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Pleading the Fifth

Ontario is the only province that has a fifth year of high school option for student athletes but a recommendation of cutting that year has people in a tizzy. Can Ball Ray takes a brief look at what this could mean to the basketball in the most populated province of Canada ...

So the Drummond Report had come out recently in Ontario on the province's budget and among the things that have people up in arms, and there seem to be quite a few things, is the recommendation to cut the funding for the fifth year for high school students. People seem to have a mixed reaction to this depending on where you live and what your stance is on it.

Personally, I have no issue with the scarping the fifth year. I went to high school in Ontario and I had to graduate in four years and then did my fifth year to get into university. Getting into university is integrated into the four year curriculum but there seems to be an uproar since this will then take away the so called victory lap for student athletes to improve both on the court (or wherever) and in the classroom.

My question is: if removed from the school system, will it be that big of a deal for student-athletes?

My initial thought is yes of course it hurts the athlete because of the aforementioned components - missing a full year in a supervised classroom and athletic environment to improve. A year more is a year more and you can get better in both areas in that time. Improvements can be gained regardless.

But as I began to think further, I remembered that no other province has this optional fifth year and athletes from these places are still able to meet requirements to graduate and be eligible for post secondary institutions and garner enough attention to get scholarships. The only exception is Quebec that has a different system of education.

So why does this matter in Ontario so much, particularly to basketball?

To tell you the truth I think there is a twofold issue at play here. The first reason is that with the large exodus of players to the US for prep schools, there is an already weakened competition base. I'm not saying that here is no talent left, there is just a not as much top tier talent and of course that affects the general pool as a whole. This proposal will serve to further weaken the existing weakened pool. Of course no one wants.

The second issue it that it will keep certain players off teams thus weakening individual schools themselves. I think this would be the bigger issue many power schools would be very hurt by the recommendation causing traditional powers to either reload or fade for the short term.

If this recommendation goes through, there can be an even larger exodus of players to the US and maybe a few more prep schools blooming on the horizon. There are already a few in the Toronto area that have models similar to their stateside counterparts and they seem to be working and maybe these are what's are needed. I'm not a big fan of the prep school myself but if there is a scrapping of the free fifth year this could be the only answer.

Until this is finalized, the speculation of a looming further talent drain is all that can be expected at this point. Na esteemed colleague our west had emailed me about this after the stories started surfacing of concerned coaches of players without means being at a loss and pointed out that this has been the rule for most of the country already. In Ontario, it's hard to imagine that there possibly will be no fifth year shortly.

Now question will be who will be the first to adapt to this situation - the players or the system?