In the series Recruiting Athletes, we are dealing with dreams, teenagers at a pivotal point in their athletic lives.Brian Magid offers reality. As thousands of prospects before and after him, Magid endured the pressures of recruiting. Then he discovered something worse: not playing.
Not playing? The thought never enters the minds of most highly sought high-school athletes. Oh, maybe the freshman year will be spent behind a senior, but those last three seasons it will be me in there from the start. May be All-America, like now. Maybe a national title. Surely a six-figure pro contract. Put Cosell on hold.
Gavin Smith never imagined he would not start at UCLA. The Wizard himself, John Wooden, had said he'd told only three players they were talented enough to start as freshmen: Lew Alcindor, Bill Walton and Gavin Smith. After gathering more splinters than points in three years, Smith transferred to Hawaii.
Although no studies have been done nationwide on the subject, it seems safe to assume there are five times as many Smiths in major-college athletics as there are Waltons, players with talent who for a variety of reasons do not play as much as they should.
"A player should not let emotion get in the way of his decision," said Magid. "But you're coming off that big senior year in high school, you've accomplished everything you set out to accomplish and you assume that progress will continue right throug college."
There may have been more heavily recruited basketball players than Magid, but not many under 6-7. This is because not many guards can match his range and accuracy. Of Magid, scouting reports said: "Zone wrecker . . . plays string music to 25 feet . . . shoots the postage-stamp jumper."
And he let emotion intrude on that choice-of-schools decision. Sort of, because it seemed quite reasonable at the time that he would spend a year behind seniors John Lucas and Mo Howard at Maryland and then, as a sophomore, become a backcourt starter, with Brad Davis.
Then Lefty Driesell followed one of the cardinal - and sad - rules of college coaching, the one that says once you recruit an immensely gifted player you immediately try to recruit someone beter. If Jim Brown was a sophomore and Jim Taylor a junior, most football coaches still would try to sign Alan Ameche. And O.J. Simpson. And Walter Payton.
So sophomore Magid found himself in competition with two freshmen, Jo Jo Hunter and Billy Bryant, two others who later discovered college athletics to be less than they once imagined. Magid started the season-opener, against Notre Dame, hit five of eight shots and passed for five more baskets-and never started again.
Magid transferred to George Washington and had to miss last season because of it. The GW coach, Bob Tallent, looks forward to Magid's return this season nearly as much as his player, because Magid ought to be the antidote to all those zone defenses that lately have cluttered the college game.
In the nearly four years since he experienced the recruiting game, Magid has discovered some basic truths high-school players ought to stitch to their sneakers:
Sometimes coaches sign players simply to avoid having them play against their teams. This happens more in football than basketball.
All coaches have lists of prospects, rated by position. Everybody is recruited but not everybody is offered scholarships. If the top-rated quarterback or forward chooses another school, then the second-rated prospects are offered scholarships. And so on. And so on. Lots of players do not attend the college of their choice because of this, having been coaxed and coddled until someone better signs.
"And you have to make sure your game and style fits into the concept of the coach's program," Magid added. "If a guard isn't good on the break or can't run, he shouldn't go to Maryland or North Carolina."
And passing quarterbacks should avoid Ohio State.
Also, it is a rule of thumb that transfers rarely succeed as well at their second school as they would have had it been their initial choice. Two exceptions, Duke's Bob Bender and Kentucky's Kyle Macy, played in the NCAA title game last month.
Magid talked of his frustrations yesterday and then offered a strange observation: if he went through recruiting all over again - knowing what he now knows - he would reach the same decision.He would attend Maryland.
He had grown up, before and during his career at Blair High School, believing in the "mystique" of Maryland and the Atlantic Coast Conference. He went to Maryland despite at least a few basketball observers telling him his level of play was below the ACC. He would do it again.
"I proved I could play at Maryland," he said. "I just was not given my fair chance there. I think I did myselit right by going there, because of the TV exposure for one thing. I'm not trying to be immodest, but I'd walk down the street in College Park or at the Capital Centre and people would say: 'Hey, look who's here.'
"And I liked the basketball (at Maryland) in a lot of cases." One of them was at Duke; he was alone in a pre-warmup warmup and sinking every shot he tried.
The crowd was alive with this special exhibition of pure shooting and a fellow came out of the stands and placed two $1 bills at two spots about 30 feet from the basket. Magid went to the spots, sank two jumpers and casually pocketed the money.
Those were the pleasant memories include sinking a 40-footer at the buzzer to send a game with Wake Forest into overtime - and then not playing a second of the overtime.
"You and the guys on the street might think I was a jerk to go to maryland," he said, "but in my mind I did the right thing. I'm content with that."