Blogs > Burney's Bytes

Burney's Bytes will focus primarily on the local preps sports scene, but will also touch on some college and pro athletics, mostly in regards to athletes who hail and have played high school sports in Oakland County. My goal for the blog is to be conversational and anecdotal, a more relaxed and free formal take on high school athletics than you see in regular game day coverage.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Say It Ain't So Joe

The Clawson Trojans boys basketball team was as hot as a stolen pistol in the first half of the season, racing out to a 9-0 record out of the gate and garnering comparisons to the old "Claw-ville" teams of the 90s with future NFL and UofM star, Jon Jansen, which won multiple district titles. Then a tsunami of chaos and bad luck hit head coach Billy Shellenbarger's baller bunch and it's been disaster ever since. Things in Trojan country continued to get worse last week when star player, Joe "The Show" Baker, decided to transfer and take his show back to the OAA, re-enrolling at Southfield-Lathrup.
Since its 9-0 start, Clawson has dropped five of its last six contests, including losing its second leading scorer, senior Rob Feeman, for the rest of the campaign to a separated shoulder. Baker's departure literally adds insult to injury to the Trojans hoops program, which appeared to be on its way back earlier in the season with "Joe the Show", one of the area's most promising and prolific junior perimeter players, throwing in nearly 27 points per game and the team playing inspired basketball.
With their 72-55 defeat at the hands Center Line, the Trojans drop to 10-5, 5-5 in the MAC Silver with any thoughts of raising a conference title banner pretty much in the trash bin. The transfer of Baker is a colossal blow to Shellenbarger's plan to stage a Clawson boys bball resurgence.
On the other hand, Baker's return to Lathrup, where he played varsity ball as a freshman back in 2008, couldn't come at a better time for Chargers head coach, Mike Avery, who is set to lose all-conference studs, Roy Marble and Bryan Coleman at the conclusion on this season.
Now, here's my take on this situation on two separate fronts:
A. I know Joe. I like Joe. At heart, Joe is a great kid who just wants to get himself a scholarship to play at the next level. That said, this whole thing just looks bad all the way around. I wish Joe would have made this decision back in the summer – at a time I know for a fact he was considering leaving Clawson. If that would have happened, things would have been better off for everyone involved. Shellenbarger and the Trojans faithful would have known their collective hand dealt to them from the get go and Avery and the Chargers would probably be a Top 10 team in the state right now. Instead, everyone's for the worse as we sit heading down the stretch in 2010 campaign. Clawson is missing out on the chance to finish out what could have ended up being a miraculous and memorable season, Baker is slowly gaining the reputation amongst recruiters of possibly being difficult to handle, and Lathrup, although playing great ball right now behind Marble and Coleman, is missing out on a bonafide lethal number two-offensive option in the 6-5 junior gunner with a lighting-touch from the outside and an instinctive nose for the hoop. Like I said before, Joe is a good apple. From what I can tell from my personal experiences with him, he's not a primadonna like this situation might indicate. However, in the real "adult" world, perception is reality and the perception here is plain and simple: Baker is a malcontent. The two transfers in two years just doesn't look good. Baker is a stud on the court and I'm certain he'll do wonders on the floor for Avery and the Chargers next year as a senior. But, this transfer thing could hound him in the recruiting process. Joe means well and plays hard and I don't want to see him ending up like former DCD star Alex Legion (six school commits in six years, if u include his high school transfer and de-commitment to UofM).
B. The MHSAA needs to get control of this transfer issue right now before things get ever more out of control than they already are. First off, this is not a Joe Baker issue. There are tons of these types of situations popping up all across the state as of late. I'm just discussing it now due to Baker's situation bringing things to a head in the wake of a year filled with player re-locations. Now that said, let me also say I don't know the official rules on this matter either, but I do know when things appear to look shady and scandalous, they probably are. Some of these issues regarding transfers are arising because of the open-enrollment many local school districts have instituted over the last five years or so. Some are not and are just blatant cases of illegal recruiting or player "poaching", whichever way you want to call or phrase it. And you can bet your bottom dollar that some of the summer hoops circuit/shoe company/street agent-types that secretly, or in some cases not so secretly, call shots behind the scenes throughout the nation's prep recruiting landscape, are playing some roll in this whole thing. That I can guarantee. Whatever the causes, this situation is getting out of hand. Ray Lee, arguably the top sophomore combo guard in the Metro Detroit area, is going on his third school in two years – from Dearborn Heights Robichaud last year, to Detroit Cass Tech until three weeks ago, and hopefully, finally to Romulus. Some guys are miraculously eligible first semester, while others are forced to sit out and nobody really understands why. When you start asking questions about the whys and hows of these rules to the coaches taking on these transfers, you often get blank stares and complex, weaving, jargon-filled explanations. The state needs to set precedent on this issue and fast. They need to define what the rules are exactly and enforce them – which I know is one of the problems, since these things are often supposed to be "self-regulated." Schools and coaches who violate these rules should be severely punished. Whatever the solution to the problem must start with the MHSAA admitting there is a problem to start with, which as of right now does not appear to be the case.


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