By Darryl Maxie
The good news for Southern Crescent athletes, and its girls high school basketball players in particular: You have all the talent you need to play on the next level.
The bad news: The colleges who need you don’t know you’re out there.
The gap between players’ needs and college opportunity is one that guys like Morrow girls coach Anthony McKissic and former Dutchtown football and basketball player Jordan Harris are trying to bridge. They see athletes falling through the cracks and figure that, with a lot of legwork, they can plug the leak.
“It’s not just for girls basketball players,” said McKissic, who is launching Crunch Time Recruiting Services with an unsigned seniors camp to be held March 28 at Morrow. A boys camp is being planned for Jonesboro High around the same time. McKissic expects the organization he’s starting to aid boys basketball players, track and cross country athletes, football players — anybody who needs a boost.
Harris, who played at Dutchtown from 2010-13, and is the older brother of current Dutchtown girls basketball player Kamera Harris who broke Brittney Griner’s single-game blocked shots record last season, doesn’t have a formal organization, just a grass-roots effort that he’s already seen bear fruit with a player he’s never met or seen play in person.
“I’ve been around sports so long, it’s just a passion of mine,” said Harris, who will transfer from Alabama State to the Morehouse football team this year.
Paying it forward is what some would call it. Motivated by passion and purpose, McKissic and Harris are willing to go the second mile — and the third, fourth and 150th — to match players with available scholarships. They had coaches who did it for them.
“I had a coach in high school, Donald Stroy at Kendrick … who took the time to help me get recruited,” said McKissic, who graduated high school in 2001. “I went off to Southwestern College in Kansas, an NAIA school, and it helped me out. I realized that there were several players out there who are just like I was. It wasn’t that the schools didn’t want them. They just didn’t know that they existed.”
For Harris, the coaches that put in overtime to help put him in college were basketball coach Terry Herrod and football coach Jason Galt.
Herrod is now head football coach at Riverdale, while Galt, formerly holding the same position at Dutchtown, is now at North Forsyth.
“They worked their butts off to get me noticed,” Harris said. “I’ve seen a lot of girls basketball players not able to go to college because their high school coaches don’t push themselves, trying to get their names out there.”
Harris said he recently met an unidentified player via Twitter — one who otherwise was generating no attention. With 150 calls over a two-week span, that player reported to Harris that she was getting attention.
“She was shocked,” said Harris, who uses the Twitter handle @RecruitMeNow101 in his efforts.
Part of the problem is that there are high school coaches who aren’t concerned about the next level.
“It is a legitimate problem,” said McKissic, who has been informally helping players for at least the seven years he’s been at Morrow. “A lot of coaches say it’s not their job to get players to the next level. If that’s their opinion then that’s their truth.”
McKissic’s truth is a little different.
“I feel like if we only win one game, but I get all my players signed, then I’ve been successful,” he said. “It is a lot of work, but it becomes easier with time. You get to know what colleges are looking for, you build relationships.”
McKissic even found a way to get a senior, whose final season was cut short by a torn ACL, a full ride to Chattahoochee Valley Community College in Phenix City, Ala. It took three months and a lot of junior-season tapes, but it lets him know what the possibilities are. And that he can do it in a way that doesn’t merely use the kids for profit.
“The time I put into this is worth it, because I’m helping kids and helping their families out,” McKissic said. “There are plenty of companies doing what I’m doing. The difference is mine is cheaper because I don’t charge the college scouts.”
If his new organization gets one player in college each year, even that will be worth it to McKissic.
“It’s very personal to me,” he said.