But just when you thought you had heard everything, comes the latest trend: Top players are begging their parents to spend an extra year in middle school.
All four of New Jersey’s top-rated players in the 2014 and 2015 national recruiting classes — Karl Towns of St. Joseph’s of Metuchen, Quadri Moore of Linden, Isaiah Briscoe of St. Benedict’s Prep and Malachi Richardson of Roselle Catholic — repeated a grade in middle school for one reason or another. And four of the five players on this season’s Star-Ledger all-state freshman/sophomore team (including Towns) also stayed back a year.
“It’s not because a kid is not doing well in school or is too young for his grade,” said Bob Hurley, coach of St. Anthony High of Jersey City. “It’s just because you’ll be one year older in high school and you’ll be that much better of a player.”
In New Jersey, a student-athlete is eligible to compete as a high school senior so long as he turns 19 after Sept. 1 of that school year. An athlete can only play sports for four consecutive years — meaning that if he wants a year of seasoning without being penalized, he must do it before reaching high school.
And players repeating grades is not restricted to New Jersey. At least three of the top 12 players in the 2013 class nationally — Andrew Wiggins, Noah Vonleh and Wayne Seldon — repeated a grade. The No. 2 overall rated player in 2012, Nerlens Noel, also repeated.