By Marcus Shockley
It’s no secret I’m a serious hip-hop fan. Having grown up on everything from the raw street level rhymes of Grandmaster Flash to Public Enemy to the modern lyrics of Little Wayne, rap and basketball have always gone hand in hand to me. I love several types of music, but nothing seems more in tune with basketball’s freestyle freedom that the urban beat of hip hop.
I love people who stand out, who take a chance.
Somewhere between NWA and Little John, producers figured out a formula that sold crazy amounts of music and they’ve been mining that field ever since. As a result, much of rap today is about as interesting as, well, Olympic curling at 4 am. But there are still those superstar creators that have found their way to the forefront – Mos Def, Bustah Rhymes, Missy Elliot – and I love artists like K’Naan or D-Black who simultaneously remind me of watching BET Rap City in the ’90s and a reality show at the same time.
Okay, so what does this have to do with basketball, really?
Scouting basketball is not easy in many cases. If you are really looking for players, you may arrive at a game without having any idea if there is anyone even worth scouting. As the game progresses, you look for signs that some players might be someone to pay attention to. You are looking, frankly, for players who stand out.
So how does a player stand out?
Most players have the mistaken notion that it’s all about points and scoring. I’ve seen players pour in 40 points in a game – while the player they were defending scored 42. That’s not a way to stand out. Sure, you can score, but you got beat. It doesn’t matter if you scored 100 if your team lost by 30 points.
Scoring or getting a nice highlight play is one way to at least get initial attention, but there are other ways – a big block, a couple of steals, grabbing rebounds. But believe it or not, as a scout, we are supposed to see much more than what one player does when they have the ball in their hands. Many times during a game I’m not even watching the ball. If I saw a player that I wanted to pay attention to earlier, I might be watching what he does without the ball.
If a player on a team is repeatedly slashing to the hoop from the left elbow and scoring, I will make sure I watch who’s guarding him on that elbow. If it’s the same player playing matador defense, I’m going to notice it. I’m also going to notice if the defense switches another player over and suddenly the path to the defense closes down.
The point I want to get across is one that we’ve talked about before. Standing out usually comes from a lot of things on the floor – playing all out at all times, taking defense seriously, being vocal on the court. You don’t have to have the ball to do any of that. Most players – I can tell you, from seeing thousands of them – don’t do these things. The vast majority of high school players do not stand out in any way.
The best way to stand out is not to try and impress a college coach or a scout whenever they are in the building; the best players are always playing hard, and it doesn’t matter if there’s a coach in the gym or not. H. Jackson Brown, Jr. once famously wrote, “Our character is defined by what we choose to do when we think no one is looking”.
The key word in Brown’s quote is that we think no one is looking. What we do when we believe no one is observing us is the truest person we are. The best way to have people see you as a certain type of person – or player – is to focus on actually being that type of player all of the time.
In order to stand out, we must focus on being someone who always stands out.