Old ad­vice is still good ad­vice in new, risky re­cruit­ing world

The Covington News - - SPORTS - Gabriel Stovall is the proud sports edi­tor of The Cov­ing­ton News. You can reach him for tips and story ideas at gsto­vall@cov­news.com. Fol­low him on Twit­ter @GabrielS­to­vall1, and our sports Twit­ter page, @CovNewsS­ports.

The col­lege bas­ket­ball world went topsy-turvy Tuesday when it was dis­cov­ered that four as­sis­tant coaches were be­ing in­dicted — and pos­si­bly 10 more in­volved — in a cor­rup­tion case in­volv­ing bribery.

It was all about col­lege hoops pro­grams try­ing to gain pole po­si­tion to snag some of the na­tion’s top high school bas­ket­ball prospects. In short, it was an­other chap­ter in the whole pay-for-play phe­nom­e­non that’s per­me­ated ma­jor col­le­giate ath­let­ics for decades.

But this time, the FBI got in­volved and some of the na­tion’s mar­quee pro­grams look to take gar­gan­tuan hits be­cause of the find­ings. Per­haps head­lin­ing the list of ousted coaches is Louisville’s Rick Pitino.

He’s prob­a­bly the big­gest name on the list. But don’t get it twisted — no­body is liv­ing un­der any vi­sions of gran­deur re­gard­ing the wide­spread na­ture of “pay-for-play” in col­lege ath­let­ics, par­tic­u­larly the big rev­enue sports, foot­ball and bas­ket­ball.

No doubt, prob­a­bly all of our area hoops coaches have a valu­able take on that mat­ter. But I found New­ton Rams boys bas­ket­ball coach, Rick Ras­mussen’s take par­tic­u­larly in­ter­est­ing — not just be­cause he’s a well-tenured bas­ket­ball coach. But also be­cause of the cal­iber of play­ers he’s had the abil­ity to coach over the last cou­ple of years.

Of course we re­mem­ber last year’s na­tion­ally ranked New­ton squad which boasted sev­eral Divi­sion I tal­ents, in­clud­ing J.D. No­tae, now at Jack­sonville Univer­sity, and ju­nior point guard, Ash­ton Hagans —a player con­sid­ered the No. 1 point guard prospect in the coun­try for the class of 2019.

Be­cause of that, Ras­mussen has seen all sorts of blue blood pro­grams and wanna-be elite schools stop by the New­ton High School gym to get a glimpse of the 6-foot-2 dy­namo, with hopes of lur­ing Hagans to their school. Yes, even some of those schools men­tioned in the re­cent FBI probe.

Al­though, Ash­ton Hagans’ fa­ther, Marvin, is quick to note that no shady busi­ness or il­licit of­fers have come to the Hagans’ doorstep.

“We’re not a part of no type of scan­dal,” Marvin Hagans said. “Yes, some of those coaches were re­cruit­ing him. But no one came at him side­ways.”

A lot of that is be­cause the el­der Hagans and his fam­ily have taught Ash­ton to give one sin­gle com­pany line when col­lege hoops suit­ors come call­ing.

“It’s easy,” Ash­ton Hagans said. “All I say is, ’talk to my dad,’ and I keep it mov­ing.”

That has kept a lot of the re­cruit­ing drama in the Hagans’ house­hold to a min­i­mum. And the com­bi­na­tion of Ash­ton’s fam­ily in­volve­ment, plus the morals the Hagans’ have taught their son is the kind of recipe Ras­mussen wishes more par­ents and guardians with elite prospects for sons would fol­low.

“It’s an un­for­tu­nate part of ama­teur ath­let­ics, this whole thing that has been hap­pen­ing,” Ras­mussen said. “When money is in­volved, and ex­po­sure, so­cial me­dia and the whole one-and­done road to the NBA, there’s so much op­por­tu­nity for peo­ple to take ad­van­tage of kids. That’s why I re­ally re­spect the way Ash­ton’s fam­ily sees the big pic­ture of things, and how Ash­ton’s dad has helped pro­tect him from a lot of this.”

Make no mis­take, how­ever. The money mar­ket ama­teur sports scene isn’t go­ing away any­time soon. In fact, the big dol­lars and lure of big fame seems to creep lower and lower down the ama­teur ath­lete lad­der each year. Now there’s even money to be made for camps that high­light the tal­ents of mid­dle school­ers — kids in the sixth, sev­enth and eighth grades.

It’s also not go­ing away at New­ton either — at least not from an at­ten­tion stand­point. Not as long as Ash­ton Hagans is around. The list of schools coming to see the point guard reads like a Sweet 16 round bracket in the NCAA Tour­na­ment.

In just the last cou­ple of weeks, Ge­or­gia Tech, Ge­or­gia, Ken­tucky, Auburn, Florida State and Mis­souri have been by. Ten­nessee coach, Rick Barnes — who used to coach Texas when Kevin Du­rant was a long, gan­gly fresh­man there — came through telling Du­rant sto­ries. Ras­mussen says he can see where it’s easy to get caught up in the web.

Which is why he hopes that the way his star guard is ap­proach­ing things can be­come a model of sorts.

“He’s been very pa­tient with the whole re­cruit­ing pro­cess,” Ras­mussen said. “Here it is, his ju­nior year, and he hasn’t named a top three. He’s open to any ma­jor pro­gram. He hasn’t closed any doors. What he doesn’t want to do is open a can of worms of ethics vi­o­la­tions that tar­nish his rep­u­ta­tion. We don’t want that either, and that’s why it’s so good to see how dili­gent his fam­ily is to pro­tect Ash­ton’s rep­u­ta­tion.”

As for all those hot shot ath­letes who feel like tak­ing a bribe or do­ing some­thing that the NCAA would con­sider un­scrupu­lous to get ahead is just the way of the mod­ern sports world, and is a nec­es­sary evil, Ras­mussen heartily de­bunks that with a bit of old school ad­vice.

“If you work hard, and keep your in­tegrity, the fu­ture will take care of it­self.”

Some­times the old ad­vice is best, even in “new” times.

GABRIEL STOVALL SPORTS EDI­TOR

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