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Wednesday, June 19, 2014: How young is too young to be recruited?
Leading off today: I had put aside a couple of enterprise pieces from the last week or so that I'd intended to start rolling out today, but I guess they can wait a little bit in light of the fact that Bucky Gleason of The Buffalo News came through with an interesting column topic Wednesday that dovetails nicely with one of the big stories of the week.
Lucy Li, all of 11 years old and standing just 5-foot-1, teed off Thursday morning in Pinehurst, N.C., in the first round of the U.S. Women's Open, one of golf's big events. The sixth-grader from California is the youngest player ever to qualify for the tournament; in 2013, Li was the youngest qualifier in U.S Women's Amateur history and the youngest competitor ever to reach match play at the Women's Amateur Public Links.
Gleason's column was about another prodigy from another sport, Jaden Newman who played varsity was a starter on the girls varsity basketball this past season for Downey Christian School in Orlando, Fla.
Newman averaged 15.1 points and 8.1 assists per game as a point guard and attracted a fair amount of attention thanks to clips of her available via YouTube and social media. In fact, she's even attracted the interest of the University of Miami, which began the recruiting process recently, with assistant coach Derrick Gibbs seen schmoozing with Jamie Newman, the girl's father and coach. Gleason notes Miami sent her an informational packet and she's even made an unofficial visit.
This is perhaps a good place to note, as Gleason writes, Jaden Newman "just completed fourth grade. She's not just a pre-teen. She's a pre-ten. She's being recruited by a Division I university even though she's 9 years old.
"And that raises this question:
"Have we lost our minds?"
Gleason says he's less concerned with the Newman family's focus on basketball than with college sports being out of control.
"Division I teams can wind up on probation for buying a kid a coffee at the wrong time, or in the wrong place," he writes, "but the NCAA hasn't restricted the age in which kids can start receiving information from coaches about their precious programs?"
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Award winner: Gatorade has named Arlington's Zola Golden as its New York female track and field athlete of the year. The 5-foot-7 junior won the 400 meters at the New Balance Outdoor Nationals last week in 53.22 seconds after capturing the state Division I and Federation championships earlier this season. Her season-best :52.82 ranks as the nation's No. 2 scholastic performance this spring.
Signed, sealed, almost delivered: Speaking of Gatorade's New York honorees, Baldwinsville pitcher Scott Blewett has signed his contract with the Kansas City Royals after being selected in the second round of the entry draft this month.
Blewett signed Monday, his father, Kevin Blewett, told The Post-Standard. MLB.com reported the contract is worth $1.8 million,m which is a substantial premium over what the 56th overall position was projected to pay. After graduation this weekend, Blewett will leave to join the Royals' short-season Class A team in Burlington, N.C.
Blewett recently traveled to Arizona to meet with Royals staff.
Speaking of draft picks: I really enjoyed a recent short story in The Buffalo News related to the baseball draft, specifically Bubba Hollins being picked in the 35th round by the Detroit Tigers.
The Orchard Park senior was pulling into the parking lot at the banquet hall where his senior prom was being held when a Tigers scout called to break the good news to Hollins.
Hollins sat for a minute with his date, Maddie Bryan, and digested the news, then did his level-headed best to keep the news quiet. In his mind, the night was about enjoying the company of his date and their friends.
Naturally, word got out anyway courtesy of social media. "As the night went on, I started getting text messages from people and phone calls," Hollins told the paper." The guys ended up finding out from other people that were there. ... I was smiling a lot, I can tell you that."