Southport High School’s Paul Scruggs is headed west – way west.
The very talented guard who is being recruited by Indiana, Xavier, UConn, and others has decided to play basketball at a basketball academy/prep school in Napa, California for his senior year.
This has basketball fans in a dither as they try to fathom why a kid would abandon his high school teammates, friends, coach, and school in favor of a year with a rogue outfit dedicated less to education than basketball.
My first question is – why should this surprise anyone? My second question is – why do you assume this is a bad call? My third question is – why do we concern ourselves with the prep school choice of a teenager doing nothing illegal, immoral, or unreasonable?
Those questions are a hell of a lot more sensible than the answers many might passionately use to argue that our culture is collapsing because a kid is choosing to hoop outside the state where we hold the game most precious.
Here are six reasons Paul Scruggs going to a prep school 2,250 miles away is a decision that shouldn’t bother us one little bit:
6 – There is educational value in travel. If Prolific Prep plays a schedule like Oak Hill, IMG, or Bishop Gorman, Scruggs is going to get to see a lot of the United States on the school’s dime. I agree entirely with the IHSAA’s limit on travel for athletic events, but there is a positive to playing a schedule that takes kids to a variety of cities as long as the school books a little education into the itinerary. Why not take a team to the Washington DC area and walk the kids through part of the Smithsonian or the National Holocaust Museum? How about a trip to Memphis for a visit to the National Civil Rights Museum? A stop at Ground Zero in New York was powerful for me – why not a high school basketball team.
5 – Maybe the pressure of carrying a high school team weighs on Scruggs. When he had current Butler freshman Joey Brunk as a running mate, Scruggs could be Art Garfunkel to Brunk’s Paul Simon. As a senior at Southport, Scruggs would be counted on to be Kanye West every single night. Some people function best as a standalone act. Others prefer to be one of five pieces to a basketball puzzle. Maybe Scruggs is the latter.
4 – Scruggs gets to play basketball with friends from all over the country at Prolific Prep. IHSAA transfer rules prevent a kid from deciding to play basketball with friends, rather than a respect for continuity and geography. For example, if Scruggs wanted to leave Southport to go to North Central to play with Kris Wilkes or Hamilton Southeastern with Zach Gunn, he would be ineligible for one year. I understand the transfer rules as an incentive to deal positively with adversity and value education as the primary objective of a high school, but if a kid wants to elevate playing with friends to a higher level of priority than the IHSAA is comfortable with, going to prep school is the only option. At Prolific, Scruggs is going to be a teammate of longtime friend and teammate Gary Trent, Jr.
3 – What’s wrong with going to high school in Napa? Napa is beautiful and temperate – a lovely place with interesting people and a very nice lifestyle. Southport is nothing to sneeze at, but it is not Napa. If you got a job offer to work in Napa, and all your expenses were paid, would you take the gig? You bet your ass you would. If you were offered a one year leave to visit and enjoy Napa on the dime of your company, would you? Yup!
2 – If Scruggs wants to play in the NBA, a little extra focus on hoops might be a good thing. Balance is great for a healthy and happy life, but if a kid has a laser focus on becoming a professional athlete, maybe this is the best route. If it’s okay for a college kid to choose the University of Kentucky as a place to train for the NBA, what’s the matter with a kid one year younger bouncing out to Napa for a year of training and whatever level of study is required to gain collegiate eligibility?
1 – It’s his life, and where he spends his senior year is up to him. Who in the hell are we to sit in judgment of what is right and what is wrong for a 17-year-old kid? Scruggs and his family made this call for a set of reasons we can only speculate about. Hoosiers have a quaint notion about how a kid who might be able to compete for a state championship, a spot on the Indiana All-Star team, and maybe even Mr. Basketball should think – how he should exalt in the sacred value of those honors and experiences. If he doesn’t see it that way, we somehow believe he is operating in opposition to his heritage as a native of Indiana.
(I feel compelled to add that I am an enormous fan of traditional high school basketball, and the way the IHSAA governs it. My son played varsity basketball at the same school, and I wouldn’t change a moment of that experience for him or me. My thoughts on Paul Scruggs are driven by the harsh judgment of people in Indiana who put a kid on blast after his family made a decision based upon what they felt was best for Paul.)
Kent Sterling hosts the fastest growing sportstalk show in Indianapolis on CBS Sports 1430 every weekday from 3p-6p, and writes about Indiana sports at kentsterling.com.