Former runt of the basketball litter offers advice to late bloomers

How many times have you heard fans, parents, players and coaches say how good that middle school player is going to be in the future because he is the best player on his team.
With my 45 years as a physical education teacher and a coach I could not tell who the best players were going to be on our varsity teams from our freshmen or JV teams, let alone on the middle school teams.
The fear that we may miss some late bloomers is one of the most difficult jobs of selecting teams.
One of the biggest factors in early basketball ability and skills is the different physical maturity of the players. Usually the dominating player in middle school is the player who is the most matured physically.
I had players as late as sophomores and juniors who grew from their sophomore to junior or junior to senior years whom we did not plan on coming from our JV team and becoming starters and major varsity contributors as juniors and seniors.
Some of these late bloomers were the best players that I coached.
Late bloomers are players who hung in there despite getting little playing time and then got their growth spurt late. Their skills, attitude and coachability kept them on the sub varsity teams, but their lack of size and strength limited their playing time.
Some of these late bloomers even passed their classmates who were the big stars of their middle school teams. These late bloomers were usually tougher mentally than their classmates, who got by on size and strength, because they had to get back on the basketball horse of  success after falling off many times.
The key for all those small undersized basketball players on the middle school teams is to hang in there, work hard, be coachable and understand that it will take time to get your natural growth rate.
As coaches we have used the following things to try to project growth for players in our programs. First, we used to look at the height of the parents, siblings and grandparents. Then, we used to look at the sneaker size as a height projection. These were not too accurate and then doctors told us that the length of the thigh (femur) bone was an indicator of height, but that also was not always accurate.
However, today, with modern medical techniques you can get a very accurate height projection by having the wrists X-rayed as that reveals how much growth there is in the growth plate of the wrist.
I have a personal appreciation of late bloomers because I was one. Although, I was a starter on the  elementary team for two years, where size was not as big a factor, as I moved to the junior high team I did not grow and was the runt of the basketball litter of my grade level on the team for three years and I got very little playing time.
I made the JV team as a sophomore but I was only 5-foot-4  and 110 pounds and saw some playing time. I grew a little my junior year to 5-6 and 135 pounds, but saw very little playing time at all on the varsity team.
However, between March of my junior year to September of my senior year I grew six inches and put on 30 pounds, all in about six months. I returned as a senior at 6-0, 165 pounds and got more playing time as a part-time starter and sixth man than I did in all of my playing career in junior high and high school.
Another big factor for late bloomers is the age they graduate. I know, I was only 17 when I graduated and did not turn 18 until my freshmen year in college.
I went on to play in college, where I really came into my own as a late, late bloomer as I went from averaging six points per game in high school to averaging 27.4 a game, being the first 1,000 point scorer in Husson College history and setting 17 scoring records.
I learned that even if you did not have the size needed to play at the junior high and high school level but that if you work hard, are coachable and stay with it, then you can become a good basketball player.
I also learned that if you play to prove a point, as I did in college, it may take you to another level.
To all those small undersized middle school and high school basketball players out there, be patient. That final growth spurt may come and allow you to be one of those late bloomers, and hey, you might even pass some of your teammates who used to be bigger and better than you.If you would like to recommend a topic for the column please e-mail Also, if you would like more basketball info, check out other items on my blog.