Hyland receives a lesson in basketball business

Posted Jan. 06, 2011, at 4:53 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 06, 2011, at 7:28 p.m.
Keegan Hyland
Keegan Hyland

Keegan Hyland was expected to be in Burlington, Vt., on Thursday, watching the University of Vermont men’s basketball team play Albany after checking out the campus earlier in the day.

Twenty-four hours earlier, the former South Portland High School star — a two-time Bangor Daily News All-Maine choice and 2010 Mr. Maine Basketball finalist — was in Orono, watching the University of Maine play Hartford after checking out the campus earlier in the day.

Presumably the 6-foot-4 shooting guard soon will select a new school for himself from among those two choices and several other East Coast programs that have contacted him in the aftermath of his seeking and receiving a release from his basketball scholarship at Gonzaga University, a major-college program more than 2,500 miles away across the continent in Spokane, Wash.

Hyland’s case is just one more bit of evidence that the pursuit of a college basketball career is as much business as it is pleasure.

Hyland became South Portland’s careeer scoring leader in barely three seasons; his senior year was limited to three games due to a stress fracture of his left pelvic bone.

After initially giving a verbal commitment to Vermont during his senior year, he changed course and was set to attend prep school for the 2010-11 year.

But somewhat out of the blue last spring Gonzaga needed a shooting guard, and Hyland had a stellar reputation both on the high school and AAU levels so an assistant coach for the Bulldogs flew cross-country to work out the Pine Tree State phenom.

A scholarship offer soon followed — and with Gonzaga having made one trip to the NCAA’s Elite Eight and earned four more berths to the Sweet Sixteen since 1999, Hyland’s dream of playing big-time Division I basketball suddenly was coming true.

But not so fast.

His first semester at Gonzaga was injury-plagued, first a knee problem and then a concussion suffered just before the team’s first game of the season. As Hyland remained sidelined he fell behind the rest of this year’s team, while the Bulldogs also were busy signing players for its next recruiting class. Specifically, coach Mark Few’s club signed four players to scholarships last fall, three of whom were guards.

Suddenly the path to playing time even for a healthy Hyland was uncertain, leading to his decision to leave the program.

While Hyland said this week that he wasn’t unhappy at Gonzaga, the looming competition for playing time surely provided a stark reminder that the scholarship he held in hand guaranteed nothing more than to pay for his education.

And for a kid known during his high school days for shooting hundreds of shots each day to improve his game, that wasn’t enough.

So now it’s back to the other side of the basketball-as-business equation as several Division I programs much closer to home sell themselves to Hyland in hopes of luring his basketball talents to their campuses with largely the same opportunities offered by Gonzaga.

He’ll likely make his decision next week in order to be eligible to play by the second semester of the 2011-12 season — for having been on the Gonzaga roster for a semester, he has to sit out a year before he can play for another Division I team.

No doubt Hyland never expected the path to his Division I opportunity to be so roundabout — but such is the business of basketball, a reality all future high school basketball stars should keep in mind when plotting their futures.

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