Understand this: If you're good enough, they will find you

So I'm having a conversation the other night with a very successful high school basketball coach, who has more than one state championship trophy on the mantel.

Me: "You should be good next year."

Coach: "Eh."

Me: "But your whole team is coming back."

Coach: "Not exactly. Some kids may leave and go to prep school."

And it was here that I thought about my tombstone again. No, really. It's going to read, "Here lies Mikey. He just didn't understand."

Because here is this coach, a multiple time state champ who has sent numerous kids to play in college. And for reasons only known to the families being sold a bill of goods — or perhaps it's the byproduct of societal self-indulgence — some kids may leave his program for allegedly greener pastures.

(Sigh).

This is why I love the high school state tournament. The kids are playing for something beyond their self-interest. They are playing for their school, not some faceless prep school. Their town. For each other. For the name on the front of the jersey, not the back.

What is the more worthwhile experience for high school kids: Playing in your gym for your school with the whole town watching ... or at some prep school east of nowhere in front of crickets and the occasional college coach who may or may not recruit you?

The national prep school tournament was at Conn College this week. Tremendously high level of basketball. Yep. I'm aware. But how many kids playing in that tournament would trade the experience for what we saw, felt and heard around here last week? Two-thousand people watching the league championship game in an atmosphere usually reserved for television.

It makes me wonder about the viability of the whole prep school thing. The travel team thing in baseball. Is it really worth it?

This much I know: If you are good enough, scouts and coaches will find you. They always have. So why not play for your town? Your school? Why get deluded into thinking that travel teams and prep schools are better options? Because some self-promoting coach says the competition is better? Maybe it is. But why should the presumption of "better competition" trump the significance of being a normal high school kid?

I'm not talking about postgraduate levels. I'd recommend a postgraduate year for the great Jere Quinn at St. Thomas More to anybody. I'm talking about high school kids forgoing the high school experience and missing out on the privilege of wearing your school's jersey.

The same goes for youth baseball. I can't stand it one second longer. Travel this and AAU that instead of Babe Ruth and American Legion. No thank you.

Among the reasons:

• I have never seen one scout ever in the history of the universe ever care about what 13-year-olds are doing.

• If you throw 93, they'll find you whether you are on your high school team or on some travel team that's playing the greatest competition possible at this weekend's tournament in El Paso.

• Why would parents keep throwing away money on travel teams and hotels for "the best competition" when our corner of the world has produced a number of major leaguers who never needed travel teams in the first place?

OK. I digress. It's not quite baseball season yet. This remains a basketball rant.

I keep hearing that, for example, Dev Ostrowski, the whiz kid at East Lyme, MUST go to prep school next year because the competition around here isn't good enough. Like it's more obvious than a roadside billboard.

Don't you do it, kid. Stay. Play for your school and your town. The Vikes ought to be The Show around here next year. You only get to be a high school kid once. Just ask Mikey Buscetto at Waterford. He could have gone to prep school this year, too. He thought about it.

Hmmm. How have things worked out for him?

So go do your offseason thing. And then come back. Sources say college coaches can still find East Lyme, CT on a map.

Same goes for all you kiddies.

You only get to be a kid once.

This prep school thing? This travel thing? Load of baloney. If you're good enough, they'll find you. Now go be with your friends. And play for your town. You only get to do it once.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro

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