HUTTON: Indiana All-Star selection process has major flaws
Charlie Hall, the Indiana All-Star director, is in a terrible position.
I feel sorry for him. He is forced to defend the process of selecting the team, which is stuck in an Indiana time warp.
Hall is a one-man show, a former girls coach, who travels across the state, scouting players while relying on a trusted network of former coaches and basketball insiders, to pick the 13 players for the Indiana-Kentucky All-Star series. In Charlie, alone, we are supposed to trust. He does it in consultation with the all-star team’s head coach.
After all these years, even with the proliferation of AAU basketball and dwindling attendance at the games, it’s still sacred stuff.
It’s a great job and an awful job. It’s great because he gets to travel the state and feast on high school basketball. It’s awful because he actually has to make the calls that are certain to tick someone off. Every year, Hall has to leave 47 good players off the team. The top 60 players attend a March workout, and then in April an announcement, like a stray thunderbolt streaking through a clear blue sky, arrives in the form of a story by the Indianapolis Star, which used to sponsor the team. The stunner that came out of this year’s selection process for Northwest Indiana was that Mike Schlotman of Munster made the team but Nick Davidson of Andrean didn’t. I had two premonitions about how the all-star selection for Northwest Indiana would go before it actually happened. Davidson would make it, Davidson and Schlotman would both make it, or neither player would get named. I was completely wrong. There were plenty of other coaches around here that had the same premonitions.
It was a puzzling decision because Davidson’s stats were stronger than Schlotman’s, he was the closer and star of Andrean’s team and he led the 59ers to a regional title, something they hadn’t done in 13 years. Of the seven coaches I spoke with about the selection, all of them were surprised that Davidson didn’t make it.
To be fair, three of them defended the pick, saying that both players deserved to be on the team. West Side coach Murrary Richards, whose team played both Andrean and Munster, said he thought Schlotman was a better ball handler. He felt like Davidson was a better closer.
“They both should’ve made it,” he said. “I’d put Davidson right behind him.”
Schlotman was every bit as skilled as Davidson but he wasn’t the guy most coaches game-planned against (that would be Nate Bubash and Munster’s 3-point shooting) and he wasn’t even the Mustangs’ first option on offense. He was Munster’s third-leading scorer. Are the comparisons valid? Yes and no. Yes because context is necessary here, and no because the teams play completely different systems.
Conspiracy theorists can gorge on this one: Mike Hackett, the Munster coach, is the president elect of the IBCA board while Carson Cunningham, the Andrean coach, is an uninvolved member. Hackett has clout. He can help make a kid’s dream come true. Furthermore, the whole Davidson-Munster-Andrean story is complicated by the fact that Davidson was a Munster kid, having attended St. Thomas More. The Munster student body had been known to shout “Traitor” at Davidson when he went to the free-throw line in games the two teams played.
Hall rejects that idea that the selections are politically motived, and I believe him to a degree. No one actually has a conversation about taking Schlotman over Davidson, but given two equally qualified candidates, at least in Hall’s eyes, it’s pretty easy to see who gets the call. The guy whose coach he knows best. The guy, Hackett, who helped deliver three Northwest Indiana players in 2011 — Joe Crisman, Austin Richie and Adonis Filer — when he was the coach. Now, there is nothing wrong with being visible, and it certainly is great to be involved and help your kids out, but the process needs to pass the eye test.
Hall insists the process is thorough and fair, inclusive, apolitical and not perfect.
“Subjectivity is part of the process,” he said.
Even Crown Point coach Clint Swan, who was devastated two years ago when Spike Albrecht wasn’t picked, backed him on that.
“There will never be a remedy for this,” Swan said. “I’m telling you, it’s just too vast. Some things are going to be missed.”
And that is what happened with Davidson. He got snared in the imperfect part of the process. Hall evaluated Davidson as a wing player and Schlotman as a pass-first point guard. There were too many good wing players. Davidson was the odd kid out.
Hall’s premise — that Davidson was a wing player — ignores his high school history.
He started for four seasons as the point guard for Andrean.
“He was a point guard,” I told Hall.
“That’s your opinion,” he said.
Well, OK but why don’t you ask 20 coaches around here whether Davidson was a point guard or a wing guy? That would be their opinion, according to Hall. I watched Schlotman play about 10 times and Davidson play around 15, and Davidson was extremely versatile and he was always a point guard first. He played everywhere. He basically ended up being punished for his versatility and skill in this case.
My problem with the process, which Hall is not at all responsible for, is that we have no idea how he is influenced, or by whom, when he makes those difficult calls. Who did he talk to? Who are his sources and why should the burden fall only on his shoulders? Who decided that Davidson was a wing and why do we have to blindly accept Hall’s word for it? Why are we just supposed to trust him? Why isn’t there more transparency?
I don’t doubt that Hall does a great job and that he works hard at gathering the information for the team, but is there a better way to come up with results that would pass the smell test? I’m certain that a process that was more openly inclusive and spread out among more coaches, could eliminate much of the lingering cynicism about how these calls are made.
There is a way to do this and eliminate the skepticism about what is essentially done in private.
They just need to follow the Kentucky model.
Read part two of the series tomorrow where you can find out why the Blue Grass state is ahead of Indiana when making their all-star calls.