High school junior Alex Kline knew he would never dominate the hardwood like the stars of March Madness, so he turned his love for the game into a career as a basketball recruiter.
"I'm just like a basketball connoisseur, I guess. I enjoy the game so much, and everything else just feeds off that," Alex explained.
He is only 16 years old, but Alex created his own successful website called TheRecruitScoop.com, and has built a reputation in the basketball recruitment world as someone with a keen eye for talent who also has the media savvy to get budding hoop stars, some older than he is, a slice of the spotlight.
"I have seen a lot of guys who are under the radar and who didn't get the publicity that they needed, and I recognized that and I started to give it to them."
With a pad and pen in hand, Alex meticulously observes high school players from the sidelines during his spare time. As players twice his size fly up and down the court, he scribbles precise notes about their ability to rebound, dribble and defend. A true stickler for detail, he investigates their height and weight. While watching the New Jersey's Amateur Basketball club practice, he pointed out a player and said, "Losing 20 pounds in the off-season will help him."
Alex explained how his notes would end up on his website. "Usually in my articles I'll list their strengths and their weaknesses." Reading aloud from his notepad he shares what type of information he posts online: "A solid rebounder, he's good around the basket, good post defense, especially on a bigger defender."
From his home office in New Jersey, Alex uses his website and Twitter account to keep tabs on the future stars of March Madness. He has more than 5,000 followers, including Division I coaches from across the country looking for the next big star.
Seton Hall assistant coach Dan McHale is one of his followers. "I check his Twitter probably six times a day to see what he's updating, what he sees, what's the latest scoop out there."
During his summer break, Alex travels to dozens of schools and tournaments to watch and interview players for his online articles. The summer months are big for assistant coaches looking for fresh talent, and Alex manages to hang with the best of them.
"Nine to 10 hours in the gym for me is like spring break on a beach chasing girls," Alex said, revealing a mouthful of braces.
At first, coaches wondered who the "young kid with the notepad" was, but Alex slowly began to build a relationship with several coaches and has slowly carved a name for himself in the competitive circle of athletic recruitment. He is even on a daily texting relationship with several Big East coaches. Just a scroll through his BlackBerry phonebook proves it.
"At first I thought they were avoiding me and then I started to notice that they really like me and that they were actually following my stuff especially through twitter," said Alex.
But many of his followers don't know how young he is. "He's definitely a trailblazer. If people really realized all over the country how young he was, I think they'd be even more impressed," said coach McHale.
Swapping information and networking with bigshot coaches is not why Alex spends his summers inside a hot gym all day. He said he does it to give young, lesser-known ballplayers the potentially life-changing exposure they need to be picked up by a college team.
"The main goal is to help these guys get to the next level. I don't care about getting the big scoop."
Building a relationship with college coaches is all to help his peers succeed. Fellow high school junior Eric Fanning said he appreciates Alex's hard work. "As far as recruiting, he knows ... everybody on the college scene, so it's good."
To many of these young athletes, Alex is more than just a scout. He's a friend first, who has their best interests at heart. Kaison Randolph is a freshman who Alex has followed, and has already helped him connect with college coaches for potential scholarships. But Kaison brushes all the business aside and says he sees Alex as more than a manger or scout. "It makes me feel like I have someone I can talk to, the only other person I have in my life is my mom, so Alex is like a brother to me."
Alex understands his friendship with the players isn't one sided. "I wouldn't be here without these guys, and they wouldn't be here without me," he said. While scouring double digits or making it to the final four might have been Alex's dream as a player, his sense of accomplishment as a recruiter is much different. "When I see a smile on the face of a player who just received a scholarship offer and when they text me about it or call me and they're really excited, it just gets me really happy, it's a feeling you just can't replace."
Although basketball is his favorite sport, Alex's room is filled with a collection of baseball and football memorabilia as well. A New York Yankee's emblem takes up the center of his navy blue sheets, and his shelves are cluttered with New York Jet's bobble heads and figurines. Alex's clear obsession with sports is rooted in a sense of loss. When he was 10 years old, his mother died of a brain tumor. Sports became and escape from years of heartache.
"As she declined, it was very difficult for him, but sports was a way for him to face it, a kind of outlet," said Alex's father, Robert Kline.
"I do a lot of it for her. She's always on my mind and I miss her dearly, but I feel that she would be very proud of me," Alex said.
Alex is proud of himself too. He keeps a box of keepsakes -- letters, cards, and thank-you notes -- from colleges and coaches under his desk as proof of how far he's come and the respect he's earned. When asked why he saved all the letters, he said, "I save it just for memory, just to say, you know, this is what I can do, this is what I'm able to accomplish, I can do anything."
So far he's had a hand in rounding out a few team rosters. "Two or three of our incoming freshmen are guys that Alex sat and watched with me and helped evaluate over the summer and put me in contact with early on with his early connections," said McHale.
Now Alex has to make time to pick a college for himself and even get a driver's license. With all this success at such a young age, he will soon decide what exactly he wants to be when he grows up. He could be a recruiter, reporter, manager or perhaps his biggest dream, a college coach. The possibilities are endless, and so is his love for the game and his desire for others to make it big.
But whether he's back on the sidelines armed with his notepad, or shooting around on his driveway court, Alex believes his best shot is yet to come.
"Even though I have accomplished a bunch, I'm just scratching the surface, but it's been a great ride and I think this is just the start."