- HIGHSCHOOL - Pick of the Letter

Wednesday, July 16
Pick of the Letter

This is the another in a series entitled, "The Life of a Blue-Chip Recruit."

For the past year, the U.S. Postal Service has completely changed life in the LeSueur household.

Bethany LeSueur
Bethany LeSueur of Garden City High (N.Y.) receives up to 60 letters a day from colleges who want the scholastic hoop star to play for them.
Walks back from the family's mailbox in Garden City, N.Y., have included a wheelbarrow. Crates full of colored envelopes litter their living room. And last Christmas, the most popular gift the LeSueurs received was, believe or not, a letter-opener.

The 50 to 60 letters the family receives each day from colleges are simply a symbol of the lifestyle changes that began when Bethany LeSueur, the family's youngest daughter, established herself as a one of the best high school girls' basketball players in the nation.

LeSueur, a 17-year-old junior guard on the Garden City High girls' hoop team, is on the wish list of virtually every top women's collegiate basketball program in the nation. Her mother, Liz, simply wishes for an ounce of daily sanity.

"It's tough. You really have to keep it all in perspective," says Liz LeSueur, who, along with her husband, Paul, has already seen her oldest son, Paul Jr., and oldest daughter, Sarah, go through the recruiting process. "You have to make sure the kids are keeping their goals in mind, because all the schools are constantly telling you how wonderful you are."

Like so many other families with children who have been courted by any of the 310 Division I, 267 Division II or 387 Division III schools, the LeSueurs have discovered that the dream of being recruited can easily become a nightmare if you don't have your guard up.

"It depends on the individual so much. I don't know if there is a textbook way to handle the whole recruiting process," says John Lilly, the recruiting coordinator for the 1999 national champion Florida State football team. "The main thing is to get a grip on reality."

It starts with the letters. Then, on July 1, after the student's junior year, phone calls from recruiters begin. Suddenly and unexpectedly, the glamour of the recruiting process loses its luster.

But according to those who have made a living helping scholastic athletes navigate the choppy waters within the recruiting pool, thinking academics first and sports second is Step 1 in making the right choice.

"The best thing a kid can do is start the college search process as if they don't play a sport," advises athletic recruiting consultant Wayne Mazzoni, author of "The Athletic Recruiting and Scholarship Guide. "Go about the process like a normal student. If you are a highly recruited player, you can play ball anywhere, but if you break your leg, you want to be at a school that is going to give the kind of education you want."

Carl Boldin, the father of one of last year's most highly regarded high school football players, Anquan Boldin, wasn't about to let the recruiting process blindside his son. Since Carl had already experienced the stress of being sought after by a handful of major college football programs. He signed with Georgia Tech as a defensive tackle in 1976, he was ready for the process, and, therefore, so was Anquan.

"We did a lot of research. If you're involved with a child who is being recruited, it's imperative that you do your homework," says Carl, who took it upon himself to show Anquan various college campuses outside of football season, so that he wouldn't be swayed by a program's fancy recruiting methods.

"At no time did I try to tell him that I thought one school suited him better than another. He had to make the decision on his own. It's my job just to be a supporting parent."

Now that Anquan has made the transition from a former Pahokee High (Fla.) quarterback to a freshman wide receiver for Florida State, it's clear he has an appreciation for his father's former methodology.

"My dad told me that this was going to be one of the most selfish decisions I would ever have to make," says Anquan, the 1998 High School Football Player of the Year in Florida. "He gave me a lot of good advice, but most importantly, he told me that this was a decision I was going to live with for the next four or five years. It got a little hectic at the end, but it's a process you have to go through if you're a high-profile high school athlete."

But, as Lilly notes, all families don't rely on the kind of level-headed approach exhibited by the Boldins.

"You have some parents who have a tough time realizing that it's their child's decision, but at the same time there are parents who let the kids totally make the decision," says Lilly, who has been the Seminoles' recruiting coordinator for the past three years. "I think somewhere in between is where you will find the best way to go about it."

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Welcome to the Jungle (Part 2)

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