Picture the perfect full-court break. The ball zips between hands. Opponents powerlessly chase shadows as it speedily moves toward the net. One final pass to the guard, stealthily placed to receive the offering. The crowd takes a collective breath, some stand. Then it happens.
A slam dunk straight from the highlight reel; the ball crashes through the hoop like a water-filled balloon exploding onto pavement–authoritative, destructive, even arrogant.
Spectators exhale a resounding "Whoosh!" One team receives a jolt of adrenaline and confidence. The other feels humiliated.
Watching Lakeside's boys basketball team destroy Forsyth Central last season was a joy. Such unbridled confidence, enthusiasm and energy underlined so many performances from a well-coached unit imbued with a desire to entertain. Even those not taken by basketball were awed.
This term, things couldn't be more different thanks to a culture of underhanded recruiting. Simply, players desert programs in lieu of greater recognition and championship rings. In Lakeside's case, five of last year's starters headed for greener pastures, among them its top scorer.
A few months ago, Coach Larry Pierce called it the reality of today's high school basketball culture.
It changed the program's entire complexion. Instead of jousting with the state's toughest and tanking lowly opponents, the dynamic's flipped. They're eking out wins or getting blown out. But the effects run even deeper. Crowds dwindle. So does prestige. Soon a program is forgotten.
One would think the Georgia High School Association should do something. But as long as a player has an address in a new school district, it's above board. That's easy enough, and if rumors are true, state champs Milton, for example, have used it to good effect. In fairness to the GHSA, though, it can't restrict free movement, so it's powerless in this case.
So what solutions are left? One idea could be restricting players from moving to teams within the same division. It could be even extended to include the same classification, thereby peeling another option away.
Critics would rightly argue that such measures still restrict freedom of movement. Proponents would counter that resources and coaching go into a player's development and, in turn, they are essentially wasted on grooming someone who will return the favor by putting up 20 points against you.
Either way, something needs to be done. High school sports, while competitive, shouldn't adopt the same kind of gamesmanship of the pros or college sports. It instills a negative value system that contradicts the mantra of fair play heard at every varsity game.
The Vikings lost almost an entire team from transfers. Who knows when they'll again display the kind of performance that made them ripe for picking. And if they do, the thrill won't last long.