Basketball Compton COVID-19

FEATURE: Sports Shutdown Strands Unsigned Seniors

Photos courtesy Beach City Hoops/@ClutchClipHoop

The spring and summer months traditionally serve as a final opportunity for unsigned high school athletes to find a college scholarship. Through showcase events and travel ball, seniors who have yet to sign with a university can use this time to get discovered and forge an opportunity at the next level. Due to the ongoing shutdown of all sporting events, those opportunities have been missed, leaving several local athletes stuck facing an uncertain future.

One such event in the basketball world is the annual Long Beach Unsigned Seniors Showcase, hosted locally by Beach City Hoops and founder Alex Carmon. The event was scheduled for March 28, but was forced to cancel due to the coronavirus outbreak. Carmon said he had upwards of 40 players signed up and ready to participate, providing them the opportunity to showcase their skills in front of dozens of college coaches from across the country.

With senior showcases canceled, recruits are missing out on additional looks from college coaches from across the country.

“We’re in the middle of May, so there could have already been three or four different tournaments that could have taken place,” Carmon said. “That’s three or four more opportunities for kids to be seen by coaches, and for the coaches to think ‘I think with a little work this kid could blossom and be something special and he’ll be able to bring something good for a program.’”

Instead, those coaches aren’t able to take that extra look, and athletes aren’t able to be discovered. While the high school basketball season does remain useful in recruiting, the spring and summer months allow for coaches to evaluate players during their offseason. It’s also an opportunity to show growth and improvement, and to display a different playing style than what might be on display in high school ball.

“What the spring and the summer provides, is kids being put in a different light to give them exposure to coaches,” Carmon explained. “Travel ball is mostly played with more freedom, and there’s not as many consequences as there are with high school. With seniors playing in these unsigned senior events and these summer tournaments, it enables them to be more free and gives them more opportunities to be watched. This situation has eliminated a lot of kids’ opportunities to further show what they can do in a freer setting.”

One such athlete who has seen his recruiting outlook impacted is Compton High forward Jabari Steward. The 6-foot-8 senior was a first team All-Moore League selection this season, but has seen his recruitment hit a major snag with his inability to play AAU travel ball.

“It’s been impacted a lot,” said Steward of his recruitment amid the shutdown. “Now schools are mostly giving scholarships to guys they’ve already talked to or someone they’ve already seen. They’re not really willing to risk giving a scholarship to someone they haven’t seen play yet. So not playing has stopped that exposure.”

Steward had a scheduled visit to East Carolina University, but had that trip canceled due to the pandemic. He was also set to play AAU ball this spring with the I-Can All-Stars, but won’t be given that opportunity. Instead, he’s hopeful that coaches might see something on film and give him a chance, even though they won’t be able to see him play in person or show him around campus. Steward says Compton head coach Tony Thomas has been helping him with getting his film out to college coaches, but that’s about all he can do while he’s unable to hit the court.

“Right now I’m kind of waiting more than anything,” admitted Steward on how he’s navigating the new reality on the recruiting trail. “I was hoping to play AAU, but all I can do right now is sit and wait for somebody to take a chance. I can’t really do anything about it, I can’t just go show off in a showcase or something. It is what it is. I’m trying my best to put myself out there for coaches to see, but I can’t really do anything. It’s really out of my hands.”

Tyler Hendrickson
Tyler Hendrickson was born and raised in Long Beach, and started covering sports in his hometown in 2010. After five years as a sportswriter, Tyler joined the athletic department at Long Beach State University in 2015. He spent more than four years in the athletic communications department, working primarily with the Dirtbags baseball program. Tyler also co-authored of The History of Long Beach Poly: Scholars & Champions.