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Voices / A Forum for Community Issues | Community Essay

Shooting for College Scholarships

January 24, 1998|KENNETH TURNER | Kennth Turner is the girls' basketball head coach at Dorsey High School. His 1996 squad won the city championship

Many of our inner-city players are viewed as natural athletes; but that's it. They are stereotyped as "playground players"--athletes who may or may riot have the basketball skills and knowledge of the game to play at the university level. The consequence is that while inner-city athletes are vigorously recruited by universities outside of Southern California, they are often overlooked by schools in their own backyards.

Many times, college recruiters haven't even seen our inner-city athletes play; they may not even know who they are. Even though many high school coaches make the initial contact to universities on behalf of players, college recruiters should be able to pick up a newspaper and read about the local players. As it stands, in order to be recognized as a leading scorer, a female player must score a minimum of 25 points in a game. Several outstanding players in the inner city have not scored 25 points yet because of greater competition within her own team or the league.

Crystal Vernon, one of my guards, is averaging 23 points a game. In nonleague competition, she scored 29 points against Washington Prep, 30 against Alemany, and 28 against Bellarmine-Jefferson High School.

Many players in the inner city are disciplined, intelligent and fundamentally sound. It just seems that, all things being equal, players from suburban schools are recruited more heavily than players from the inner city. There are over a dozen universities within a two-hour drive from Dorsey High School. Scan the biographical notes of women's rosters of local universities to observe the scarcity or, in most cases, total absence of inner-city athletes. I know that some athletes in the inner city eliminate themselves by having poor grades, a lack of core courses specified by the NCAA or low SAT scores. Still, when inner-city athletes are qualified, the results are the same: They are overlooked by local universities.

There are exceptions. I have developed good relationships with university coaches, particularly from Loyola Marymount and CSUN.

Our players may suffer from the negative image of the LAUSD. People who have little contact with inner-city schools don't realize that, even in the absence of athletic scholarships, some of our graduates attend Ivy League schools and do well.

Our players need the media to draw attention to their accomplishments. Since we know the challenges that our athletes face, we inner-city coaches must assume greater responsibility for their success. We must do our part to prepare our players to be successful student-athletes at the college level. As much as we would all like to be champions, I believe our success will ultimately be measured by how well our players have improved.

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