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Advice to SU Recruits

Warning to all the high school kids considering Syracuse. You’re getting a big, fat check to play a sport, but make sure that it’s worth it.

College basketball signing period has officially started, so it’s fair to ask this question as 17 and 18-year-old boys and girls sign the next four years of their lives away: Do you ever really know if you’re making the right choice?

The Fizz has recently documented the decision-making process of Jawan Simmons, Michael Carter-Smith, Trevor Cooney and Tobias Harris – all athletes who may fit into the Syracuse mix.

It took well into my sophomore year on The Hill to definitively say I made the right choice with my college decision.

Keep in mind I’m not working within the structure of multiple coaches and a group of anywhere from 12 (basketball) to 100 (football) teammates day in and day out. It means I have even more freedom as to who I associate myself with and the decisions I make.

When you’re part of an intercollegiate team, you spend the regular season practicing, playing and traveling with the same people. You then spend the off-season working throughout the week with those same people.

For our married readers – isn’t one or two holidays a year with the in-laws enough?

What if you don’t get along with them? Or your coach turns out to be different from who he acted as on the recruiting trail? There’s a reason many states don’t allow full drivers licenses until you’re 18; because kids suck at making decisions.

I used the words “boys and girls” selectively in the first paragraph to illustrate a point. They’re not really going to be men and women until they graduate from college, and for some, maybe even longer. Physically they may be advanced, but it’s upstairs that counts.

Syracuse.com posted a video with SU linebacker Derrell Smith, asking him about the decision to play with the Orange. He had the option of attending the Naval Academy, with its five-year service commitment attached to playing football there. Can any high school-aged kid really fathom what that’s going to mean for their life? Did you, the reader, think you would be sitting where you are today five years ago? Maybe not.

The SU women’s basketball team opens its season tomorrow and the program’s best player, Nicole Michael, was torn between Georgia, Rutgers, and Syracuse. She ended up coming to The Hill because she says Coach Quentin Hillsman seemed like he cared about her more than other coaches. Plenty of current players say the same thing.

Upon arriving at college, some athletes realize the rigors of making sport your life. Mostly, high school coaches do not control an athletes schedule. College coaches have almost full authority.

I have a good friend who played two seasons of D-1 college basketball in New York State and then left the team. Not necessarily for coaching reasons or relationships with other players, but because it wasn’t funanymore.

I imagine the college experience is completely different when playing a sport. Even for non-revenue athletics (or ahem, Olympic sports – you’re welcome Dr. Gross) like rowing or tennis, still demands a dedication of up to 11 months a year.

The tough part is you only get to do college once (well, except for all those 27-year-olds who are ducking back into law school because the job market sucks so bad).

Let this serve as a word of warning to all the high school kids this month considering Syracuse, among other schools, and where to spend the next four years. Yes, you’re getting a big, fat check to play a sport, but make sure that it’s worth it.

You’ve only got your gut feeling to go on, because after awhile every school has got to seem the same. (Which is exactly what Tobias’ coach told The Fizz earlier this week.) I didn’t know for a few years and more than likely, neither will you.

Best of luck, kids.

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