Meaning of school lost on James

December 10, 2002|by TIM KOELBLE

Last I knew, high school was intended as a place of learning.

The priority level may be a little twisted in Akron, Ohio, for LeBron James, who has just begun his senior season of athletics at St. Vincent-St. Mary.

No doubt, he is the No. 1 basketball talent in the nation. Having seen the young man play, he's got the jukes, slashes, jumpers and slams all in one package.

Here I am talking about him, ready to criticize what has been said about him in his first three years, which has been hinging on the boarder of abnormality.


He's been given regular space in a Cleveland newspaper for his own daily journal. He's just recently had full-length features in New York and Miami, not to mention the hundreds of other locations. He's been a Sports Illustrated coverboy.

And now, ESPN2 gets into the mix Thursday night from Cleveland State University when it telecasts SV-SM going against Oak Hill (Va.) Academy, the No. 1-ranked team in the country by USA Today. And if you don't know it, the reason Dick Vitale is doing the game along with Bill Walton is via personal request of James. Otherwise, the game wouldn't be on the tube. And the home games of SV-SM are all scheduled via pay-per-view for $7.95 a game on Time Warner.

In the first two games, less than 1,000 have signed up for each game. Good! Everyone figured it would be a big TV hit.

The schedule they are playing includes various trips from Florida to Southern California. What about the other 11 players on the team? How does this work on them with their studies? They are going to have dollar signs flashing in front of them.

I fully expect James to pass on college. The lure of dollar signs from the NBA will be James' priority. The eyes of the prospective lottery teams in the NBA draft next year will triple in size. Here we go again, Darryl Dawkins, Moses Malone, Kevin Garnett et all who have made the big jump.

I don't care if James is the next coming of Michael Jordan.

Don't get me wrong, I love basketball and all other sports. Granted, James falls into the category of "once in a blue moon," when it comes to the star-status over-hype.

It's too late for James, but to all else, let's stick with the priorities in high school. Get an education. Everything else will fall into place.

Playoff fodder

Putting a personal close on the high school football season, let me put my two cents worth on paper.

The stirring question in front of the MPSSAA is the question of playoff expansion for next fall's high school football season.

Officials will most likely give you more reasons than not to expand from the current 32 teams, eight that qualify in each of the state's four classifications. Thoughts of adding an additional 32 are on the boiler. Splitting into an additional two classes is another boiler item.

Memo to the decision-makers:

With the enrollment figures for next year just released, maybe it is time for Maryland to go to six classes. How do you really expect a school like Hancock, enrollment 192, to compete in Class 1A with Oakland Mills, enrollment 794? I'm sure they are wondering.

Going from 8 to 16 in each of the current four classes is marginally acceptable.

I've not been around here long enough to know if the MPSAA is financially sound. In Ohio, the OHSAA has often been criticized as being money-hungry, where each of six divisions have 32 teams qualifying. That's more (192) playoff teams in the first round than total schools in the MPSSAA. And one good reason why there are plenty of blowouts in the first round, the same that Maryland is likely to see should it increase its playoff participation.

Based on what I saw covering games this season, the state won't get rich financially off added playoff games. Crowds were minimal at most games and barely reaching 3,000 for a state final won't bulk up the bank account.

I'm not familiar enough (yet) with the point system in Maryland, so I won't say anything good or bad about it. In noticing the enrollment figures, it's hard to understand why there aren't more schools in Maryland. Nearly 2,500 in one school (Blair)? Looks like there should be areas that need to be split, but that's another issue.

With as few schools as there are, I'm prone to leave the playoff system as is in Maryland.

Don't go adding teams and then cutting down the regular season just to benefit those making the post-season in lieu of not extending the season deep into December.

If the state went to six classes, then it needs to stay at eight teams per class for the playoffs. To those deciding the future, use caution when electing to add playoff teams. It may work out in the future and if it does, fine and dandy.

Then everyone can start figuring out how to get some fannies in the seats during the season.

Tim Koelble is a staff writer for The Morning Herald. His column appears every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2311, or by e-mail at

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