In my opinion

Local showcases give prospects right kind of help


With few all-star games left for Class of 2013 players to showcase their many skills to college coaches who still have scholarships to award, the attention — especially on the recruiting front — has started to turn the future.

The offseason, which used to start after National Signing Day in February, has now found a way to kick off before the new year actually begins. As crazy as that might sound, think of the pressure now sitting squarely on the young shoulders of these rising seniors, juniors and sophomores.

It seems that there are events every weekend designed to not only get the football talent in this region better, but to keep players in shape for the many choices they will have to make from now until August, when they do it for real once again.

When it came to the recruiting process in the past, it was all about picking out a few events and attending just to get your name out there. But that is no longer the case. The football talent in this region of the state has its name out for colleges to see nearly every day — via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Hudl. The process has gotten easier.

As parents are always asking where they should send their athlete, many are swayed by big company names that promise exposure but deliver very little.

I am not going to take on Under Armour or Nike, who started these combines with the idea of exposing the major athletes, but never really helped anyone ever attain a scholarship.

The competition to get the athletes to events have come to the point where lying is the easiest thing to do to attract huge numbers — often sending the campers away disappointed and disenchanted with the entire process.

What the big company names have to understand: When it comes to this region of the country, there is no need for them to come in here and fib to parents and athletes, painting a picture that if the prospect attends one of their “cattle call” of hundreds of kids, they will have a chance to get their name out there and woo colleges. By just running and lifting?

South Florida is now home to enough local showcases, combines, camps, 7-on-7 events and major exposure that there is no need to attend events that just measure speed and strength.

Charles Fishbein of Elite Scouting Services has been running camps and football-oriented combines for well more than a decade.

His spring ESS event is loaded with football drills and attracts a number of recruiting analysts and media members who get film, video, evaluations and stories out within hours of the event.

“We are the only combine in South Florida that cares about all athletes, regardless of whether they are BCS or NAIA,” Fishbein said. “What we have long done for the kids is make them feel that their combine experience is not wasted and the information will go directly to all colleges. The bigger companies with 1,000 athletes attending cannot make that statement and be truthful about it.”

One of the events that has produced talent and has directly been responsible for getting athletes scholarships is the Mastrole Passing/Premier Athletes Quarterback-Receiver Winter Showcase, which was held last weekend at Cardinal Gibbons High in Fort Lauderdale.

With a résumé of players that includes seniors such as Gregory Hankerson (Boyd Anderson), John Okorn (St. Thomas Aquinas), Troy Cook (Southridge) and Akeem Jones (Carol City), Mastrole’s event is a proven training ground for quality athletes to improve and jump on the radar screen.

Last Saturday, instead of concentrating on how fast they can run or how much weight they can pick up, the showcase was all about football.

With Mastrole and Sly Johnson — a onetime Monsignor Pace, Miramar High and Miami (Ohio) standout — running the event, nearly 100 athletes had the chance to learn and get plenty of recognition — days before the ball dropped, ushering in the new year.

While any competition will have its youngsters who are there to learn the benefits of a talent showcase, such as media and recruiting exposure, there are those prospects that are already fully on the radar.

Players such as rising senior Sean White, who finished as the No. 1 passer in Miami-Dade and Broward counties at Chaminade-Madonna High, came out. So did Hialeah standout Alin Edouard, Lee Martin (Dillard) and Kilton Anderson, a 6-3, 200-pounder from Naples, who was one of the state’s best this past season.

“I watched Sean White out there today, as did many of the coaches and parents, and there is little doubt that he is one of the best we have had around here,” Mastrole said. “There are still several things he wants to work on, but it will be events more like this and not others that are designed to put you on the map, which I believe he already is.”

Among the 2014 receivers on hand were Emmanuel Soto (University School), George Rushing (Cardinal Gibbons), Joe Robinson (Northwestern), Sean Bender (St. Thomas Aquinas), Nick Gonzalez (Hialeah), Randy Ramsey (Dillard) and Chris Taylor (North Broward Prep).

Rising sophomores Sam Bruce (University School) and Christian Gomez (Pines Charter) and Class of 2015 standout Rob Foy (Western) were also on hand for the showcase.

In addition, Class of 2014 prospects Sean Pratt (Cooper City), Jorge Pola (Belen Jesuit), Nicholas Velar (St. Thomas Aquinas), Chris Scholz (Palmetto), Matt Wilson (Pompano Beach) and Trevis McKinney (Hialeah Miami Lakes) attended and looked good. So did Class of 2015 players Jake Rizzo (St. Thomas Aquinas), Greg LaStella (South Florida HEAT) and Trace Norkus (Calvary Christian).

There were also rising sophomores such as Alejandro Ros (Christopher Columbus), Osky Serbin (Miami Beach), Kenneth Stanley (Stranahan), Christian Matos (Belen Jesuit) and Oscar Pilloto (Christopher Columbus).

Read more Larry Blustein stories from the Miami Herald

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