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BURNSTEIN COLUMN: Victims of circumstance, PSL not nearly the talent factory it used to be on the basketball floor

By: Scott Burnstein, June 5, 2013, 10:00 am

The Detroit Public School League has seen its better days when it comes to its reputation and profile in the men’s Division I college-basketball recruiting world.

With citywide school-closures, open enrollment, the charter school explosion and a transfer epidemic raging across the state, all playing a factor, the PSL is a shadow of its former self.

A one-time overflowing pool of talent on the prep hardwood, known nationally as a premiere breeding ground for up-and-coming hoopsters, is sadly drying up more and more as each year passes.

This school year the PSL will only be sending six players onto Division I college programs; Detroit Pershing’s Martez Walker (Texas) and Kahlil Felder (Oakland), Detroit Cass Tech’s D’andre Johnson (Florida Atlantic), De Angelo Stewart (University of S. Illinois-Edwardsville) and Kyle Seward (Youngstown State) and Detroit Renaissance’s Clark Bishop (Florida Atlantic).

Of those players, they represent a meager three high schools and only one is going to a major-college program – Walker with the Longhorns -, the rest mid-major (Felder and Steward) or small (Johnson, Bishop and Stewart).

That all said, it’s still considerably better than last year’s output. In 2012, the PSL produced a mere two Division I-scholarship players in Pershing’s Sherron Dorsey-Walker (Iowa State) and Detroit Crockett’s Lloyd Neely (Oakland).

It’s been a fast descent.

Less than a decade ago, the PSL was still a hoop hotbed, featuring the likes of the Renaissance trio of Joe Crawford (Kentuvky), Malik Hairston (Oregon), TaJuan Porter (Oregon), Pershing’s Deshawn Sims (Michigan), Detroit Redford’s Manny Harris (Michigan), Detroit Northwestern’s Chris Douglas-Roberts (Memphis) and Detroit King’s Ramar Smith (Tennessee).

There are 54 PSL alums that made it to the NBA.

From the 1960s during the Spencer Haywood era, to the 1970s when the league was peppered with future pros like the Ice Man himself George Gervin (Detroit Eastern-MLK), Dan Roundfield (Chadsey), Eric Money (Kettering), Larry Fogle (Cooley), Terry Tyler (Northwestern), Johnny Davis (Murray-Wright), Earl Cureton (Finney) and Greg Kelser (Henry Ford), and the 1980s and 90s, where it played host to soon-to-be NBA’ers Steve Smith (Pershing), Kevin Willis (Pershing), Jalen Rose (Southwestern), Voshon Leonard (Soutthwestern), Howard Eisely (Southwestern),Derrick Coleman (Northern), Carlos Rogers (Northwestern), Maurice Taylor (Henry Ford), Robert Traylor, (Murray-Wright), Roy Tarpley (Cooley) and Willie Green (Cooley), among others.   

Crawford, Hairston and Douglas-Roberts were all selected in the second round of the 2008 draft.

Jordan Crawford, Joe’s younger brother who prepped at Detroit CMA (now closed), was the last player from the league to be drafted into the NBA, going as the 27th pick in the first round in 2010 to the New Jersey Nets. Crawford would have his rights traded to the Atlanta Hawks on draft day and played in college at Indiana University and Xavier University.

What’s most tragic about the downfall of the PSL and the fact that it will never go back to being the powerhouse it was before, is that all of the factors that led to its sad current state of affairs were out of their control. The population decreased, the economy crashed, the schools closed.  Parents rightfully fought to get their kids out of a school district that had worries way beyond that of its sports teams, like keeping their doors open all together.

As it looks right now for the foreseeable future, the PSL will have to sustain on its legendary heritage, a history of excellence and pride it must hold on to tightly and preserve at every cost in light of the current situation.

Unfortunately, that’s really all it has.