LB Jaishawn Barham of Baltimore was going to be one of the biggest prizes in the USC recruiting class this year. Until he wasn’t. Barham committed to the Gamecocks in a public setting on Saturday afternoon, the kickstart to a wild few days in Gamecock recruiting that included a pair of Oklahoma transfers and three other high school commitments.
Then came the news early Wednesday morning that Barham had flipped to Maryland and signed with the Terps. Of course, Gamecock fans naturally, , were upset by the turn of events and Barham went from hero to goat in the stroke of a pen. St. Frances coach Messay Hailemariam said Thursday he understands how emotions become raw when a high-profile prospect doesn’t follow through on a commitment, but that’s also part of the bigger game being played in the world of college football.
“The family and the kid are the ultimate decision makers. That’s the best thing I can say to people,” Hailemariam said. “I tell my guys all the time, it’s a choice they make with their families. We try to advise them the best we can on how to do it. It’s hard to advise kids on how to do it when coaches, I mean, Lincoln Riley at Oklahoma just up and left, and left my kid (DE Derrick Moore) that was committed to him for six months. To me, it’s hard for me to become judgmental on what people and kids can do. This game has changed. These last two weeks have been one of the worst scenarios I’ve ever seen, and some of the best.”
At his Signing Day press conference Wednesday, USC coach Shane Beamer did not come off all that annoyed over the loss of Barham. He said the flip did not surprise him because he said he got a call from “someone up there” soon after the commitment who told him Barham wouldn’t stick and would sign with Maryland. Hailemariam took exception to that comment because, in his opinion, Barham was sincere about his commitment to USC at the time he made it.
“As sincere as an 18-year-old can be, or 19-year-old,” Hailemariam said. “It’s a life-long decision. It’s not an easy decision. It’s a little bit scarier than people think it is. “It’s sad that somebody would say that and put that out there, meaning that wasn’t true, that’s not how that kid is. The sad part is, people don’t know people and they just make judgements, right, and they put it out there. I was a little disappointed in coach Beamer for him to say that about that kid because that’s not the truth. He’s a kid, a young man. Unfortunately, he’s entitled to change his mind right up until he signs. That’s my world, at least that’s what I tell them, because that’s a decision they are going to make for the next thirty, forty years of their lives. They have to feel completely comfortable doing it. Do we want that to happen? Absolutely not. Did it happen? Yes. Is that the ideal situation? Not all the time. Sometimes it’s that way on both sides of the fence. I had two of my players dropped by programs that they had committed to, two days from it. Nobody is talking about that. Georgia Tech dropped my running back and Bowling Green dropped my quarterback. When a kid does it, guess what, the world is in an uproar. But when those programs, these men, who are older and have integrity do it, or supposed to have integrity, the world doesn’t say anything. To me, you can’t be hypocritical in his process. Unfortunately, some coaches say and do what they are supposed to to me, and then I get surprised at the end. That happened to two of my kids.”
The St. Frances program has become a top, national program and travels the country for games. In fact, Hailemariam said his team will be playing a team in South Carolina next season, but he was not at liberty to disclose the opponent at this time.