Young recruits raise questions

first_imgFor most of you, the thought of going to college wasn’t even a blip on the radar when you were 14 years old.But for Jordan Schmaltz, he knows exactly where he’s going at 14 — before spending a minute inside the halls of his Verona Area High School.Schmaltz made a verbal commitment last month to the University of Wisconsin to play hockey for head coach Mike Eaves. The self-described offensive defenseman was sold on being a Badger much earlier than most hockey recruits.Let’s reiterate just how absurd this sounds: He committed to play collegiately before playing on the high school level. And by the time he joins UW — presumably in 2012 if he comes to campus immediately after graduating high school — none of the current Badgers will even be on the team anymore.When I first heard this, my initial impression was confusion. To me, it makes no sense for either party involved to make this sort of agreement. Per NCAA regulations, college coaches can’t initiate contact with recruits until the summer before their junior year in high school. But there’s nothing preventing the athletes from contacting the schools first.Still, why would Schmaltz agree so far in advance? Anything could happen in the four years between now and when he’s expected to play. He may have a change of heart as to where he wants to go, or who knows, he may decide he doesn’t want pursue his hockey dreams anymore. (Unlikely for a kid with his talent, I know, but you can never rule anything out with kids these days.)I’m also trying to figure out why Eaves and his staff would offer a scholarship to someone who has yet to face high school competition. Yes, I understand they want to get him to commit before other programs can get their hands on him. But still, it makes much more sense to let the kid develop — both physically and mentally — for a few years before locking on to him. At 6-foot-1-inch and just 160 pounds, he could stand to bulk up a bit before entering the collegiate ranks. And at this stage you can’t really project just how big he will be.This just shows how non-binding a verbal commitment really is. Making a verbal commitment to play for a certain school is like telling a girl you’ll go to the dance with her. In theory, it sounds like you’ve got a date. But it doesn’t mean anything until you’re actually together on the dance floor.Seeing a commitment walk away after verbally committing is something Wisconsin has actually become familiar with as of late, as two recruits this offseason decided to go elsewhere after saying they would play at UW.Defenseman Patrick Wiercioch, a second-round pick in the 2008 NHL draft, committed to the Badgers in January. It was expected he would possibly join the team this year, but with a deep pool of defensemen in the recruiting class, he chose to wait.Then opportunity came knocking in Denver.The Pioneers, who are thin on the defensive front, will give Wiercioch an opportunity to play this season. For him, the choice was easy, and he jumped the UW ship.Earlier this month, the Badgers lost another recruit who had given them his word when Travis Erstad, a fourth-round draft pick, made a surprise choice by opting instead to play for Division III UW-Stevens Point. Apparently, he made the decision because he wanted to be closer to home — he played forward at Stevens Point Area High School.Pointers head coach Wil Nichol even sat down with Erstad to make sure he was sure about his decision; it was almost as if Nichol couldn’t believe Erstad was choosing to play for him instead of a Division I program.With these recent de-commitments happening to Eaves’ program, I wouldn’t say it’s out of the question that it could happen with Schmaltz too. Those two didn’t commit as far in advance as Schmaltz, but their plans still changed.This scenario also raises the question of where to draw the line. Just how early will colleges start looking at potential recruits? Are coaches going to start attending local mite games, trying to pick out the best player out of a group of 6-year-old kids who can hardly skate yet?Sadly, that doesn’t seem too far-fetched.Tyler is a senior majoring in journalism. If you were recruited by D-I colleges during middle school, let him know about it at [email protected]last_img