"Me go to Navy? What are you talkin' about? I'm a ballplayer, could be the next Dr. J., I ain't no soldier."
A high school All-America basketball player when asked if he would consider going to the Naval Academy.
Trying to convince a prospective recruit that Navy is more than a military school is only one of Coach Bob Hamilton's problems in his quest to get talented players.
It is a matter of good grades more than anything else.
"When you talk about basketball recruiting at Navy, you are really talking about academics," said Hamilton, who in two years as Navy's basketball coach as compiled a 27-22 record.
A survey by The Washington Post showed that only one, perhaps two, players on the U.S. all-star team in the recent Capital Classic could qualify academically for Navy.
The survey also showed that few, if any, of the top players in the Interhigh could qualify. The same could be said for inner-city high schools everywhere. And it is no secret that many of the best basketball players come from the public school systems of the big cities.
"None of this is a rap against the Interhigh or the kids, it's just the way things are," Hamilton said.
"Academics severely limit the pool of people we can even talk to."
Certain strings can be pulled to get a player into the academy, just as they can be pulled anywhere. But there are no strings to be pulled at Navy when it comes to academics. A person is either qualified or he isn't. And if he isn't, Hamilton must move on, and that invariably leads him to a less-talented player.
A 20 high school grade-point average is needed to be eligible for aid at any NCAA member school.
A 2.0 won't make it at Navy. Few Plebes come in with under a 3.0 College board test scores and high school curriculum also are looked at very carefully.
Some schools require a 1,000 score on the college boards (out of a possible 1,800), but use it only as a guide.
Navy seldom considers a youth with below 1,200 on the college boards. The student also must score very high on the mathematics portion of the test because altest because all Plebes have to take calculus.
"We have catogories which eliminate certain people," Hamilton said.
"We would like to think we could talk to any kid in the country and that no one is too good a player for Navy, but we have to be realistic."
There are no athletic shcolarships at Navy, because every Mid goes to Navy at the taxpayers' expenses.
Another thing about Navy that turns off many high school not shots is the five-year military commitment after graduation.
Add to that a 6-foot-8 height limination and the number of good basketball players who are qualified, and interested is minimal.
"The height limination doesn't bother me at all," the 5-6 Hamilton said. "I see not having a big player as making us more flexible."
Navy's top two scorers and rebounders last season were 6-5 Kevin Sinnett and 6-6 Hank Kuzma.
After you get by the academics and the height limitation and military atmosphere and all of that, recruiting here is just like it is anywhere else," Hamilton said. "It's a struggle."
Having found a player who is academically qualified and who isn't sought by UCLA, North Carolina, Kentucky and the like, Navy usually competes for him with the other service academies and the Ivy League shcools.
"We don't go after the blue-chippers, but some of the ones we are after are close to it," Hamilton said. "You have to count on a number of sleepers.
"We know we can't play with Rutgers, Penn State and Georgetown with walk-on players."
In recruiting, Hamilton determines academic standings. If the player qualifies, Hamilton finds out if he is interested in the military.
If he gets this far, the player is told to contact his congressman or senator and request a nomination to the academy.
An advantage of coaching at Navy is that the academy is a national school.
Hamilton shies from naming the young men he is after, but says Navy "is going after four or five kids who a lot of other people are after. They aren't first-team All-Americas, but they are players.
"We're recruiting very hard for two young men in this area we feel could be outstanding players for us and we are also recruiting one from Florida, one from Boston, one from San Antonio, one from Cincinnati and another from San Francisco."
Despite its drawbacks, Navy has at least one thing to offer that few other places can.
"We can offer a kid a career," Hamilton said. "I mean a career outside of basketball. It's right there for him, all he has to do is take it."
Tell that to an aspiring Dr. J.