A Professional Contract Is Nice, But Parents Remain Realistic

A Professional Contract Is Nice, But Parents Remain Realistic

By: Chris Krawczyk

“The harsh reality of the game of basketball is that there is less than a tenth of a percent of people that make it,” Chris Miller, the lead reporter for the Washington Wizards, said following his son’s game at the DMV Live Period at DeMatha Catholic High School. “You have a better chance of being one of those Fortnite kids who makes money playing the game online.”

Hundreds of coaches– including Roy Williams, Juwan Howard and Bob Huggins– attended this year’s DMV Live period in hopes of finding their next superstar, but Chris Miller, along with many other parents, remain realistic about their kids’ futures playing basketball.

“At some point you have to go and work a job. If you’re fortunate and blessed and lucky to go play professionally — hey, that’s great. But you still have a degree, and you can’t take that away,” Roland Keels, the father of 4-star recruit Trevor Keels, said as he talked about his plans for his son once his playing career is over. “He has his dreams and goals. My dream for him is a degree,” Roland said about Trevor, who has already received offers from some of the biggest Division I programs in the country.

Most parents encourage their kids to follow their dreams and shoot for the stars, but many are aware that pursuing a dream in professional basketball takes a lot of luck, and having a backup plan besides playing professionally is incredibly important. 

“The degree will be there long after basketball. You have to take advantage of the opportunity,” Corwin Melvin, the father of Jamel Melvin, said about his son and his several Division I offers. “God gave him the ability to be 6 ‘9”, so why not leverage it?”

For the majority of the high school athletes that participate in the DMV Live event, their main goal is to get noticed by a coach and receive a scholarship, but for the parents, having their son get an education and a degree for free is far more important than basketball. “Academics is huge because eventually the ball stops bouncing” Corwin Melvin said. “If you’re blessed enough to play beyond college, then you can get paid for doing something that you’ve done for free. But if that doesn’t happen, you still have a college degree and no debt.” 

The last thing a high school athlete wants to hear is that their career playing basketball will eventually come to an end, but Kino Lilly Sr.– the father of the Landon star Kino Lilly– constantly reminds his son that there are many other ways to remain a “champion” even if he isn’t physically scoring baskets on the court. “There are a lot of other ways to win a championship with a team. You could be the sports medicine guy, you could be the GM, you could be in data analytics and you still get a ring.” Kino Lilly has interest in sports medicine, and Kino Sr. encourages him to use his talent on the court to give him opportunities once his playing career is over. “I tell him: ‘Let’s use the game for our benefit and get yourself into a position that when the air goes out of the ball, you’ll still be a star. You’ll still be a productive citizen.’”

What parents shouldn’t do is discourage their kids from working hard and being the best that they can be, but there is a certain level of brutal honesty that is required when dealing with such a difficult industry. “Nothing is wrong with shooting for the stars. But the same effort that you put into being a big-time basketball player has to be the same that you put into being a professional in something else. The NBA, or playing overseas, is not plan A, because that’s going to run out,” Kino Sr. said.

The difficult part about recruiting is that it’s a business, and unfortunately, not every player is going to get a scholarship. But in order to begin the conversation with a coach and start talking about playing in college, a player needs to have exposure to recruiters. At events like the DMV Live Period, only private schools are invited, and for parents like Willie Rivera Sr., missing out on private school-only events is a deal breaker. So after spending just one year at Eleanor Roosevelt, a public school in Prince George’s County, Willie Sr. transferred his son, Willie, to Rock Creek Christian Academy, a private school that plays a national schedule and participates in the DMV Live events.

“Up until the live period, we were locked in to go back to public school for his sophomore season, but because there weren’t any public schools in the live period that affected the way we felt about it.” For Willie Sr., the move to private school was mainly an academic decision, explaining that no matter how well his son does on the court, if his grades aren’t up to standard, college coaches won’t have any interest. “He [Willie Jr.] will never admit that transferring schools was an academic decision. He’ll say he wanted to play a national schedule and to get exposure. But the exposure doesn’t mean anything if a college recruiter or coach asks about your grades and their standard to get into their school is a 3.5 GPA and yours is a 3.1.”

At the end of the day, the decision on where to go to college ultimately comes down to the player, but parents are trying to be as transparent as possible by explaining that basketball shouldn’t be the defining factor when choosing a school. “At this age they don’t have a clue what they want. Even going into college most kids change their major in one or two years,” Willie Sr. said. “So you’re looking at everything. I am. He’s just 16 and he’s looking at basketball. He’s looking at where can he start and where he can play right away. I’m looking at if the school fits academically. Are you going to struggle? How many classes are you going to have? When are the classes? Everything has to be researched before making a decision.” 

What’s important about choosing a school is if the player feels comfortable on campus, whether they’re playing basketball or not. Corwin Melvin’s oldest son, Jalen, plays basketball at West Virginia Wesleyan College, and has missed extensive amounts of time due to a knee injury. Corwin uses Jalen’s story to help educate Jamel on the importance of choosing a school regardless of basketball because there are several unpredictable factors that can derail a player’s time on the court in college. “I told him [Jamel] to talk to your brother and he can tell you how it feels to be a basketball player that can’t play because everything is different.” Corwin emphasized that Jamel should ask himself, “Would I still be at this school if I couldn’t play?”

The college recruiting process is stressful. We all know that. But what’s important is for the parents to emphasize what life is going to be like once these young athletes score their final basket. Receiving a professional contract and getting paid to play basketball is a great goal. But we never know what the future might hold, and having a plan B is a must. There are endless opportunities to be a champion, on and off the court.