Archive for the ‘Jon Carroll’ Category

WRS Book Review – “Got to Give the People What They Want: True Stories and Flagrant Opinions From Center Court”

Saturday, October 31st, 2015

by Jon Carroll





Image via

Image via

I remember the reign of the Fab Five as if it just happened.  The baggy shorts, the black Nike socks with the matching black Air Max Barkleys, and most importantly, the trash talk.  I was not a baller, but I, like many was drawn to this collection of five freshmen because of the brashness and flair with which they played together.  They were the type of team I imagined myself playing on had basketball been my gift.  In the aftermath of their careers as players, I have become a fan of Jalen Rose in particular because of his podcast, but also because of his work founding the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy (JRLA).  When he started hitting media outlets to promote his book Got to Give the People What They Want: True Stories and Flagrant Opinions From Center Court, I downloaded it as soon as I could and devoured it in two days.

Jalen Rose & "Fab Five" brother Chris Webber

Jalen Rose & “Fab Five” brother Chris Webber

As someone who is a regular listener to the Jalen and Jacoby podcast and now radio show, much of the material covered in the book was not new.  However, there was ample context to help understand the lens that focuses Rose’s worldview.  From the detailed account of his key family relationships to the motivating force that was Jalen’s absent father, the reader is given a deeper understanding of why the retired NBA star viewed Michigan and the NCAA skeptically during his time on campus.  For those who watched the ESPN30 for 30 documentary Fab Five and cringed as Rose and his former teammates recalled calling Black Duke players “Uncle Toms”, the text gives greater insight into why they did it and why they had no shame in doing so.  Of course, given recent headlines, Rose spends significant time detailing his fractured relationship with childhood friend and Fab Five brother, Chris Webber.  It’s a sad story, but a real one and it would not have been a Give the people what they want text without it.    The same can be said for how Rose opens up and talk about other parts of his life.

When I read autobiographical texts, I am always looking to see how much the author is willing to look inside and expose the bad and the ugly along with the good.  Mr. Rose’s text rates at an 8 on a 1-10 scale.  He lamented not being able to be the type of present father that he hoped to be.  As much as it is nice to be able to provide, he demonstrated awareness that the presence cannot be replaced.  He also recounts having to go to jail on a driving under the influence (DUI) charge and how sobering that was.  These stories and others helped humanize Rose over the course of the book so that there is substance behind the flagrant opinions and hot takes, which you may or may not agree with.  I definitely recommend picking this book up if you are at all a fan of basketball.  The insight that Mr. Rose has is truly unique and made for a quick enjoyable read.


Jon Carroll, for War Room Sports

MLB Can Capitalize on Momentum of Taney and Jackie Robinson West

Sunday, August 17th, 2014

by Jon Carroll






Taney pitcher Mo'Ne Davis (Image via

Taney pitcher Mo’Ne Davis
(Image via

I have watched with pride as the Taney Little League All-Star team has advanced all the way to Williamsport as the Middle Atlantic representative in the Little League World Series (LLWS).  Mo’Ne Davis has become a national story as she became the first girl in LLWS history to win a game with her 2-hit shutout on Friday.  When you couple Davis’ accomplishments with those of Pierce Jones of the Jackie Robinson Little League All-Star team from Chicago, you have strong evidence that the underrepresentation of African-Americans at the Major League level is not an issue of talent, but one of opportunity.  Hopefully, the success of these predominantly minority teams will inspire MLB execs to rethink how they conduct outreach in metropolitan centers.

When I first heard that a team from Philly was starting to make noise in the qualifying rounds of the LLWS, my first thought was Where do they play?  In my time growing up in Philly I could not remember where hardcore little league baseball had been played that would prepare a group to be ready for the stiff competition that takes place in Williamsport.  I was hard pressed to think of a facility in Philly comparable to the facilities I have experienced with my own son here in California, a noted hotbed of youth baseball.  To make sure I was not dreaming, I put my old 19131 zip code into the Little League finder and got results like Lower Merion, Haverford, and Drexel Hill, all of which are outside of the City limits.  As a means of comparison, my son’s Little League complex is only 3.5 miles from our rival organization.  Both have over 800 registrants across a number of skill divisions.  This illustrates just what kind of battle East Coast teams face when they enter into Little League play.  It also shows the challenge of developing baseball talent in urban centers.

Jackie Robinson West (Image via

Jackie Robinson West
(Image via

The Taney Little League is operated out of many fields spread across downtown and South Philly and started in 1994.  They have only had a charter for Little League competition for two years and have quickly become a force to be reckoned with.  Similarly, the Jackie Robinson West (JRW) Little League operates out of multiple fields on the Southside of Chicago.  Their little league tradition goes back a little further than that of Taney as they first had a team qualify for the LLWS in 1983.  The success of the teams is a tribute to the volunteers of both organizations as it takes a great deal of dedication and commitment to make them work.   I can only imagine how much more difficult it becomes in urban centers where you have multiple fields to deal with instead of one large complex as has been my experience.  If Major League Baseball is serious about addressing its diversity issues and pulling more Black people into the game, it would behoove them to think about how they can capitalize on the structures already in place in urban centers where Black people live.

Currently Major League Baseball has six Urban Youth Academies (UYA) (Compton, Houston, Philly, New Orleans, Cincinnati, and Puerto Rico), the first of which was founded in 2006.  These academies are meant to grow the game through professional skill instruction and preparation.  This is a nice start, but what about cities like Detroit, Baltimore, Miami, Tacoma, Memphis or any of the five boroughs in NY?  MLB has an interest problem among young adults and promoting the game through these academies as well as additional coaching clinics would go a long way to increasing awareness of the brand.  My hope is that the continued success of both Taney and JRW makes someone at the MLB office see dollar signs so that expansion of the UYAs and other creative outreach programs make perfect sense. Perhaps MLB could create a grant program that would award money to those Little Leagues who make it to Williamsport for the continued improvement of their organization.  Who knows what the ceiling is for a Pierce Jones or Zion Spearman if they are developed to make baseball their main sport over other more popular options and are provided the environment to do so.  The next Andrew McCutcheon is just as likely to be found in West Philly as in traditional talent producing factories.  It only serves MLB to help make that happen.


Jon Carroll for War Room Sports

The Future of Team USA

Friday, August 8th, 2014

by Jon Carroll





Is doubt creeping in for NBA players regarding USA Basketball? (Image via

Is doubt creeping in for NBA players regarding USA Basketball?
(Image via

Even before seeing Paul George’s gruesome injury during last Saturday’s Team USA scrimmage in preparation for the 2014 FIBA World Cup, I was thinking of writing something about the future of NBA players and their involvement in the Olympic process.  It started with NBA Finals Most Valuable Player, Kawhi Leonard, deciding not to play, followed by LaMarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin and then Kevin Love.  Just as I was about to send this in, a big shoe dropped as Kevin Durant withdrew from the team.  LeBron James, the most notable player in the game, is not playing in 2014, and I would be surprised if he returned to Team USA for a fourth Olympics in 2016.  Ever since the 2004 Olympics, when a then nineteen year-old LeBron earned a Bronze medal, the National team, directed by Jerry Colangelo has developed a program where players make a three-year commitment so that when the players take the floor at an Olympics or World Cup, they will have had more than a three-week training camp as preparation.  It is because of this program that I am confident that Team USA can continue to excel in international competition moving forward without having to tap the superstars of the league for service over and over again.

While it was somewhat eye-opening to see Kawhi Leonard turn down the opportunity to increase his stardom by being a key member of this World Cup team, it is not all that surprising given whom he plays for and who his teammates are.  The San Antonio Spurs make it clear through their actions that they are all about the playoffs and championships.  Coach Gregg Popovich rests players during the regular season with no real concern of the opponent, occasion, or potential consequences he may face from the league office.  It is clear that Leonard has gotten the message and sees international play as a hindrance to that goal.  If you look at the output of his teammates, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli in the 2012-13 season after both played in the Olympics, it is hard to argue that the extra games in the Olympic tournament did not take a toll after playing another 90+ games before losing in the Finals to the Heat.  This was particularly true for Ginobli who posted career-low numbers.  Kevin Durant noted in his statement about not playing, “I need to take a step back and take some time away, both mentally and physically in order to prepare for the upcoming NBA season.”  As an NBA fan, I would much rather see players with this mindset and in peak condition for NBA playoff competition than summer international tournaments.  The NBA has enough depth of talent that if you tweak the current program slightly, you still have enough talent to field a quality team without putting the top stars at risk when they are already playing nearly 100 games per season.  International play is also a chance for young NBA talent to develop and get a running start into their young NBA careers.

The main suggestion I put forth is to limit the number of Olympic cycles that players can make on the National team to two.  In this way, by the time a player makes his second team, he is just entering his prime and can focus on his NBA career without the extra wear and tear of summer competition.  This would save someone like Stephen Curry, who has been injury-prone, from having to shoulder the offensive burden in this upcoming World Cup in favor of younger stars like Anthony Davis, Bradley Beal and Anthony Drummond, all of whom are 21 or younger.  Speaking of age, I would suggest bringing the age limit back down to 22.  Yes, having a younger team puts the USA in a position like 2004 where a young nucleus of James, Carmelo Anthony and Dwayne Wade were outplayed by more experienced teams.  However, with the global popularity of the NBA, it serves their purposes better to send emerging talent to international tourneys and risk losing than to put extra wear and tear on the bodies of the most marketable superstars.  Here’s what a 22 and under squad could look like for the World Cup:

Kyrie Irving
Trey Burke
Victor Oladipo
Elfrid Payton
Tim Hardaway, Jr
Bradley Beal
Jabari Parker
Doug McDermott
Aaron Gordon
Anthony Davis
Mitch McGary
Andre Drummond

We are quickly moving out of the era where international stars are comfortable playing at home in other leagues and then representing their countries in international play, which has been the biggest threat to American teams over the years.  There are very few Arvydas Sabonis’ running around these days who wait to come to the NBA.  International stars now come to the NBA as quickly as possible so over time, the idea of a team that has played together for years being able to beat USA all-stars has quickly eroded.  I hope that a change comes before we reach a situation like we had in 2004 where thirty players were invited to the team before a full roster could be assembled.


Jon Carroll, for War Room Sports

Emmanuel Mudiay: Bucking the System

Sunday, July 27th, 2014

by Jon Carroll





(Image via

(Image via

Emmanuel Mudiay made headlines this week by signing the richest contract ever for a high school graduate to go overseas and play basketball.  Despite reports that this decision was made to escape inquiries into his eligibility and amateur status by the NCAA, Mudiay has insisted that this was about taking care of his family.  He told “I was tired of seeing my mom struggle”.  With his decision to pursue the overseas route to prepare for the NBA, Mudiay joins a group that includes Brandon Jennings and Jeremy Tyler, both of whom are now in the NBA.  Mudiay’s decision is a rare one among elite high school prospects, even in the age of having to be nineteen to be draft eligible.  I hope that other elite high school athletes will give this avenue increasing consideration moving forward for reasons relating to the court and off.

On the court, there is the obvious issue of pay.  Mudiay is scheduled to be paid $1.2M to play for Guangdong of the China Basketball Association.  The athletic potential of young black men is commodified so early these days that coaches are forced to scout middle school games in order to stay on top.  With that commodification comes parasitic behavior which often leaves the athlete with little to no say over their future.  When it comes to college, the popular narrative is that elite prospects should be grateful for the $200-300k in scholarship that they could get over four years and forget about any other possible money they could make, not to mention the first class education.  I used to buy into this argument as an educator, but it crumbles when you recognize that the majority of the time, the athlete has long ago decided that they want to be a professional athlete.  A year of unwanted classes on a full scholarship pales in comparison to $1.2M and not having to check-in at the 9am lecture or 6pm study hall. If they have an opportunity to pursue their passion at eighteen and be paid for it, then why should they be stopped?  Olympic athletes, tennis and baseball players have been exercising this option for years.  Young, talented basketball players should feel no shame in doing the same.  By doing so, they have an opportunity to escape the identity shackles that American culture places on their worldview.

Going to China effectively gives Mudiay a one year fellowship in one of the leading civilizations in the world.  He has an opportunity to experience a completely different lifestyle.  This next year will have an impact on his life long after he’s done dribbling the ball.  Perhaps he learns the language, perhaps his notion of “blackness” evolves, maybe he makes business contacts that he can leverage when he does make it to the NBA as expected next year.  Yes, being seen numerous times on ESPN during the college season is a big stage, but so is becoming a star in China.  The exposure on national TV also means little if your game doesn’t develop and you can’t make it past the initial three-year rookie contract.

While Jennings, now a Detroit Piston, lamented that his time in Italy was not all fun and games, he acknowledged that he did mature.  It also sounds like he was humbled by not being treated like a star while playing for Lottomatica Virtus Roma.  A scout noted that he increased his capacity to play defense and that his draft stock had not been harmed.  At worst, Mudiay will be immersed in a professional culture that will prepare him for the rigors of the NBA and he won’t have to worry about being dissected at every turn the way Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker were this past year.  He’ll be doing this while controlling all facets of developing his brand, which is a key component to being a professional athlete today.

While the overall success of Jennings’ and Tyler’s careers can be questioned as neither has yet become an all-star, what cannot be denied is that they were not adversely impacted by their time overseas.  Ultimately it enabled them an opportunity to pursue their chosen professions at a high level and prepare them to play on the world’s most elite basketball stage.  Both matured on the court, and I would venture to guess they learned a lot about being an adult.  I expect the same for Mudiay and hope that as these examples continue to mount, that the prospect of going to foreign land will become a more tantalizing option for the nation’s elite high school basketball players who do not want to submit to the current NCAA policy.


Jon Carroll, for War Room Sports