The Washington area always has been fertile recruiting territory for college basketball coaches, and this season was no exception.
Recently, all 10 members of The Washington Post's all-Metropolitan team were asked to discuss their experiences in being recruited, and, specifically, to comment on recent allegations that several schools are paying cash to get players.
Johnny Dawkins, Mackin/Duke: "I saw 16 coaches in September, talked to each about their program. I didn't have any further contact with any until the season was over. I've heard all the tales about players given $10,000. If someone wanted to give me that, I'd think he was crazy. People asked me if I got anything from the trips I took. I told them no and they thought I was lying. The Duke people didn't treat me special and I appreciated that. The team wasn't even there when I went down, so I never got to meet them. I just hung around the campus and met students and other people. I felt very ordinary.
"No one gets something for nothing. If I took something from a coach, then you owe him. You can't put that kind of pressure on 18-, 19-year-olds. No one can perform perfectly every game. But if you're paid, they expect you to. I think a lot of this pay stuff is blown out of proportion. Some of the players who claimed they were offered money weren't even that good.
"I would guess some coaches are giving up money, especially if he needs a player to keep his job. There's pressure on coaches, too. I know I might have disappointed a few coaches--some sounded like they were about to cry--because I didn't select their school. Their job is to get the best players and win games.
"I couldn't go to a school that offered me things. I'm going to one of the top universities in the nation and, when I graduate, I will have all kinds of job opportunities. Doing something illegal wouldn't help me in the long run."
Jeff Baxter, Carroll/Maryland: "I realize a lot of colleges bend the rules in recruiting high school athletes, offering things such as shoes and money. A few schools slyly hinted around some small things, nothing right out front or anything major. Definitely no money. But I wasn't interested in those schools, anyway. Recruiting can be tough on you. Some players don't know what to take and what not to take. But I'm aware of the rules and I wouldn't take anything.
"A lot of schools make promises to players, promises they can't keep. I know Maryland didn't offer me a thing and didn't promise anything, either. All I got from the Maryland people was a lot of talk about academics, what role I would play on the team and school.
"I picked Maryland because I wanted to play close to home and it seems so many negative things happen to D.C. athletes who leave the city. Besides, I'm a shooting point guard and Maryland needs one. I feel I can contribute to the Maryland program right away. And D.C. is still one of the best cities for job opportunities for young blacks."
Michael Jackson, South Lakes/Georgetown: "Because the NCAA has cracked down hard on illegal recruiting, I think most of the schools are basically honest. My recruiting experiences weren't that bad. All of the schools that recruited me were good and I can't say anything negative about any of them. Georgetown didn't offer me as much as a pair of socks.
"If a school offered me any money, I know I wouldn't take it. I'd tell my coach and my parents about it, but I don't know if I'd tell anyone else. If a coach came to my house and offered me or my parents anything, my father would throw them out of the house.
"I played in the Dapper Dan all-star game in Pittsburgh and all of us were asked if we'd ever been offered money or gifts from college coaches. Five of the players said yes. But you don't know whether to believe them or not. Some said coaches gave them shoes, but they probably bought them at some athletic house. I don't think I'd feel too good about myself if a school tried to pay me to play for them. You know then they're only thinking about basketball championships and the games you can win for them and not about me or my education."
Earl Davis, Theodore Roosevelt/undecided: "I haven't been exposed to any illegal recruiting at all. Actually, I haven't had that much contact with the college coaches. Maybe they don't want me. I certainly think I'm good enough to play college ball somewhere. Should a college coach offer me money, I know I wouldn't accept it. I'm not for sale. You don't know what that might lead to."
Linwood Davis, Theodore Roosevelt/undecided: "I've had a lot of contact from schools. But I may have to go the junior college route first because of my grades. A couple of coaches beat around the bush, said some slick things that might mean an easier time if I went to their school. Most of the coaches I've met or talked to seemed concerned about me, the person.
"Most of the guys I play with haven't been offered any money or gifts, at least to my knowledge. I want to play college basketball at a school that has a real interest in me."
Darryl Webster, Coolidge/George Washington: "Near the end of the season, I started to get some heavy pressure from some schools. Phone calls at 2 a.m., pushing me to make a decision. It got on my nerves. No one really offered me anything, mainly because the coaches had to go through my high school coach (Frank Williams). He knew all the coaches and I think he kept me away from anyone who might have been dishonest.
"I'm well aware of what's legal and illegal. I know what's happening with some players but no one is going to use me. I'm going to school to get an education and that's what GW offered me, an education. Nothing else. That was good enough for me.
"One evening I was in the gym and asked Coach (Gerry) Gimelstob if I could borrow a pair of tennis shoes to play a pickup game. He told me 'No way,' see him when the season began and I became a real part of the team. I liked and respected him for that."
Len Bias, Northwestern/Maryland: "I think from the first day of summer I saw some assistant coach every day. Overall, my recruiting experience wasn't that bad. When school started, my coach (Bob Wagner) took care of setting up meetings with coaches. I must have met more than 100. After a while, everything someone said to me sounded the same.
"I thought all of them were pretty honest, no one offered me anything under the table. I know the recruiting rules I need to know and I knew I didn't want to ever be put in that situation. Some players are in certain home situations that might force them to be tempted to take some things. It depends on what a player has and doesn't have at home.
"Most of the schools that were very interested in me talked mainly about education and how I would fit into their program. The alumni, coaches and people I met only tried to sell me on their schools. They came right out and told you they weren't giving up a thing. They'd find you a job, which is legal, but that was it."
Gary Potts, St. John's/St. Francis (Pa.): "I have to believe most college coaches follow and respect the rules. The schools that recruited me put pressure on me near the end of the season, but they were clean. No one mentioned anything about freebies or money at all. I know some schools fool around with a player's grades and things like that, but this payment of athletes has to be blown way out of proportion. A lot of players just run their mouths.
"If anyone offered me money, my natural reaction would be to take it. But, at the same time, I know I'd be that school's puppet. I know something would be expected of me sometime. There's temptation, but who wants to ruin their eligibility, career and chance of getting a good education? It's not worth it."
Doug Turner, Seneca Valley/St. Bonaventure: "Recruiting got a little sticky near the end, but there were no money offers or promises of anything free. One coach at Wichita State jokingly told me if I didn't sign with him, he would send the hit man after me. I knew they were already on probation, but they were clean with me. A few players have gotten free shoes and I probably would take them, too. And maybe, if some money was offered, I might consider taking it. But since I didn't get any shoes or any money offers, I don't have anything to tell."
Tom Amaker, W.T. Woodson/junior: "Since I'm just a junior, I haven't had to worry about that heavy recruiting pressure yet. I've gotten a lot of letters, but I haven't even begun to think about college yet. I'm keeping an open mind. I've heard some stories about money and other things, but I haven't been involved with anyone who has taken anything. I'm learning the recruiting rules so I'll know. I don't plan to break any rules on purpose."