A Nation Heading Toward Change

In 1968, the United States was in the middle of a racial crisis during one of the most tumultuous years in American history. On April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated, leading to nationwide protests, rioting and millions of dollars in damage. Over 100 cities, including Washington, D.C., Chicago, Baltimore and Kansas City, were up in flames. There were over 40 deaths, 3,000 injuries and upwards of 20,000 Americans arrested. “In 1968, our country was at a rift. Blacks weren’t liking whites and whites weren’t liking blacks,” Loretta Claiborne said, opening her story of racial injustice. “I would always ask my mom, “why are you so worried?”

Claiborne was born on August 14, 1953, in York, Pennsylvania. Born partially blind, with an intellectual disability and clubbed feet, she was unable to walk until she was four years old and didn’t talk until she was five. Doctors tried to encourage her mother, Rita, to institutionalize her, but she refused and chose to raise Loretta at home with her seven other children as a single mother.

Rita was born in 1931 and lived during a time when the country was greatly segregated. Blacks and whites were forced to use separate bathrooms. Every Black person in America had reasons to be worried, but she had more reason to be concerned. Not only did she have to fight for inclusion because of her skin color, but she also had to fight for inclusion based on her daughter’s abilities.

“She kept me home,” Claiborne said. “We lived in the housing projects, and she made me go out and play with everybody. I had to fight my own battles. It was tough.”

Having to fight her way through life with no shortcuts was just the lesson that allowed Claiborne to embrace the vision Eunice Kennedy Shriver set in stone in 1968. 

Caption: Special Olympics Founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver (left) with Loretta Claiborne at 1995 Special Olympics World Games held in New Haven, CT.

Inspired by her older sister Rosemary, who also had intellectual disabilities, Kennedy Shriver held the first Special Olympics competition in Chicago, Illinois on July 20, 1968. Today, Special Olympics is one of the most recognizable and respected charitable organizations in the world. But without Kennedy Shriver including Rosemary in activities and pressuring her brother, President John F. Kennedy, to include intellectual disabilities in his policy platforms, Special Olympics may have never been established.

It was also a remarkable time to have come up with the idea of Special Olympics. 

“I was shocked when I first found out that it started in 1968. I mean, months earlier Chicago was on fire,” Claiborne said. “People weren’t liking each other. Not only was it a revolution for Blacks and Whites, but it was also a new revolution that was started by one woman.”

When Claiborne was 17, a school counselor suggested she participate in the newly-formed Special Olympics. She did, and in 1970, she won her first medal as a runner. Claiborne has competed in six Special Olympics World Games, winning a combined ten medals over a span of 22 years. Still today, she competes in a variety of sports throughout many disciplines. She has completed 26 marathons, finishing twice in the top 100 women in the Boston Marathon. She holds the world record for Special Olympics in the 5,000-meter run, with a time of 17 minutes. She has also earned a black belt in karate.

Caption: Loretta Claiborne at the 1991 Special Olympics World Games held in Minneapolis and St Paul, Minnesota.

Claiborne always wanted to be seen as an athlete, not an athlete with an intellectual disability. All athletes struggle; all have good and bad days. But, they are still referred to as an athlete. “When I see Dominique Dawes or Simone Biles, you’ll say that’s Simone Biles, the athlete; you know what she does,” Claiborne said. “So why couldn’t it be that way for Loretta Claiborne, ‘the lady who plays tennis’ or ‘the athlete’?”

For many with intellectual disabilities, this is the type of treatment they experience. They are judged based on disability, not ability. They are pushed to the back or silenced. The same could be said about people of color. They are judged based on the color of their skin, and have historically been pushed to the back or silenced all together. Exclusion is not new for either group, and in some areas of the world, things are just as bad as they were 50 years ago. 

Our nation is hungry for change and desperate for inclusion. The events that have taken place over the last month stem from people letting out decades of anger and frustration. The circumstances that led to the death of George Floyd could have been avoided. 

Fifty-two years after the volatile events of 1968, we cannot let history repeat itself. We need to learn from what happened in 1968 and ensure change happens through peaceful means. Protests over the death of Floyd continue throughout the country in all 50 states and hundreds of cities. Since Floyd’s death on May 26, many people in many communities have taken a step toward ending racism and social injustice. Not just for Black men and women, but for everyone, so that in the future, events like what happened in Minneapolis don’t happen again. A successful way history can repeat itself is finding ways to channel negative energy into something positive, just like what Kennedy Shriver did in 1968.

“Eunice Kennedy Shriver fought for equal rights for people with intellectual disability; people think that Martin Luther King only fought for Black people,” Claiborne said. “He fought for people in general to have the same equal rights. The main thing was for him to fight for Black people, but he also fought for those who were poor and treated in the second class.”

The message is clear. It goes beyond just sports; Special Olympics has provided a beacon of hope to nations for change. In 2019, Special Olympics World Games were held in Abu Dhabi and Dubai – the first event of its kind in the Middle East. It was the largest humanitarian and multisport event in 2019, spreading the message of inclusion through sport to an area of the world many may not think of as the most inclusive.

During those Games, the Middle East saw its first female Special Olympics referee; it’s first Emirati figure skater to compete internationally and of the 7,500 athletes who competed, about 40 percent were female. In a part of the world where there are still strict limits on females, they created the first steps of change.

A few weeks ago, in Richmond, Virginia, protesters called for the removal of a statue of Confederate Army commander Robert E. Lee as an act of resistance against police brutality and racism, including “Black Lives Matter” and “Blood On Your Hands” in mostly red spray paint.

The killings of Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and many others have led to actions like this around the country and the world. In the sports world, individuals, teams and organizations are calling for and implementing change. NFL players posted a video asking the League to defend black rights and support freedom of protest. The University of Missouri athletes led a march to the Boone County Courthouse in Columbia, Missouri, taking a knee for 8 minutes and 46 seconds in honor of Floyd. US Soccer repealed a rule that banned kneeling during the National Anthem, to allow for freedom of expression. The University of Alabama, which does not have the best history, has begun taking down monuments and plaques, symbolizing the Confederate Army and its intensive slave history. NASCAR has also banned Confederate Flags at their events. And though many of these places are still generations away from real change, it is a step in the right direction. That’s what America needs. 

Caption: Loretta Claiborne poses with a few of her many Special Olympics medals. Photo by: Yachin Parham

Special Olympics athletes are doing the same. Claiborne was the first to give an official statement from Special Olympics on the events in the past month. Following her lead, statements have been made by other athletes, U.S. Youth ambassadors, and a Sargent Shriver International Global Messenger from Pakistan. Special Olympics Indiana held a Zoom call for athlete leaders around the state to discuss what’s happening around the country openly. Special Olympics Northern California did something similar and invited Claiborne to join. The step these Programs made by openly talking about the racial divide in our country sends a message about what everyone needs to be doing. For change to happen, it is necessary to have uncomfortable conversations.

Claiborne has led the charge for inclusion her entire life and will continue to fight for equal rights for all. Her fellow Special Olympics athletes have followed and are setting an example of what change looks like. Now, she calls upon all of us to join her.  

“Go out there and do more, positively and peacefully,” Claiborne says to move forward. “Don’t tell me what you can’t do, show me what you can.”

Stop blaming Bubba Wallace

Stop blaming Bubba Wallace.

He is not at fault.

He didn’t ask for the attention. He had nothing to do with the events that happened at Talladega Superspeedway over the last 72 hours. It was his team and NASCAR that ran with the story. He never saw the alleged noose.

Wallace handled everything with class and dignity. In the next several days and perhaps beyond, he will receive uncalled for hate and blame.

But he’s the only person who isn’t at fault.

Late Sunday night, seven hours after the GEICO 500 was postponed due to inclement weather NASCAR released the following statement:

“Late this afternoon, NASCAR was made aware that a noose was found in the garage stall of the 43 team. We are angry and outraged and cannot state strongly enough how seriously we take this heinous act. We have launched an immediate investigation and will do everything we can to identify the person(s) responsible and eliminate them from the sport. As we have stated unequivocally, there is no place for racism in NASCAR, and this act only strengthens our resolve to make the sport open and welcoming for all.”

A noose.

NASCAR released the statement and then jumped on a call with reporters. Later that night, the news broke on Scott Van Pelt’s late-night SportsCenter episode.

Wallace is not to blame.

Initially, the Talladega Sheriff’s office investigated, but the case was eventually passed over to the FBI. After investigating, it was announced that there was no hate crime. The noose was a rope used to manually pull open an overhead garage door, tied as a small noose and had been there since Oct. 2019.

But why was it tied in a noose, to begin with? How can members of Wallace’s crew and members of NASCAR and the racetrack get so easily confused? Was it just a misunderstanding, or is there more to the story than what we are told?

NASCAR acted quickly. They stood with Wallace. But, they moved too fast, not correctly investigating before making the news public that Wallace was the victim of a hate crime.

It’s not Bubba’s fault.

He didn’t report the noose. He had no knowledge of it. With the events that have taken place in America over the last several months, Wallace believed it. He has every right to as NASCAR’s only black driver.

Wallace was the driving voice behind NASCAR’s decision to ban the confederate flag from the sport. He wore a shirt featuring the words “I can’t breathe” and had “Black Lives Matter” painted on his car.

And yet Sunday afternoon, someone flew the Confederate flag with the words “DEFUND NASCAR” on a plane over the racetrack.

“I’m pissed. I’m mad because people are trying to test my character, the person I am and my integrity. They’re not stealing that away from me, but they’re trying to test that,” Wallace told CNN’s Don Lemon on Tuesday night. “As a person, Don, that doesn’t need the fame, doesn’t need the hype, doesn’t need the media, I could care less.

“… None of the allegations of it being a hoax will break me or tear me down. Will it piss me off? Absolutely, but that only fuels the competitive drive in me to shut everybody up to get back on the race track next week in Pocono under a tremendous amount of B.S.”

He should not be getting hate. He should not be compared to Jussie Smollett. Ever.

Whether it was a garage lever, or not, a noose was found tied in Wallace’s garage stall. According to the FBI, it may not have been a threat to Wallace’s life, but it was a noose.

And that’s not Bubba’s fault.

Hate crime against Nascar’s Bubba Wallace strengthens the fight against racism

It has got to stop.

There is no place in the world for disgusting acts like this.

A crime was allegedly committed at Talladega Superspeedway. NASCAR’s lone black driver, Bubba Wallace, had his life threatened by a hanging noose in his garage. Justice needs to be served.

Who was it?

Whoever it was does not belong in the sport. And NASCAR will make sure he/she never sees the racetrack again.

“Late this afternoon, NASCAR was made aware that a noose was found in the garage stall of the 43 team,” NASCAR said. “We are angry and outraged and cannot state strongly enough how seriously we take this heinous act. We have launched an immediate investigation and will do everything we can to identify the person(s) responsible and eliminate them from the sport. As we have stated unequivocally, there is no place for racism in NASCAR, and this act only strengthens our resolve to make the sport open and welcoming to all.”

According to NASCAR, the noose was left inside Wallace’s garage area late Sunday afternoon, but the entire infield was shut down to fans all day because of COVID-19 protocols. With limited access to the garages and tightened security, was it someone associated with the sport? Or was it a security breach?

The race was canceled due to inclement weather late in the afternoon and rescheduled for 2 p.m. CT on Monday.

NASCAR has their fists ready and are taking a firm stand. They are doing everything in their power to change the sport of racing for the better. NASCAR released a statement on Wednesday, June 10, saying, “The presence of the confederate flag at NASCAR events runs contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all fans, our competitors and our industry.

“The display of the confederate flag will be prohibited from all NASCAR events and properties,” the statement continued.

The move came just one day after Wallace called for action from the racing league to remove the offensive flags. He wore a shirt featuring the words “I can’t breathe” and had “Black Lives Matter” painted on his car.

Ahead of the race on Sunday, confederate flags were seen flying across the street from the track. An airplane pulled an enormous Confederate flag around the track in protest. Behind the flag, the words “DEFUND NASCAR” flapped in the air.

Is it upsetting? Yes. It’s disgusting. It’s not ok. It’s foul. Sunday’s actions set the state of Alabama back even further from change. And that’s not ok.

For decades, the stars and bars have flown above the racetrack. They fly no more.

It’s time for real change.

The sport of NASCAR is hurting. But I’d like to believe that the sport, its racers and the fans will come out of this dark hour stronger than when they went in.

The Alabama doesn’t play nobody debate is over

Nobody better use the “Bama don’t play nobody” phrase ever again.

On Thursday, Alabama added another home-and-home series against Ohio State. The games, slated for 2027 and 2028, will first be played in Ohio Stadium and then in Bryant-Denny Stadium.

It will be the first time the teams have played during the regular season since 1986.

“This series with Ohio State adds another outstanding non-conference opponent to our future football schedules,” Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne said in a statement. “We are thrilled at the progress we’ve made in securing such quality home-and-homes that will provide tremendous opportunities for our team and an exciting game-day atmosphere for our fans in the coming years.”

Since taking over as athletic director, Byrne has locked in 11 home-and-home series, including the upcoming neutral site game against USC, on September 5.

In the next 15 years Alabama has scheduled Texas in 2022 and 2023, Wisconsin in 2024 and 2025, Florida State in 2025 and 2026, West Virginia in 2026 and 2027, Ohio State in 2027 and 2028, Notre Dame in 2028 and 2029, Georgia Tech in 2030 and 2031, Oklahoma in 2032 and 2033, Arizona in 2032 and 2033 and Virginia Tech in 2034 and 2035.

Alabama also has games with South Florida for 2023, 2024 and 2026.

Nick Saban will likely coach a few of those games, but it will be interesting to see who the head coach is at the time of the Ohio State matchup. Nonetheless, this type of series is what’s so great about college football.

Byrne gets it, neutral site games are great, but home-and-home matchups between two storied programs is how it should be. The College Football Playoff committee has valued overall record over the strength of schedule, but with the possibility of expanding the playoffs to eight teams, the expectations could change. A larger playoff would allow teams to schedule tougher regular-season non-conference opponents and have more room to breathe with a loss.

Critics will continue to argue against Alabama, but its an argument that no longer is supported. The Crimson Tide has its toughest schedule in over a decade. They play USC to open the season, then Georgia two weeks later in Tuscaloosa. They travel to LSU and play Auburn at home. According to ESPN’s FPI, Alabama will face one of the toughest schedules in college football.

Alabama deserves a lot of credit for its efforts to schedule powerhouse opponents in the coming years.

The message Byrne is sending is that; Alabama will play anyone, anytime and anywhere. Just as long as the opposing team wants to do so.

Taulia Tagovailoa leaving Alabama was not a shocker

Taulia Tagovailoa has left Alabama and it came at no surprise. In the middle of a global pandemic, with no spring practice, no spring game and no telling when fall camp will start, it was time.

Alabama will forever cherish the Tagovailoa’s. Tua beat out Jalen Hurts. He won a national championship and set multiple school and national records. One may argue that no other Crimson Tide player has ever made the impact that he did on the program.

But for Taulia, he will be remembered for his high school career and for being the younger of the two. In Alabama, he threw for 71 touchdowns in two seasons at Thompson and was named 7A Quarterback of the Year in 2018 and 2019 by the Alabama Sports Writers Association. Taulia threw for 13,577 yards and 135 touchdowns in high school.

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But with his brother being drafted by the Miami Dolphins, he no longer wants to be at Alabama. Do you blame him?

Mac Jones was likely the starter, Bryce Young, the backup and a battle between Taulia and Paul Tyson–the great-grandson of the late Paul “Bear” Bryant– for the third spot. It is fair to think he did not want to waste another year of eligibility.

And that’s ok.

Alabama should be good without Taulia. Now, he can be a quarterback outside of his brother’s shadow.

He joins a Maryland team coached by Mike Locksley, the former Alabama offensive coordinator and the coach who initially recruited him. He will have Rakim Jarrett, the No. 4 wide receiver nationally, No. 1 wide receiver in Washington D.C. and the No. 27 overall player.

He has the talent. He has a coach that believes in him. Now, he needs to deliver.

Some have questioned whether or not he should have been at Alabama. Both Tagovailoa’s had dreams of playing at the highest level, but they often made decisions with the family. Staying at Alabama, he would have forever been compared to his brother, regardless of how well he performed.

It’s hard being a little brother. Being Tua’s brother is even harder.

But despite living in the shadows, during Alabama’s season opener verse Duke, Taulia, with 5:03 left in the game and the Crimson Tide leading 35-3, handed the ball off to Jerome Ford for a touchdown. He celebrated. He was flexing towards the sideline. In his first collegiate game, he led a scoring drive. His older brother was there—the first to congratulate him before he had to hold the PAT.

That’s something they’ll have together for the rest of their lives. Nothing will ever take that moment away—no amount of distance. No matter where their journey takes them. They played college ball together.

In Alabama, the Tagovailoa’s are royalty.

Tua is the Hawaiian prince.

Taulia was supposed to follow.

That’s how it always will be.

His family lives in Alabama.

But it was time to say goodbye.

Tagovailoa enters transfer portal but Miami might not be the best fit for him

It was the secret everyone knew about. Taulia Tagovailoa, the younger brother of Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, entered his name into the transfer portal.

That doesn’t mean he will leave Alabama, a player can remove his name from the database at any time, but now other programs are permitted to contact him and do not need permission. However, NCAA bylaws permit schools to pull the scholarship from the player at the end of the semester.

The younger of the Tagovailoa’s was a four-star recruit of Alabama’s 2019 recruiting class. He was the No. 5 pro-style quarterback in the country and the No. 8 player at any position in the state of Alabama. He had planned to redshirt his freshman season, but his brother’s season-ending injury forced him to burn that opportunity.

In five games, Tagovailoa completed nine of his 12 passes for 100 yards and a touchdown.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Alabama was not able to have spring practice and there is no telling when fall camp will start. With Mac Jones likely the starter, and Bryce Young, the No. 1 quarterback and No. 2 overall player in the country coming in as a freshman, there is no room for a quarterback battle. It may be that Tagovailoa doesn’t want to waste another year of eligibility waiting his turn if that ever comes.

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And even though many people think he will end up in Miami with his brother, that may not be the most realistic option. Miami is D’Eriq King’s program for now. And even though King only has one season with the Hurricanes, that system might not be the right fit for Tagovailoa. It would almost be catastrophic if he transfers to Miami and gets put into a situation like former Ohio State quarterback and five-star recruit Tate Martell.

Another obstacle is the number of scholarships available. Miami is currently looking at a pair of transfers from different positions, so Miami might not even have a spot for Tagovailoa.

If he wants to be near his brother, South Florida, Florida International or Florida Atlantic may be a better, more realistic landing spot. Given that FIU is a hotbed for quarterbacks, don’t be shocked if Tagovailoa ends up there or at least has conversations with the coaching staff.

According to FIU’s recruiting coordinator, Nick Stuhlmuller, the Panthers have had more quarterbacks drafted the past three years than any other school in the sunshine state including, Florida, Florida State, Miami, FAU and UCF.

Over the past five seasons, those five schools have had just one quarterback drafted—Miami’s Brad Kaaya, who was a seventh-round pick in 2017 to the Detriot Lions.

So, maybe, the Hurricanes wouldn’t be the best fit for him. In 2019 FIU upset Miami 30-24 with former Miami head coach Butch Davis.

Or, maybe, he could end up outside the state of Florida altogether. 

Baseball is back halfway across the world and that’s a relief

It may be halfway around the world, but live regular-season baseball is back.

Following a five-week delay due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) is fielding its players. A league made up of 10 teams in eight cities is one of the first major sports leagues to resume play–baseball is being played in Taiwan–and while the MLB is on hold in North America, fans are tuning in to watch.

It’s not the ideal setup, but ESPN is airing six live games a week with multiple replays. During a time of many unknowns, ESPN is using live game feed from South Korea with its announcers calling the game from their homes in the United States.

In ESPN’S first game between the N.C. Dinos and Samsung Lions, which started with a rain delay, ended in a 4-0 win for the Dinos. Watching players who I’ve never heard of count the pitch was a relief. Former Phelipdephia Phillies and New York Mets outfielder Aaron Altherr, now of the Dinos, went 0-for-4. Still, Dinos starter Drew Rucinski, a former Miami Marlins pitcher, was incredible in six scoreless innings.

Then early Wednesday morning on ESPN2, the Doosan Bears defeated the L.G. Twins, 5-2.

But before these games, I had gone 52 days without watching a live sporting event. For me, that has to be a record. Sports consume my life. Every. Single. Day. Baseball, not typically my go-to game, has become the thing I most look forward to. Even with unfamiliar players, I find myself emotionally attached to it.

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Baseball is back and it’s live. And as therapeutic as it may seem to watch live sports again, it’s also a lesson as to when or if the MLB will return to action this season.

Fanless stadiums. Temperatures checked two times a day. Required to wear masks and gloves. High fives discouraged. No spitting. If a player tests positive for COVID-19, the league immediately shuts down for three weeks.

If the KBO finds success, will we see the MLB follow and begin play?

They’ll likely adopt many of the same precautions, but the United States is in a far worse spot with the global pandemic then South Korea is.

The United States has lost nearly 70,000 to COVID-19, with that number likely to grow. We haven’t seen the worst of it yet. But KBO is a look into the future.

In a recent study mentioned by the New York Times, nearly 170 million people age 12 or older identified themselves as MLB fans — the highest number in the past 25 years. Baseball has gotten America through some of the toughest of times. The Sept. 11 attacks. The Boston Bombings. The Houston hurricanes. We need to get that back.

No, the KBO is not MLB. But it is a joy to watch—a league known for its incredible fan culture; a mascot game so strong provides hope for what’s to come. While the present is so unfamiliar, the future will restore normalcy.

And, like that, sports are back even if it is 13 time zones ahead of the eastern U.S. and halfway across the world.

Health care workers, thank you!

Dear health care worker,

This is long overdue. It’s a message we should have shared long ago, but we didn’t perhaps because we overlooked the COVID-19 pandemic. We don’t anymore. It can no longer be ignored. The world has stopped.

Businesses have shut down. Sports have taken a back seat. And for most people, they have to abide by the stay-at-home order.

But not you.

Your courage is showing every day as you go to work and risk your health for others. You go home and before even saying hello to your loved ones, you must shower. During these unprecedented times, with many unknowns and no end in sight, you continue to fight.

It’s no secret, health care workers are a special breed. High stressed situations, chaotic scenes, sometimes dealing with life and death. For what? To keep others safe.

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But what has taken place over the past few months has been incredible—a story of selflessness—facing a virus with no known treatment. A virus that shows no discrimination. With over 1.9 million cases in the United States of America, with over 63,000 deaths, you continue to be positive.

It is because of you we can enjoy the simple things. When the present is so unclear, the future means more now than ever before. With your confidence, there is the hope of light at the end of the tunnel.

You may never get publicly recognized for your contributions, but know your sacrifice means the world. We appreciate everything you are doing. The most beautiful human trait somebody can have is the willingness to sacrifice their health and safety for the well beings of others.

Because the truth is, special people do extraordinary things.

You are my hero.

Players skipping college won’t threaten the NCAA

The college basketball landscape is changing. The NCAA is on a downward spiral. These are things I have heard. The truth is, perhaps it is. But I’m not buying it.

The NCAA announced on Wednesday that it will be moving forward with a plan to allow college athletes to profit from third-party endorsements and other activities that use their name, image and likeness.

So, yes. I suppose the game is changing—a little. But that decision has been a long time coming and it’s the right thing to do.

The topic of discussion I’m speaking on is players forgoing college to play professionally.

Jalen Green, one of the nation’s top high school recruits, made news when he announced that he is going to bypass the NCAA and sign with the G League, a development league for the NBA. Green reportedly signed a contract around $500,000. He will also have his tuition paid for by the NBA, should he decide to go back to school and earn his degree.

The right decision? It’s a safe one. The NBA G League set records for players on end-of-regular-season NBA rosters with NBA G League experience (272)–a total of 52 percent of all NBA players during the 2018-19 season.

It’s monumental, but Green isn’t the first player to take this route. Neither is top recruit Isaiah Todd or five-star prospect Daishen Nix. Before them, R.J. Hampton signed a multi-year deal with the New Zealand Breakers of the National Basketball League (NBL), in Australia, with the option to leave for the NBA and LaMelo Ball who last played for the Illawarra Hawks of the NBL has entered his name into the 2020 NBA Draft.

But that’s only a handful of players. Sure, more will follow, but here’s the thing; from 1995 to 2005, 39 players went straight from high school to the NBA. Players like Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, Dwight Howard and LeBron James.

College basketball continued to thrive with players like Allen Iverson, Carmelo Anthony, Juan Dixon, J.J. Redick, Chris Paul, among others. The ratings for the Final Four were higher during that stretch than they were in the next decade.

For every player that goes pro, there will be a Ja Morant, a Zion Williamson, or a Obadiah Toppin. The NCAA will continue to get top talent, even if guys decide to skip school.

Programs like this give athletes options to play professionally. The NBA G league deserves credit for that.

But the NCAA will not hurt from this. They will only continue to thrive.

Alabama lands four-star Agiye Hall

One of the top wide receivers in the country has come off the board.

After landing 2021 in-state three-star defensive tackle Anquin Barnes on Friday, four-star wide receiver Agiye Hall from Bloomingdale in Valrico, Fla. announced on Twitter that he would be committing to the Crimson Tide.

He chose Alabama over Georgia, Arizona State, LSU, Clemson, Oklahoma, Florida State, among others.

During the 2019 season, he caught 32 passes for 590 yards and eight touchdowns. 247Sports Composite lists him as the 63rd best prospect overall and 10th ranked wide receiver.

Standing at 6-foot-3, 195-pounds, he has an opportunity to rise in the rankings during his senior year.

He joins a list of excellent wide receivers from the state of Florida to commit to the Crimson Tide, including Amari Cooper, Calvin Ridley and Jerry Jeudy.