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The True Purpose of College
by Andrew Force, Future150 (4:33 PM CT, Tue July 7, 2015)
Towns will attend Harvard
Towns will attend Harvard
Andrew Force
Andrew Force:

Future150 National Analyst. Covering High and Middle School basketball.

Indianapolis, IN (Future150) -- Northwestern added Barret Benson late Monday night.  It was a smart choice.

When Chris Lewis and Seth Towns picked Harvard it was odd.  Joey Brunk selected Butler.  That was unique.  When you group these seemingly aberrant behaviors together a trend forms.  

The purpose of college is to prepare a young man or woman for the professional world.  Lewis, Towns, Brunk, and Benson are all potential professional basketball players.  They are amongst the 150 best in their class and typically anyone in the top 100 has a great chance to develop into a pro.  But, the odds are staggering against anybody making the NBA.  

So, if they are going to prepare for an NBA future, then why not simultaneously get a free education from an remarkable institution of higher learning?  Learning and networking are the pillars of a successful career.  

Imagine Benson befriending a future CEO in his Northwestern business class.  Or, Towns and Lewis sit discussing market influences with their small group partner, who just so happens to be a future trader.  The alternative example could be Player X smashing beer cans on his forehead, while partying at a exclusively athletic-driven campus in the Midwest.

Smart choices.

Wolves Strive

Just in the last two years the Illinois Wolves have placed multiple players in high-academic institutions.  Jordan Ash (Northwestern), Chasson Randle (Stanford), and now Benson (Northwestern) chose something more than a sports home.

"I think that has been our culture since the first day we started," said Illinois Wolves AAU Coach Mike Mullins.  "We emphasize being as good off the court as you are on the court.  It is something that we talk about all year round.  Every practice it is the first thing we bring up."

The Wolves are not the normal AAU program.  They are exceptional at attracting and nurturing intelligent, driven students.

"We have been fortunate enough to have guys that have been Academic All-Americans," said Coach Mullins.  "My son, Chasson Randle, John Shurna were all All-Americans." 

The New Big East

When joining the Big East Conference, Butler University had to know they were testing the most trepidatious of sports oxymorons. 

They were admitting they were going to be competitive, and thus recruit, high major student-athletes.  Sure they have traditionally recruited high major students.  They have to.  It is a great school. 

But teams like Harvard, Vanderbilt, Northwestern, and Stanford have long tussled with this very endeavor.  How do you find a kid that trains religiously for basketball, as all elite players now are forced to do, and acquires the needed grades/test scores?

At Butler the average student brings a 3.74 G.P.A. to campus.  Forget the $51,000 tuition + room/board they demand.  Getting in to Butler is hard and paying to stay is harder.  Playing basketball can offer elite student-athletes that opportunity for a fraction of the cost.  

Mid-June Joey Brunk made the leap.  He selected Butler over Michigan State, Indiana, Purdue, Illinois, Xavier, Missouri, Iowa, and Oklahoma.  In other words he could have been a Big 10 player.  Instead he opted for Butler University of the Big East Conference.  

This marks an important time in Butler basketball recruiting.  If Brunk is not an aberration, then they are not recruiting against and occasionally beating out Big 10 recruiters.  They are in the same living rooms.  Butler is competing for elite Midwestern players.  

Schools like Marquette, Xavier, Butler, and Creighton have long brought lower-ranked recruits into Big 10 gyms and snuck out with wins.  

Imagine if they can bring equally gifted athletes along.

Harvard too

Seth Towns (Future150 #64) picked Harvard.  The shooter from Columbus selected the Crimson over Ohio State and Michigan. 

That doesn't happen.  In the same way Brunk picking Butler over Indiana, Purdue, Illinois, and Michigan State doesn't happen.

Are middle-tier programs catching up?  More likely these are simply anomalies, especially because Coach Amaker WAS a high major recruiter for Seton Hall and Michigan.  The roster he is amassing looks like an SEC-worthy squad. 

"If you build it, they will come," said Towns' mother Melissa Smitherman.

Her ode to Field of Dreams is more than a whimsical allusion to cinematic brilliance.  

"I think this program is going to shock people," said Smitherman.  "With the couple of other recruits that are waiting until after July to commit it will shock people."

Shocking describes the latest Harvard verbal commitments, but the Crimson are not done?

Shock the People

"I didn't think they thought Chris Lewis would pick Harvard," said Smitherman.  "I don't think they thought Seth would pick Harvard.  The next one or two (that commit), they talk amongst each other, they talk on the hush-hush, it will shock people."

Harvard has offered Cassius Winston, Jagan Mosely, Bryce Aiken, Lindy Waters III, Robert Baker, and Grant Williams.

Winston set an official visit for September 9th.  He will follow that up with Michigan State and Michigan visits in the weeks directly afterwards.

The Harvard recruiting Class of 2016 currently has four verbal commitments including: Seth Towns, Chris Lewis, Christian Juzang, and Justin Bassey.

"I played thirteen years in the league, and at the end of the day, you need something else to fall back on," said Mo Lewis, father of Harvard-verbal Chris.  "Most kids these years think college is a one year or two year deal.  They will transfer or leave if the coach leaves.  Why are you choosing a school?  Is it for basketball or to get an education.  I didn't want my son to end up like that."

Parents of all of these players are so wise to the whole game.  What is the true purpose of college?

"He wanted, more than anything, to be an engineer," said Mr. Lewis.  "When he was being recruited, early on, he said he wanted to major in engineering.  He would ask coaches, 'Is that problem?'  

Do you think college coaches enjoyed this conundrum?

"Some coaches said, 'You may be able to take it during the summer,'" said Mo Lewis.  "'We may be able to work around it.'  You want to be a student-athlete, but not partial."

Like Towns, Lewis will enter college with two great pathways for potential success.  Basketball will take him far, but it is not his only hope.  The elite hooper does not have all his eggs in one basket.

"He wanted to make sure that he finishes out his academics," said Mr. Lewis.  "Chris was an academic before he started to playing basketball.  His top choice was M.I.T.  We took a visit to Harvard, Miami, and Notre Dame.  I think it came down to having the flexibility to pursue the academic major he wanted."

Lewis' future teammate, Towns cared and cares deeply about school long before the college coaches discovered his game.

"For Seth, being that he is a National Honors Society kid, he has just always had a thirst for knowledge," said Smitherman.  "For him, it was the epitome of giving him the best of both worlds.  The academics speak for itself.  Our neighbors are from Ghana.  They have only been here in the U.S. for a year and they knew Harvard was a great school."  

It is true.  The weight of a Harvard education cannot be measured through traditional means.  A Harvard graduate can interview for jobs most Americans don't even know exist.  The social and financial power of Harvard alumni dates back centuries.  And a staggering percentage of our nation's leaders attended Harvard. 

Can Towns become a national leader?

"It is such a blessing," said Smitherman.  "He took his novel and he took his math book to Atlanta (AAU).  He is going to make a couple of math apps for his phone.  He has always been that kind of a kid."

Driven in the classroom and on the court, Towns makes the student-athlete moniker accurate.  Towns loves his time competing with the Mathletes in Ohio.  They battled in national competitions.  Whether he succeeds beyond college with basketball or without it, he will succeed.  

The only question is...will he succeed because he made this smart choice?  Or did he make the smart choice because he was always destined to succeed? 


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