When colleges come calling, how young is too young?

It used to be that the only thing high school underclassmen athletes had to worry about was getting a ride home after practice from an older teammate.

It used to be that the only thing high school underclassmen athletes had to worry about was getting a ride home after practice from an older teammate.

Now, with colleges looking to recruit prep athletes at younger and younger ages, there’s a little more stress for the high school athlete.

Take Skyline High School quarterback Jake Heaps for example. Heaps, only a sophomore this past season, led the Spartans to a 14-0 season and a Washington Class 3A state championship win over O’Dea. After throwing for 3,103 yards and 31 touchdowns, universities are already courting the 6-2 right-hander who has one full year of high school football under his belt.

Brigham Young University, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, Washington and Washington State have all already offered full-ride scholarships to Heaps.

So how young is too young? How can a 15-year-old be expected to make decisions that will impact the rest of his life, when he can’t even get into an R-rated movie without his parents?

Heaps is just a local – and far from the most extreme – example of early recruiting.

That award would go to Michael Avery of Lake Sherwood, Calif., a eighth-grade basketball prospect who hasn’t played a single minute of high school basketball.

But that wasn’t enough to deter University of Kentucky head coach Billy Gillispie from offering the 6-foot, 4-inch Avery a full-ride scholarship to play basketball for Wildcats.

Just to be clear, Avery cannot sign a letter of intent for 40 more months.

Undoubtedly, high school is a time of great growth and change. By the time they walk out the door, students take the leap from kids to young men and women with their future on their shoulders as they head to college or the workforce.

While it may be fun to get the attention that comes from recruiters, shouldn’t kids get a chance to be, well, kids? The NCAA has stringent rules regarding recruiting, but the trend is obvious: stand out, and you’ll get offers.

It’s a trend that has come on stronger in recent years and it will be interesting to see the effects that result from it. Schools are taking big chances on kids who may be a completely different person by the time they step foot on their university’s campus.

All in the pursuit of athletic success.

Joel Willits can be reached at jwillits@reporternewspapers.com or 425-453-4270 ext. 5060.

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