Evaluating and ranking high school athletes is an inexact science. Even its practitioners admit that.
But despite some consistent naysayers decrying mistakes made in the business of recruiting rankings, they generally turn out to be a good predictor of future success.
“I put a lot of time and effort into it, and I want to be as right as possible,” said Rivals national basketball analyst Eric Bossi. “It’s not just throwing something to the wall and hoping it sticks. But we’re also dealing with 17- and 18-year-old kids. There are going to be a lot of factors in their development.”
WHICH IS BEST: Ranking the top Indiana’s high school classes
For every Gordon Hayward (unranked in 2008), there’s a 2007 class in which the top five players — Eric Gordon, E’Twaun Moore, JaJuan Johnson, Jeff Teague and Robbie Hummel — were selected in the NBA draft.
Bossi and Brian Snow, a basketball recruiting analyst for Indianapolis-based Scout, said the process of rating players does include personal opinion and preference.
But they are “treated fairly,” according to Snow.
Often, ranking them requires analysts to weigh current ability and production against future potential. Snow used recent in-state products Trevon Bluiett (Park Tudor) and Glenn Robinson III (Lake Central) as examples.
“You’re going to look at those kids differently, even though one may produce better or one may jump higher,” Snow said, pointing out Bluiett’s refined scoring ability versus Robinson’s impressive athletic potential. “What do I think they will be going forward? How much better could they get?”
There will always be misses, something Bossi accepts as “the cost of doing business.” But those miscalculations aren’t always easy to see. It can take several years, encompassing a college and professional career, to evaluate whether a ranking was deserved.
When he does feel like he’s missed on a player, Bossi said he tries to reevaluate his own thought process.
“I look at the times I was wrong, and I always look back and I say, ‘OK, what did I miss on this guy?'” Bossi said.
Teenagers make the process muddier on their own. No ranking or evaluation can account for a four-inch growth spurt or a summer dedicated to weight training.
“Like anything, you’re projecting,” Snow said. “Whether it’s basketball players, stocks and bonds, it’s not going to be 100 percent.”
But rankings get more right than wrong.
For example, 14 of the top 15 players in the 2007 class — one Bossi considers among the best he’s ever seen — reached the NBA at some point. Twelve of those 14 are still active. Every member of the 2010 Rivals top 10 is currently drawing an NBA paycheck.
So yes, ranking recruits is an inexact science. There will always be a Stephen Curry somewhere, an unheralded prep player who winds up developing into an elite talent.
But generally, recruiting rankings — for their faults and detractors — get more right than wrong.
“You have to give it time, and you can’t rush to judgment on it,” Bossi said. “Some deals that you look like you might have gotten wrong two years in, you wind up being right five years out.”