Baltimore's Josh Selby - a 6-3 dynamo, big-scoring point guard - is having the time of his life.
The Lake Clifton High School athlete is enjoying the ride as one of the most coveted college basketball recruits in America. Some of the most elite of programs -- Kansas, Kentucky, Connecticut, Arizona - want Selby desperately and see the Parade All-American as a lynchpin for a Final Four run.
Selby buffed more luster on his star at the March 31 McDonald's All-American game in Columbus, OH, winning the slam dunk contest and scoring 13 points in the game on 6 of 7 shooting. Averaging 32 points, seven rebounds, seven assists for his Lakers team during his senior high school season, Selby's talents are so immense, scouts are saying, that he could be one of the next to be "one and done" - going straight to the NBA after a year in college.
Selby is one of a handful of premier recruits - notably with Florida's Brandon Knight and New York's Doron Lamb -- who have been surveying the college landscape as major-talent undecideds. Selby is supposed to announce his choice April 17 at the Jordan Brand Classic in New York. Ever understanding of his premier position, Selby even played an April Fools joke through his Twitter account, grabbing the attention of college basketball prognosticators by announcing that he would reveal his commitment in an hour. Then came the sike.
What Selby is most of all is a symbol for the place big-time basketball occupies in urban families and communities. Just like well-to-do and often lucky fathers and grandfathers in the business world are able to pass down their wealth to set up new generations in the family, you look at the road a Josh Selby is traveling and those same kind of opportunities appear to be emerging - just based on athletic prowess rather than privilege.
A Josh Selby, if he fulfills his destiny, will get to the NBA, be a star and eventually make millions. That is how they talk about his potential. He'll buy his mother that new house and trickle-down the dollars to his family members and friends.
Selby is a poster boy for what some struggling families will do and how far they will go when they discover they are nurturing athletic genius. They run them hard on the AAU circuit. They hold them back in middle school in seeking the right situation. They transfer them from high school to high school. They acknowledge that the point of academics is to get them to do well enough to qualify to play D-1 ball.
No matter where he plays next season, expect his mom and biggest influence, Maeshon Witherspoon, to tag along. Like phenom Brandon Jennings of the Milwaukee Bucks, who had his mother and brother with him for a season in Europe before coming to the NBA, Witherspoon will be there for the ride.
Mom will probably tell you she is as vested in her son as anyone and deserves the riches and attention for getting him to this point. She speaks willingly in Selby's You Tube videos. That is how it is done when you are a single mother and former high school player yourself raising a kid on treacherous East Baltimore streets. How deep is her influence? One report had Witherspoon not wanting to live in a place where it snows. Shortly afterward, Selby canceled an official visit to Storrs, CT to meet with coach Jim Calhoun and the Connecticut Huskies - reportedly because of car trouble.
Selby is typical of marvelously talented, five-star athletes headed to college. A majority of them are young African-American athletes. Like others before him, Selby's high school career is marked by transfer after transfer. First there was John Carroll High in the Harford County, MD, a pretty good school. Then there was the move to DeMatha Catholic High School two hours away in Prince George's County in Hyattsville, MD, another pretty good school.
Then it was back to East Baltimore and Lake Clifton, a large urban public high school that, frankly, hasn't had the best reputation for academics. "Drop out rates, violence, low test scores and low attendance plagued the school for years," according to one description of Lake Clifton.
But it goes to show you what high school coaches will do, too, to reel in top talent to their programs. In the case of DeMatha, whose basketball alumni includes the likes of Adrian Dantley, Danny Ferry, Adrian Branch, Hawkeye Whitney, Keith Bogans, Joe Forte, Sidney Lowe and Dereck Whittenburg, Selby was traveling an hour or more by car and train to get there. Clearly, that meant little for DeMatha. They wanted Selby's basketball talent and hoped it would work out, and Witherspoon would not have been able to move to the area.
Many parents of high school boys would kill to have a DeMatha covet their children - if only to get them the foundation to be doctors, lawyers and businessmen. Selby, though, reportedly had trouble getting to class. While the team's leading scorer at 16.3 points per game during the 2009 high season as a junior, he was suspended for a reported violation of team rules, shutting down his season.
But no matter. Just come to Lake Clifton, despite its many ills, and join coach Herman Harried's 2009 state championship winning team with fellow top 6-6 recruit Will Barton, headed to Memphis for 2010-2011 with his brother, point guard Antonio.
Selby is described in glowing terms. "A consensus Top 10 recruit in the country," was a description in newspaper articles leading to the McDonalds game. Rivals.com puts him as the No. 4 prospect in the Class of 2010 (Knight is No. 1). Another service terms him as being "completely unguardable."
Baltimore and Washington have had a long legacy of producing top-flight hoops talent.
Selby, a good kid by all accounts despite a shoot-first, pass-second reputation, is next. His story isn't one of Hoosiers. Instead, it's hard-balling that comes from the streets of urban America.
What if Josh Selby were your son? We all should be so lucky.
DMA 7-22 Sports is a blog about sports in the Washington-Baltimore market, covering amateurs, colleges and pros. The title DMA 7-22? Means "Designated Market Area," per use of media rating services, signifying Washington is the 7th largest media market in the United States, and Baltimore is the 22nd. You can reach M.V. Greene at DMA722Sports@gmail.com
Photos: McDonalds game Slam Dunk Contest, AP; Josh Selby, Rivals.com