Thursday, July 16, 2009
Just a Minute with Jerry Meyer of Rivals.com
Jerry Meyer is the chief analyst and scout for Rivals.com’s basketball recruiting coverage. The former two-time Mr. Basketball in Tennessee is a two-time All-American and college basketball’s career assist leader. Meyer has been a head high school coach and served as an assistant at Vanderbilt University. Meyer discusses a number of topics in our latest edition of Just a Minute.
How pivotal is July for you in your work and overall ranking of players? What does July mean to a company like Rivals.com?
“What makes July exciting is number one, the coaches are out. That sort of heightens the pressure and intensity. The prospects know what is at stake. You’ll usually have some really great match-ups in July. You get to see the best go against the best. With that, you get to differentiate between who is the number two shooting guard and number three shooting guard. You can pick through things and get a clearer idea on how the rankings will play out. I think the players are beginning to understand that. Maybe that started with Kevin Love and Eric Gordon and Derrick Rose and O.J. Mayo. I think the players get more excited about it and what goes on in July. They are getting towards the circuit and the tournaments have a March Madness feel to it, too. It replicates what it is going to be like in college and to me that is what counts. It’s a fun time to scout.”
What March Madness like memories comes to mind about Julys of old?
“A lot of individual plays come to mind for me. Bill Walker blew past Davon Jefferson at half court and then he took off from the free throw line for the dunk. That was fun because of the level of excitement and athleticism that Walker showed. O.J. Mayo’s four point play to beat Gordon and Rose on a phantom foul to win the game was great. He goes over to score table where there is a banner that says, “Where it all gets settled.” That was classic. John Wall just wowed everyone with his athleticism. It seems like that Reebok tournament (in Vegas) always has something. Eric Gordon against Kevin Love’s team bulldozed down the court and had some incredible finishes. The Peach Jam always have great memories. I always seem to go back to that (2007) class. Nick Calathes and Chandler Parsons went off down there. That’s when you saw Derrick Rose and Eric Gordon team up and do something special. You’ve got the shoe camps that kick it all off. The kids are a little nervous because they aren’t with their team but then when they get with their teams, that’s when it’s special. It’s right in the middle of the month and it gets you ready to finish it all off in Vegas and Orlando.”
The class of 2004 was absolute gold. The class of 2007 is outstanding. In your years of doing this, what has been the best class that you’ve evaluated and covered?
“You hit on it. 2004 might be the best. That’s when I started. I was really green and getting my feet wet in it. I didn’t get to appreciate and enjoy that class for what it was. Now looking back in hindsight, it was chalked full of pros. Once I really got my feet wet and got into the business, the 2007 class that I keep going back to. Those guys were really talented but there were some personalities there. And those guys had a level of competitiveness that you don’t see very often. They were very competitive with a lot of pride and ego. I mean that in a very positive way. They took pride in their game. Any time those guys hit the court, they wanted to prove something. They embraced the competitive nature of the game. They wanted to play after each other and compete against each other. They didn’t hide. One thing I’ve learned in this business is how important it is to be competitive in mindset, work ethic and attitude. It’s very important.”
Have you seen a class quite like the 2009 class where it was so dramatic and high maintenance?
“No. I’ve been doing this for seven years now and there are a lot of people that have been doing it longer. I think what’s happening is that there is a lot of self obsession. These prospects now are so aware of their star status. They are on the internet more than anyone reading about themselves and keeping up with themselves. I think that’s sort of having a negative impact. The class of 2007 knew they were good. They were plenty aware. But you never got the feeling that they were waking up their computer and immediately turning on their computer to read about themselves. I think that’s changed. We see guys doing that more now. That’s why a guy like Michael Gilchrist coming up in the class of 2011 could be so special because he would have fit in perfect with the 2007 kids. I think he’s aware that he’s a star and going to be a star but that’s about it. The real focus is about working on his game and being as good as he can be. He’s not reading his own press clippings.”
You mentioned a guy like Gilchrist. He’s an underclassmen that is playing up with the 17 and under kids. But then you have a guy like Derrick Rose who never played up. He was quite successful in that regard. What are your thoughts about playing up?
“It’s an interesting topic. I think it can work both ways. I think the key is being on a team and having a team concept that a guy is playing within. Whether he gets that playing up on the 17 and under circuit early or he gets that playing with his own age group, I think it works either way. I think it’s easier playing with guys your own age because you have continuity. Another point to go along with that, you look at the guys that have teams created for them or around them. That’s detrimental to a player. I think it’s bad for his development and a major flaw by the shoe companies. I’m very much against that. I think we can trace that to a lot of the problem prospects that we’ve had. I think it’s important to have a team…There are no real absolutes with this. It comes down to the kid and how he is made up.”
Blake Griffin was a consensus top 30 kid coming out of high school. He took two years in college to develop into the no-brainer number one pick in the 2009 NBA Draft. Looking back, there hasn’t been a number one pick that was a non top 10 level kid in high school that was drafted first overall. Looking back, did you think he’d be shaking hands with David Stern as the number one pick in the draft?
“No. We certainly missed on that one. The more I do this and the more basketball I watch at the high levels, the more important it is for a player to have a body and be energetic and strong and long, big body. Certainly Blake has that. I guess, looking back, I undervalued that. Others might of as well. He was more athletic than we realized, too. He has a mean streak to him and that competitive edge that I was talking about earlier. Moreover, Blake works on his game and his skill level just improved. Now, I don’t know if he’d be the number one pick in every draft but he certainly is an elite player and prospect. At the time, I know I didn’t quite see it.”
With the one and done rule, some programs can be paralyzed by it. see O.J. Mayo and Southern Cal and potentially Memphis with Derrick Rose. On the flip side, Kevin Durant gave Texas a tremendous season. What is your take on the rule as a whole?
“I hate the rule. Ive hated it from the beginning and I hate it more and more everyday. I think it hurts the college game. It’s created a lot of problems. Lance Stephenson and Renardo Sidney’s situation with their amateur status is just the tip of the iceberg of what could be a rampant problem. You know, I have mixed feeling about two or three years. I like kids being in college for a minimum of two years but I think deep down I like a laissez faire approach where a kid can do whatever he want whenever he wants. But I do not think that players should be forced to go to college.”
With that in mind, do you think we’ll see more players like O.J. Mayo and Derrick Rose or a Renardo Sidney? Will more recruitments be watched over more and combed through with a fine tooth?
“I think we are coming to a crisis mode. If you want to win a National Championship, you have to have NBA players on your team so you have to recruit NBA caliber talent. The question is now how do you recruit that caliber of talent. If you have guys that really have never been amateurs because they’ve been treated like pros ever since they’ve come onto the circuit, the question is how do you recruit those guys without cheating? It makes it very difficult. The players and the people around them are so used to getting things and that mentality is not going to stop for one year just because they go to college. There is a flaw in the system because of that. It puts a lot of pressure on the colleges. So if you get rid of the one and done rule, you let the pros be pros and let them be pros right away. I think it would eliminate a lot of the scandal in college basketball with grades, cheating in recruiting and a lot of that. I think it would energize the fan base, too. The players would be there longer at their school. It would be good for everyone involved.”
Can you talk about the word ranking? What is your thought about them? Do people misunderstand their value?
“My thoughts on them have really changed. I really enjoy doing them. It’s a challenge and a puzzle. You are trying to figure the riddle out. I have fun doing it. I’ve developed some thick skin so I don’t really get caught up in what people think. For me, it’s pleasurable. Now, the down side with it is that people are too obsessed with it. It keeps the money flowing, sure, but there is way too much emphasis with them. People worry too much about it. It’s all ego. It probably exacerbates the problem that we have with youth basketball. But hey, that’s the way it is. These guys are going to get ranked their whole life. They are going to be judged at every level and people are going to scrutinize their games. They are going to be on television. People are going to get mad at them when they miss a foul shot. They are going to go crazy when they hit a shot to win a game. This is high level stuff. These guys are great at what they do and people in our society value the game of basketball. If you are the cream of the crop, this is the territory that comes with it. This is big boy stuff. If guys can’t handle it, then don’t do it. Stay off the circuit and play some H.O.R.S.E. at the Y or something. In this arena, you are going to be judged and ranked. People lose sight of the process and the process is about developing and becoming as good as you can be. At the end of the day, you can look back and see how you stacked up. What matters is about getting better and getting a scholarship. What baffles me every time is when a player has nice scholarship offers, the college coaches are aware of him and that’s what counts. Whether the kid is 49, 80, 112 or not even ranked, in the grand scheme of things it is meaningless. That player will have a free education on a scholarship and play. That’s what it is about. If they worry about the numbers, then it’s all ego.”
Favorite event in July: I love Vegas, man. You have options there. My favorite one there is the Reebok Summer Championship.
Best high school event you go to: I think it’s the City of Palms. It’s outstanding and well run.
Twitter follower?: No. I guess I’ll be tweeting sometime. I haven’t embraced it yet.
Best hotel you stay at: My spot in Clayton, Missouri – the Crowne Plaza. It’s just outside St. Louis. Everything about it is great. Great food, great places to watch sports, very chill and even a free arcade where I can play Frogger.
Best bar on the circuit: It was the Surly Wench in Tucson, Arizona. You can throw in the Double Down Saloon in Vegas. I could name a lot and I’d love them all.
Editor's note: Jerry Meyer's father, Don, will receive the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance on Sunday night at the ESPY's. Click HERE for his amazing story.
Jeff Goodman, Fox Sports
Dave Telep, Scout.com