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Allonzo Trier, a sixth grader in Federal Way, outside Seattle, is the most recent Future of the N.B.A.  Photo: Lauren Greenfield for The New York Times.

Allonzo Trier, 13, a sixth grader in Federal Way, outside Seattle, is profiled by Michael Sokolove in the March 22 issue of The New York Times Magazine. (Photo: Lauren Greenfield for The New York Times. Courtesy of The New York Times Magazine.)

Allonzo Trier is one hundred and ten pounds, five-foot-five, 13 years old, and — right behind March Madness and the NBA home stretch — the talk of the American basketball world.

He’s scouted, ranked — number one for his age in the country — is flown all over, has a famous nickname (“Zo”), has his own line of clothing, is spoken of as the next LeBron James or Allen Iverson.

And he is, to repeat, 13.

His story tells us a lot about what’s going on with “must-go-pro” fever at incredibly young ages in elite American basketball.

This hour, On Point: The story of Allonzo Trier.

You can join the conversation. How young is too young to be locked-in on dreams of the NBA? Or is it never too early for hoop dreams?


From Washington we’re joined by Michael Sokolove, contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine and a big voice on the sociology and culture of sports. His remarkable cover story in Sunday’s issue of the magazine is “Allonzo Trier Is in the Game.” He’s also the author of “Warrior Girls: Protecting Our Daughters Against the Injury Epidemic in Sports.”

From Philadelphia, we’re joined by Phil Martelli, head coach of the St. Joseph’s University men’s basketball team. He was NCAA Coach of the Year in 2004.

Joining us from Louisville, Kentucky, is Clark Francis, editor and publisher of Hoop Scoop Online, which ranks top young basketball prospects.

And later in the hour, we’ll be joined by Tim Layden, senior writer for Sports Illustrated, for an update on how this year’s NCAA tournament is shaping up.

Here’s a YouTube video of Allonzo Trier in action, from HoopsReport:

Last summer we talked with the Beastie Boys’ Adam Yauch about his basketball documentary “Gunnin’ for that #1 Spot.”

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  • Rex Henry

    These young players going pro so fast have ruined the game. This makes the NBA too young and immature while those who stay in college must not be as good as the ones who leave early. It has turned the college game into a professional-like atmosphere where the one-and-done players are in and out like free agents or trades.

  • Steve in NC

    I hope that the Jackie Coogan Law, applies to sports. There’s a trend starting and I hope and pray, that some child, is not taken advantage of in thees Greedy times.

  • http://NPR.org maria

    May Allonzo be exposed to other things in life in order to be a well rounded individual. Continued success with what ever he does.

  • Wadell

    This story is relevant and curious at the same time. Why is it OK for tennis players to be trained and targeted from the time they’re 8-9 years old? Then they grow up to be professionals at 15 years old and some go on to become supermodels (Martina Hingis, Anna Kournikova, Ana Ivanovic, Maria Sharapova). Am I making my point? Is there a double standard here due to the stage that this kid may potentially play on and the company that stage keeps? Hmm.

    Is this level of scrutiny and criticism leveled at other (white dominated) sports and their potential stars that is being leveled toward this family? We live in a culture where the opportunities for young black kids are few to none and when they gravitate toward what the culture feeds them (Hip Hop, Bling Bling and basketball) we criticize them for eating. That’s the real story.

  • Ken

    This is an interesting story but this is not a unique case. Soccer across the world has drawn young talent into major clubs for a long time. There are kids as young as 16 who are playing first team soccer in major, world wide brand teams such as Arsenal and Barcelona. These teams have academies that train the kids from 10 years old or younger to make them first team players.

  • Pam O’Hearn

    Would we be even having this conversation if Alonso was working towards the olympics in something such as gymnastics, which is often populated by young athletes? what is the issue, truly, being so involved in competitive sports at this age, or simply the money involved?

  • Dave from Hingham

    I privately train many of these aspiring hockey players.

    Many don’t make it but they get a lot of good things from playing the sport.

    the parents get caught up in the dream.

    There’s no changing the parents of the hope for stardom for their progeny. It’s the business and money machine that is sports.

    the article by your guest was done likely for money . . .

    Sorry, it’s simply the way of the world.

  • jay o’coin

    let kids be kids. the cream rise4s to the top there should only be local competition till that athelete gets to college. if your good enough you will be found

  • Virginia

    I am concerned that he is spending 7-8 hours per day, 7 days per week on basketball. What about school? How is he going to be able to manage his life if he does not pay attention to the most important thing – getting an education. To be truly successful for his whole life he needs to build the life skills that will be required to make good decisions. What is he going to do if this does not pan out?

  • Jake

    In my opinion, the positive side should be about Allonzo and not taking away from his incredible work ethic and Tiger Woods focus. I think too many people come away from the story wanting to critize and judge him ie his size when only time will tell if his basketball aspirations are fulfilled.. Isnt America about achieving your dream and overcoming obstacles? I think Nate Robinson, Chris Paul are good examples of this.

    If the author Mike Sokolove spoke correctly, he said Allonzo pushes himself. How is that wrong? Within the world of club gymnastics and iceskating the pressure to practice and suceed is equally if not more time consuming. What must be put in place is parental control and protection.

    On another note, I would expect it is a very volatile world of being a mother withing a male dominated industry unlike iceskating and gymnastics and having a son who is so gifted in basketball. It seemed the author did not really touch on the burden placed on single mothers navigating through this world and the manipulation that can occur..

  • http://www.italiantapas.com Matteo Fagin

    This is a true test of what ANY 13 year old can achieve if they work their ass of like this kid is doing. This theory of letting kids be kids and the cream will rise to the top is having to little expectations of our youths,in the not too far of past you were considered an adult at the age of 13. Today we let our kids waste their time being kids until they hit college or decide to not go to college because there is no focus or work ethic. Let’s stop settling for mediocrity. WORK HARD AND TAKE CHARGE DON’T EXPECT TO FLOAT TO THE TOP!!!

  • Amanda Balcom

    Hmmnn… Interesting replies to the show/article. I commend hard work and discipline in anyone, and I wish this young man and his family the best. However, I always feel a sense of loss for a child who is put in a situation like this. If this is his dream then I hope he achieves it, but I hope those who are surrounding him at this point in his life allow him to be a kid (he only has a few more years) and not turn him into a franchise that gets used up before he reaches his true potential. Best of luck to you Allonzo, just remember there is more to life than going pro.

  • Jeff Tompkins

    It’s not as disturbing when you realize that the top Olympic athletes are probably doing as much as Allonzo at the age of 13. Tiger Woods was doing it even younger.

  • Seltzer

    I agree with the other posters who pointed out the double standard at work here. It feels that we’re somehow afraid of black men (boys) gaining power too easily, which has a certain irony in this age of Obama. Are black men with money and fame more frightening than white men with those same attributes? All that said, I think we should be concerned for all young athletes and put safeguards in place to protect them from being exploited by unscrupulous adults. But let’s not focus it so narrowly on one sport, especially when that sport just happens to be dominated by those of a particular background.

  • Socrates

    he needs a haircut.

  • Rich

    >It’s not as disturbing when you realize that the top
    > Olympic athletes are probably doing as much as
    >Allonzo at the age of 13. Tiger Woods was doing it
    >even younger.

    Yes it IS disturbing. This sports mania has already poisoned colleges and high schools with its toxic attitude towards rankings, money, endorsements… I’m so sad to see it spread to even younger and younger ages. And yes, I find certain Olympic sports disgusting in how children are indoctrinated at an early age, like gymnastics and ice skating.

    There should be a difference between kids who are simply really good at something versus being trotted out to perform like a trained monkey. Remember when the Olympics used to be about gifted amateurs? It’s sad how the corporate world has latched on to game playing.

  • Gagylove443

    alonzo trier is not the best just because his mother decided to put his name out in the media ….there are kids better believe that

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