After just finishing his sophomore year at Bishop Miege, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl was one of the younger players invited to the NBA Players Association Top 100 Camp this week at the University of Virginia.
Most of this group of top college recruits are getting ready for their senior season, but that hasn’t kept Robinson-Earl from both holding his own on the court and appreciating what the opportunity to participate in the camp can mean off it. On the opening day of the camp Wednesday, he averaged 10 points and six rebounds over two games.
And after leading Bishop Miege to a state title, he’s ranked No. 32 in the nation in the class of 2019 by 247Sports. Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Oklahoma and Iowa are among the schools already to offer a scholarship. He’s in for a crazy amount of attention and pressure over the next couple of years, but this camp is designed to help players handle it all.
“I’m not trying to rush anything,” Robinson-Earl said after his second game of the day Wednesday. “I just want to be smart about it all.”
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That’s something he and his family can appreciate. Two decades ago, Robinson-Earl’s father, Lester Earl, was the subject of one of the most intense and bitter recruiting sagas in the nation. A McDonald’s All-American recruited by nearly every top program in the nation, Lester Earl eventually chose to stay home and attend LSU, turning down Kansas and others.
But his time with the Tigers was brief and full of drama. The NCAA investigated his recruitment and ruled LSU committed multiple violations. Earl transferred to KU, and LSU was put on three years’ probation.
Years later, in 2007, Earl wrote a letter to LSU, apologizing for the penalties, saying he lied after NCAA investigators threatened his eligibility if he wouldn’t identify a member of the Tigers staff for illegal payouts.
“My dad has said to just enjoy it all,” Robinson-Earl said. “He said you have to take it day by day. He said take fun trips. Take the visits you really want to. You have to enjoy it.”
The elder Earl initially wound up at LSU, at least in part because the hometown school made a point of signing several of his friends and hiring staffers with whom he had a relationship. His son could very well end up signing with a program close to home, he’s taken unofficial visits to both KU and Missouri, but it won’t be because of pressure from others.
He denied the Jayhawks have any advantage at this point, even though some recruiting sites list Kansas as a clear favorite.
“There’s no truth to that,” Robinson-Earl said. “It doesn’t matter that I’m from there or that my parents went there. It has nothing to do with my process.”
While playing on a court in Virginia’s practice gym, former Missouri standout Keyon Dooling, who played against Lester Earl, stopped to watch Jeremiah’s team.
“Wow, that’s Lester’s son,” Dooling asked with a grin. “That’s how I know I’m getting old. I hope he knows his father was one of the best athletes I ever seen, before he blew out his knee. Lester Earl was a legend.”
Dooling helps run the camp for the Players Association. While many of the events for elite recruits are run by sneaker companies with their own agendas, the NBA players union puts on this event as a service to players who might one day be members. Plenty of time is spent in the gyms, but a good chunk of the event is also spent in seminars helping the players and parents figure out how to manage the challenges that will come.
“We build a network, a community to help one another and it doesn’t just last while we’re here at the camp,” Dooling said. “I don’t remember exactly what Lester’s issues were with the NCAA, but that’s a two-way street. The NCAA has to make their system better and less exploitive to really help the players.”
As a second-generation recruit, Robinson-Earl has a leg up in building the kind of support system that could lead to success both on and off the court.