU coach.

I know some of these coaches and programs are out for the good of the kids but not many. It’s almost as bad as the shoe companies. The shoes companies are exploiting kids as well. It’s because of them why it's easy for families and coaches to trade kids off for shoes, money and gear.

It’s ridiculous when you think of it but it’s a real thing. Nike and Adidas are waging a real war to get the best talent in America. They go as far as visiting middle school games and rec league games.

I think that's going too far, unless you have parents that don’t care and only think about money and prestige. But for the parents like me who also want my kids to enjoy the game and learn the game, we know and want better.

What’s behind the New York Gauchos, Atlanta Stars, Atlanta Celtics, Alabama Ice, Riverside Church, Lebrons AAU squad or Dwayne Wade’s? Well it may be money or it may be for the betterment of the kids. Check the bank accounts of the coaches and handlers and you’ll find out.

But what’s crazy is that it doesn’t have to be this way.

I think all of the good coaches and programs are dead now. I know my own high school program is shot now. No more high school all Americans, no great teams and no more packed gyms complete with scouts drooling.

Holiday tournaments that meant something are gone and the real teaching of the game is non existent. The hoop scoop magazine and BC camps are all over in the south.

Gone are Nike ABCD camps that showcased players like myself, Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Penny Hardaway and Grant Hill. We'll never have an opportunity to see this kind of basketball ever again. Nor will we see the grueling summer camps that either made you into a real player or broke you.

Will we ever see another Don Richardson (Southwest Macon), Morgan Wooten (Dematha), Bob Hurley Sr (St Anthony’s), Steve Smith (Oak Hill)?

These coaches are rare and legendary in that they teach the game in a unique and old school way and they aren't compromised like AAU handlers and coaches are.

I’m not saying older school coaches didn’t or don’t enjoy little perks, but it’s no way to the extent that the coaches and AAU guys are doing now. I'm all for saving the game from being exploited this way and what better than to go where it starts. The high school ranks.

I know Dr. Naismith would roll over in his grave if he knew how it’s become. Of course that would be after he cashes his billion dollar check for inventing the great game of basketball.

To me it’s like the being at an auction and bidding on players that are just teenagers.

I'll bid $60,000 on that Lebron Kid from Ohio.

Going once, going twice? Sold!!!!!!!!!!!!!

To the man named Phil Knight in the corner.

Straight no chaser.



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