Jerron Love is a very good basketball player. No one is doubting that. What people have a hard time with is the fact that he's being touted as one of the great eighth grade players of all-time, and the man who is making those proclamations with a national-strength bullhorn is his father.
As chronicled by the Wall Street Journal's Scott Cacciola, the Love family business is online basketball hype. Sure, Jerry Love -- Jerron's father -- also owns a beauty salon, but youth basketball phenoms are his true passion. The 38-year-old native of the Bronx runs the popular Middle School Elite web site which touts the prodigious skills of would-be hoops prodigies, though it has zero track record of correctly pushing players who eventually reach college basketball or the NBA because it hasn't existed long enough to do so.
Certainly, great basketball players like LeBron James, Monta Ellis, Tyreke Evans and plenty others have proven that an athlete marked as a particular talent from a young age can often blossom into a true superstar. The issue is that the hype brought on many of these stars often helps put them in a national spotlight, which can land them a spot at a better prep program or, perhaps more importantly, a strong AAU team.
Those basketball advantages in turn pave the way to a college scholarship and, sometimes, a pro future after that.
That cycle is precisely where Jerry Love's involvement of Middle School Elite becomes such a problem. It's not surprising that Love would feel his son is the best prospect in the nation. Many fathers feel that way about their sons. The difference is that no other dads broadcast that belief to the entire country, set up massive social media efforts (here's Jerron's Facebook page and here is his Twitter feed, if you care to peruse them, let alone his full-fledged personal web site) to support awareness of their child's talent or fast track their future.
As the Wall Street Journal points out, the elder Love's efforts have gone far beyond those slightly overbearing support structures, as well. Jerry Love essentially built the Middle School Elite brand so he could rank his son atop all the eighth grade prospects in the nation.
In fact, the decision to build Middle School Elite into a full fledged national web site that ranks all ages of prospects came after another controversial pre-teen ranking service, Clark Francis' HoopScoop, dropped Jerron Love from among the top 10 prospects in the eighth grade to 50th in the nation.
The HoopScoop rankings dip led to Love's release of Middle School Elite's own eighth grade rankings, a list which his son currently sits atop of.
Love didn't stop there, either, launching attacks at Francis' service from the pulpit of his position as editor and publisher of Middle School Elite. The Wall Street Journal claims that Love claimed Francis made a "mockery of the game."
"His dad's out of his mind," Francis told the Journal. "I'm probably higher on Jerron than most people in New York. Honestly, I couldn't care less whether the parent is a jerk or not."
The saddest part of the elder Love's hysteria, of course, is that his son is caught squarely in the crosshairs of his father's myopia. By focusing on Jerron Love's promotion with such single-minded zeal, Jerry Love inherently raises huge doubts among coaches about whether it would ever be worth working with his son.
In other words, Jerry Love may be tomahawking his son's own career, before it ever really gets a chance to get started.
The psychic battle scars of the elder Love's attempts to promote his son are already written all over the family's recent move from Yonkers, N.Y. to their new home in Fresno, where Jerron will attend Fresno (Calif.) Clovis West High in the fall. Both father and son cite chances for a new beginning on the West coast. Regardless of why the family left New York, the younger Love will now finally get a chance to prove himself on the court at a level where many more people take notice, with high school basketball fans in California prepared to take stock in his development.
It's just a shame that the Love family track record will always precede whatever Jerron Love does accomplish on the court, particularly given the younger Love's natural talent.