LeBron James is not thrilled that his son and young basketball standout, 10-year-old LeBron James Jr., has already received letters and even scholarship offers from college coaches.
“Yeah, he’s already got some offers from colleges,” James told CBS Detroit before the Cleveland Cavaliers‘ matchup against the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday. “It’s pretty crazy. It should be a violation. You shouldn’t be recruiting 10-year-old kids.”
His son is not alone.
Connecticut star Ryan Boatright committed to USC before he was in high school. Marquette’s Matt Carlino reportedly received an offer from Arizona while he was in elementary school. Michael Avery accepted a scholarship offer from former Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie in 2008, when he was an eighth-grader.
Per the NCAA handbook: “A prospective student-athlete is a student who has started classes for the ninth grade. In addition, a student who has not started classes for the ninth grade becomes a prospective student-athlete if the institution provides such an individual (or the individual’s relatives or friends) any financial assistance or other benefits that the institution does not provide to prospective students generally.”
College coaches are not prevented from monitoring young players like LeBron James Jr., per NCAA rules.
From the NCAA handbook: “In men’s basketball, a coaching staff member may observe an individual who has not entered the seventh grade participating in an athletically related activity, provided such observation occurs during a period when it is permissible to evaluate prospective student-athletes.”
Although the NCAA’s bylaws attempt to curtail the recruitment of players prior to high school, the rules that the NCAA enforces through official channels have no impact on the recruitment pipeline’s underground, which often employs AAU coaches and other liaisons as third parties who relay information to athletes. The latter is not something that the NCAA can efficiently and effectively monitor or stop.
James might rebuke some of the attention that his son has received, but he’s also responsible for a portion of the hype. On Dec. 22, he tweeted an embedded video of LeBron James Jr. at an AAU tournament. The video features highlights of his son penetrating, scoring and passing just like his father.
“He plays just like I did,” James told CBS Detroit. “He has great awareness, and he’d rather pass first and set guys up. Most kids nowadays just want to score.”
Kentucky’s John Calipari watched LeBron James Jr. play last summer during the AAU Fourth Grade National Championship in Lexington. Ohio State’s Thad Matta mentioned that LeBron James Jr. was on his radar during a preseason news conference. Other Division I coaches will probably begin to track the youngster if they are not already monitoring his progress.
“He can ball,” said one Division I assistant of a top-25 program who wasn’t surprised that LeBron James Jr. has already received scholarship offers.
He might be a target of the Buckeyes, the top program in his home state, at some point. A source close to the program said the school has sent a questionnaire to LeBron James Jr. but has not extended an offer to him.
“To my knowledge, we haven’t [offered],” he said. “We wouldn’t offer him this early.”